preservation and persistence of the changing book


a life of their own

The book emerged from a fabulous assembly of language, writing and reading in a phenomenon of epigenetic or cultural evolution. The resulting book invention then provoked a displacement of the bionic self away from direct perceptions where it modified mood and mind. So persuasive is the book’s conversion of thoughts into things that a further disturbance emerges as we lend psychic state to extra-somatic knowledge. Books are directly implicated if the universe turns out to be information based.

Does book displacement shift reality? Scholars discredit technological determinism, but not a deterministic influence of books. Picking up where bionic evolution left off, cultural evolution is deterministic. Of particular interest now is the assimilation of screen and print formats within a cohesive book transmission system. The transmission system features innovations of paratext, the format apparatus of books, and a trilogy of image derived from printing, surface derived from paper and commodity derived from bookbinding. A near counter-culture of books and libraries complements bionic living and resilient book transmission across time and cultures lends an eerie quality as human mortality either spans or is transcended by a displaced self of books. The cyborg and the future of the book is old news.

Books have a life of their own. Currently both screen connectivity and print insularity combine to resolve conflicting agendas either to maintain bibliographic entities or to dissolve them. Print attributes of fixity, mechanical navigation, and persistent re-access across time all pair nicely with screen attributes of live content, automated search, cloud repository and electronic delivery. The self-authenticating nature of the print book is a complement of the self-indexing nature of the screen book.

line in the sand

“Books and Print Sandbox will explore the future of the printed word”

The Books and Print Sandbox is currently funding eight projects to project the future of the print book. The projects do appear to go tangential, but the starting premise is cool.

resilience 4

The void to cross is between genetic and epigenetic evolution and specifically between Hominids and books. This is easy if you visualize book transmission as a kind of genetic reproduction. The void dissipates further as we consider the mutual compulsions projected onto the two emotionless agencies. Genes try to outsmart each other for survival while books “somehow best at making their way into our consciousness will have a much higher chance of being transmitted to some other mind”. (Mark Pagel, Wired for Culture)

Encoding is at the center of both genetic and epigenetic transmission. A better way of describing this communality would be to say that there is an encoded handoff or mediation between the source and recipient or between one generation and another. With that shared trait we can almost avoid the void of any separation; genetic transmission and book transmission are features of a single system of inheritance.

So…is this surprising? Well it does add to the resilience of transmission across generations since there are both bionic and cultural transmissions at work authenticating each other. Genes and books crosscheck each other. But, then, is that surprising? Well, again, resilience of an increasingly hybrid transmission may best respond to a changing environment.

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