“How we read” according to N. Katherine Hayles – a look at online literature

In her essay “How we read: Close, Hyper, Machine” N. Katherine Hayles makes some interesting and thought-provoking points.

How we read?

She talks about the differences that we have seen in how we read. From the printing press, to newspapers, to novels and now to e-books, there have been huge technological advancements in this and every other, part of our lives.

In the introduction she tells us that there has been less literary reading, and suffering reading skills. This has been blamed on video games, social media, television etc. Why read the book when we can watch the film? Instead of reading a book, many students now turn to sits like Sparknotes or Wikipedia for a shortcut. Hayles reveals that when literary studies expanded into looking at other types of texts, literature itself took more of a backseat role. There was less focus placed upon it and so it lost popularity.

In today’s society, we are used to having everything at our fingertips. We are used to having everything easily accessible, whether it is food, information, people, or entertainment. People are now busier than ever and always like to save time where they can. Students today are heading in a new direction – “the digital direction.”

Kindles

I believe that technology such as the Kindle and other e-readers have made it easier for people to read. They do not have to leave their homes every time they would like a new book, and they now have access to a much broader range of literature. There is more research done into helping this technology not strain our eyes or give us headaches, and they are easier than books to hold, especially for longer periods of time. This said, there will always be those who prefer to sit down with a book, rather than yet another device, another screen to look at.

Technology is adapting to how we find it easiest to read, and we are adapting to the ever-increasing use of online reading. When studies showed that people look to the top and left of a webpage, many websites adapted to this.

Without this adaption, we are only limiting ourselves. The internet is a priceless tool for finding information. It would be stupid not to use it, again we must be aware or what we are reading, its sources and how much it really benefits or harms us.

Overwhelming?

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Electronic Scholarly Editions – Kenneth Price

I will be looking at the thoughts and ideas that Price’s article conjured up for me. The article appears as Chapter 24 in A Companion to Digital Literary Studies which can be found here

In his article, Price looks at the transferring of literature away from the print tradition, to the digital medium. One of the main aims of these types of projects is to preserve the texts for future reference. Pages that would be too  delicate for handling can now be viewed, without running the risk of any damage being done to the piece.

Personally, I like to read a physical book when I am reading for pleasure, but I prefer to use digital texts for academic work. I can find certain words within a text to pinpoint what I am looking for. If there are links on a page I can use these to gather more supporting information. A piece of text online is more than just words now; we can have multimedia items, links, electronic indexes, and opinions from other readers.

However, when reading for college work, you must take into consideration the authenticity of the piece. For example, articles found on Wikipedia are usually not deemed suitable for academic reference. Newspapers also have this problem, where some as seen as more ‘low-brow’ while other are seen as more noteworthy and reliable.

The one problem people trying to compile an archive may face is whether they was to collect pieces that work towards a certain goal, of whether they want everything from a certain scholar. For example, if we wanted to make a collection of all of William Shakespeare’s works – with different editions and versions – it would be a very time consuming process, and be very difficult to complete. However, if you aimed to look at his tragedies, or plays within two specific dates, it would be easier to do. This is a question for each person undertaking any digital archiving project.

Price talks about the new and improving technology used when publishing online. He refers to the increasing use of XML (extensible mark up language). The thing that makes XML popular is that it is independent from programs and operating systems. If one operating system was replaced, then things published in entirely that medium become hard to access. This new piece of technology further helps to preserve and store texts that may have otherwise been lost.

There are more and more groups that are trying to produce digital archives. They aim to preserve the pieces, teach others and reach the maximum number of people possible.  While there are many private digital archives,  there is a greater call for open access. Price’s article is a informative one, with many point that keep you thinking.

New (and Newer) Media – Alan Liu

Alan Liu – Imagining the New Media Encounter (available here).

“Today, “digital” is the great new medium, and … The star today is “media” in a larger and more promiscuous sense that intermixes literature (when it includes it at all) with music, film, TV, animation, journalism, and so on…” – Alan Liu

This post is not so much a response to the article, just some thoughts on some of the issues raised. This article may be a little difficult to get to grips with at first, but I did a class called Philosophy of the Mass Media last year which gave me a good foundation of Luhmann and McLuhan.

What the article did was make me think about was what we can actually define as ‘new’ media. Luhmann says that something can only be new once, and that once it has been put out into the world (through television, magazines, radio etc.) it is no longer news. Today, people queue for hours to get the latest phones, games, iPods, iPads and more. The novelty comes from the item being newer and more advanced than the last. However, by the end of that day, it is no longer new, and people start to look for the ‘next big thing’. For Luhmann there are many different selectors which help the mass media decide what is news for the people of the society. This can be on a local, nation or international level. The selectors include; local relevance, surprise, conflict and violation of norms. These selectors help to narrow down the information from the non-information.

We live in a highly technological age where we must be able to use this technology to get things done. While some people may see this as ‘laziness’, my point of view is that each new piece of technology allows us to do more and more, and this in turn allows us to create more and more. Humans create things to makes our lives easier. This has been happening for thousands of years. A media-related example is that hand-produced leaflets were replaced with the creation of the printing press. For more information on the printing press, its development and the impact it has had on the mass production of books visit this site: History of the Printing Press.

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The more we become familiar with the technology, the more productive we can be within our society. This ties in to what McLuhan says regarding the medium as the message. It isn’t what we can say, but how we can say it, and what methods of the media are available to us. In this way, the media is becoming more democratized. The media is allowing more and more people to get involved and comment on society through blogs, websites and social networking. We don’t need a postgraduate degree to set up a blog, or write on Facebook. McLuhan believes there is no excuse to not get involved, it is our duty to become an active social agent within our society.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that at one point or another, everything is new. Not only that, but there are thousands of new inventions every week. These new creations lead to more and more new things. There is no way that anybody can be expected to keep up with it all. We just have to learn how to cope the best we can with the new technology of today! However hard this is, we must find our own ways to best communicate with the outside world.

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