Thoughts on the textual and literary, & on text technologies from Babylonian cuneiform to Twitter, with an eye on the medieval
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Reflecting on some of the major characteristics of the so-called Digital 'Revolution' has proven a useful way to access the emergence of print in the fifteenth century. The photo here is the classroom wall after our graduate seminar yesterday, where discussion of the major elements of text technological change brought about by the Digital in the last decade formed the focus of attention. Among these are the desires for increased speed and immediate access. These, in turn, create a sense of greater democratisation, and, indeed, the globalisation of knowledge exchange; this parallels the exponential growth in the quantity of information available. With such apparent democratisation come questions of authority and control, validity, credibility and authenticity. Similar trends were identified in the century after the invention of moveable type. Just as Caxton wanted to reassure his readers that the works of Chaucer he printed were as 'true' to the author as they could be (and more true than any competitor editions!), so the demand for the authorisation of knowledge continues. Thus, students are urged to check the academic credentials of the online sources they use, for example; and internet hoaxes, such as the Gay Girl in Damascus, cause outrage for their 'fakeness', and, in this particular case, derision about the real author's 'vanity'. Moreover, the mass of information available can easily be confused with 'freedom of information', when these things do not equate. There is nothing on the internet that is not already mediated and where there is mediation there is ideology. The more intrusive the mediation, the greater the obfuscation (or is it the other way around?).