Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The History of Book: Module Two reaction

As Eisenstein so eloquently writes, the literati always seem eager to predict the demise of the book. In the 19th century, when newspapers were gaining dominance in England, they engaged in a certain amount of hubris. Eisenstein quotes an editorial from the London Times from 1852, which states:
"Daily appealing to the enlightened force of public opinion; antici-
pating when possible the march of events, standing upon the breach
between past and future, extending its survey to the horizon of the
world, journalism was now truly an estate of the realm more powerful
than any other estate" (p. 555).
Given the economics pressures suffered by newspapers now, I find this quite humorous.

I'm also realizing how my understanding of the book are thoroughly Western. While the texts from Module Two give examples from Ancient Egypt, 18th century France and 20th century America, I wonder how understandings of the book differ in other cultures.

Indeed, many modern scripts are read right-to-left or top-to-bottom; Hebrew, Chinese, and Arabic to name a few. While Bonnie Mak explains the origin of "paginae" in Egypt, she omits any mention of other literary traditions (p. 11). I'm assuming then that her thesis on the page pertains solely to the English language. I'm sure there's endless scholarship in these areas and I wish I had more time to explore the topics.

I appreciate Mak's thoughts about "the edges of the cognitive spaces of the page" (p. 13). While she writes specifically about wax tablets used in Egypt, it's no different than smartphone and tablets used today.

Mak also notes a graphic design principle that is still used today: the use of blank space (p. 17). The ability to add extra space with margins and gutters is well integrated into modern desktop publishing software.

To me, this is analogous to the use of pauses in radio stories. As a producer, pauses are used to give the audience a space to breathe. It allows them time to digest one concept, before hearing another. Perhaps an example of a transliteracy in action?

I can't predict the future of the book, but only observe how I engage with texts. I read this week's texts on my phone, skipping between various apps to annotate and research. Despite my avowed status as a technophile, I want to print out these readings so that I can physically interact with them. So far, I have been able to resist this urge, but we will see how I do as this course progresses.

Elizabeth, E. (1995). The End of the Book? Some Perspectives on Media Change. American Scholar, 64541-555.

Mak, B. (2011). “How the Page Matters,”

1 comment:

  1. I really like the idea of silence being the white space of radio. I find there isn't enough pauses these days, and there is a strange new intonation and rhythm that some radio journalists are adopting that makes their stories hard to follow. Kind of like the book How Late it was, How Late by James Kelman, which had no periods- as in no pauses for reading. I find that reading on a printed page increases retention for me, and I wonder if you find it the same? Has resisting the urge to print affected your retention?