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[Xmca-l] Re: Paul Mason's comment on how ebooks are changing writing



Hi Larry, Michael, Lubomir, and Henry,

Thinking about what Larry said:

I think life is simultaneously provisional and immersive, but perhaps what Mason is "complaining about" is that romantic notion he has of being literate, and that being literate is only constituted by immersive reading experiences. What Mason isn't quite on board about it seems is that literacy is not statically defined on high, which I think is what Lubomir means when he mentions the status of paperbacks. 

Weren't a lot of great authors generated by the form of the paperback? Why not with eBooks?

When I was a teenager visiting my grandmother, I was reading Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea Trilogy that summer. She saw me reading it and she said, "Oh. You read paperbacks," as if I had committed a crime. I had no idea that paperbacks came from a lowbrow form of "literature," as this was the late 70's, so there you have it. Her comment truly confused me at the time because this was LeGuin!! I was enthralled by the world of Ged! :) It wasn't until I learned about pulp fiction that I was able to make sense of her disdain and not take it so personally.

I suspect Mason is making a similar mental transaction as my grandmother.

What I'm inclined to consider is that we adopt and adapt to technologies while we are developing our sense of self, and that these technologies are ones that we tend to hold on to and prefer not to let go of if we can help it into our older years. I think it's because of the way we've mapped the activity in our bodies and so we have facility with them. 

If we have to choose technologies we are unfamiliar compared to something familiar, we'll go with what is familiar because it is easier for us, to the degree if that experience might be uncomfortable we still will gravitate to it by habit. Not always of course. But for some people in which unfamiliar is too painful to learn about, makes even the familiarly uncomfortable more enjoyable!

So what I think is that when "the kids" are using eBooks or iPads, who's to say that their experiences are not immersive for them? Even if not immersive for us older folks?

Mason misses this point. 

I also agree with Henry that literacy can have many forms. I've never read Great Expectations, but I watched the two-part series aired on PBS recently and highly enjoyed it enough where I might actually read it. Of course, I also admire Henry's creative literacy to listen to books on tape, podcasts, and what-have-you, while doing other activities. I'd imagine that he's mapping his literacy throughout his nervous system! I can't imagine a more immersive way to read something. :)

I'm not familiar enough with Dewey, though he's on my reading list, so I can't comment too much on Larry's contrast and comparisons concerning the depth of experiences.

But Michael does make an observation about Mason that I agree very much with, that Mason believes technology is substantive, not instrumental. I see technology as instrumental, but in the act of using the instrument we can also be changed ourselves in the way we might think about an activity. I don't think that we are passive to the technology as Mason seems to believe, if that is what a substantive viewpoint means. 

Certainly having a Kindle will make it easier to bring the equivalent of two moving boxes of books with you on a summer trip. But it is true for me that reading on the screen will not bring that same experience of knowing "exactly" where a text is inside the stream of text in the same way of flipping to it in a book. But perhaps that's just our generation? Perhaps the younger ones will have an analogous sense of "place," but it is vertically mapped in two-dimensions rather than mapped by depth in three?

For some reason this makes me think about chess, because I was remembering 3-D chess in Star Trek. It seems what is actually happening is not a development of complexity into 3D chess but 2D or 1D chess because it's flattened to the screen and becoming more abstract. 

Maybe all that is actually here is going into that singularity thang (written tongue in cheek).

Who knows?

Kind regards,

Annalisa