persistence of ephemera
Nicholas Carr positions screen books and audio books among the accessories of print. He also makes note of the genre confines of screen books associating them with kinds of disposable book reading. Disposability, as such, crosses into mobility, as such.
Ephemera are mobile. Ephemera continually pop-up in the long history of media where they cross wide vagabonds of place. What they don’t cross easily is time and ebooks do display a time transience once read.
As connectivity becomes ever more mobile the ebook functionality should be more alluring for readers. However, the more pervasive connectivity propagates many reading and viewing opportunities other than books. Here we find book like responses such as Amazon Singles or blog expositions but the tablet world, literary and commercial, is wide and less book like.
Epigenetic evolution through cultural initiative occurs faster than biological evolution. The exponential rates of change are similar, from longer initial periods to shorter but epigenetic rates take over where bionic leave off. For example 1,000,000 years ago we experienced the advent of a gesture based linguistic, 100,000 ya = spoken linguistic, 10,000 ya = encoded (i.e. alphabetic) linguistic, 1,000 ya = encoded recorded to book mechanism, 100 ya = recorded book transmitted electronically, and 10 years ago we had the advent of electronic book touch navigated. This is a nice exponential sequence, but we better get ready quickly for changes to come.
In terms of the book transmission future Katherine Hayles suggests Comparative Media Studies as a basis for research and teaching going forward. She remarks that CMS will recognize and connect print reading with screen reading and these with machine reading. This shift will require nimble research design in the digital humanities and a quick curricular response.
As Hayles reviews responses to epigenetic evolution of book transmission she notes advancing sub-programs in the digital humanities. These include those at University of California Santa Barbara, Yale and Duke. I have observed others at MIT, RIT and Toronto. As with the trend from library to informatics studies, the redesign of communication studies is also underway generally.
Here is the deal… as with dancing or singing…craft work trains the body to adapt to patterns. The connections between pattern recognition and meaning, as explained by Hayles, are at work in reading. With a bit of cognitive under-writing we could take the assumption and test it while leveraging programs in book craft and art. We could do the book craft and book art component of comparative media studies.
Take the simple suggestion that Thoreau composed Walden while walking. Pacing between Concord and the cabin he entertained contrasts between town and woods by pacing between them. This is a fair metaphor of the body kinetic and extra-soma concept interdependence. It is also a nifty design incentive for a work of book art/craft.
There is distress over humanist assimilation of digital information and use of tools of machine reading and pattern recognition in wide media. This derives from a suspicion that the humanists cannot just think their way through the digital transitions. The metaphor used is a need for “making” and “problem based” projects rather than interpretive “word processing”.
We could contribute here if we can show a continuing role of book craft and book art as a pacing feature of the digital humanist agenda. According to Hayles there is a good chance that all humanist departments can have a role if they start to direct digital humanities.