Sunday, January 30, 2011

Culture and the book

Jenisch (2003) makes a number of statements on how the history of the world can be traced by the history of the book."The history of the book, in short, is social and cultural history that makes use of the study of books, and of their making, selling, buying and reading, to study society"(Jenisch p.231).The printed text has been the primary form of communication of information and a source of power for the literate over the illiterate for hundreds of years.Currently the western world has had a significant advantage financially and therefor in their lifestyle over other countries due to it's literacy, education levels and access to information.The printed book is structured,the author moves the reader through a linear process, is created by a few (authors and editors) and allows for the establishment of a few 'experts' in fields of scholarly pursuit, and 'heros' who author the many self help books for the general public.
The non-western world still remains illiterate to a large extent. By geography or on purpose by it's ruling elite so as to maintain control over the people. The knowledge is power theory.Interestingly there is a large number of this population that may not be particularily literate enough to read a book and follow it's structure, but have access to the internet and it's new form of co-creation, multiple linking and rapid associations and access to knowledge through hypertext.
If a culture does not go through the culture change created by the printing press and access to information to the printed text and the structure and social mores this has created in society, how will the new cultures who become digitally literate rather than print literate evolve differently? The oral traditions, narrative story telling, use of pictures as well as text and symbols in electronic text and the Internet may speed the process to democracy ? There isn't a requirement for total print literacy to access information and learn new thoughts, ideologies. I question whether access to all the information electronically and masses of associations in the new way of publishing without the critical thinking and linear thought provided by training in print learning may create disorganization, and access of information that is taken at face value without the ability to discern what is real and credible and what is not.

1 comment:

  1. Carolyn, you say: "The printed book is structured,the author moves the reader through a linear process". I'm wondering where you see books like Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler which seems to really be a collection of unfinished stories or perhaps John Barth's short stories about reading and writing which are very self-referential..or Julio Cortazar, Vladimir Nabokov, Raymond Federman to name but a few. I suppose I'm really wondering if we can say that print is linear...or that any kind of reading is linear (especially if we think of reader response theories). What do you think?

    Are there other examples?