Sunday, October 31, 2010

e-reading the news

The newspaper is delivered silently in the dead of night. There is no rattle of the letterbox, no picking up, no folding and refolding. I can't use it to swat flies with or stuff into my wet boots as they dry. There's no stack of yesterdays in the living room to raid for wrapping broken glass in, or for laying a fire or helping it draw. It's wirelessly delivered to my e-reader. And yes, it's because of all this I recommend a 10 day free subscription to any student of literacy in order to better understand how habits and material affordances interweave with our nostalgia for certain media. The expeience is qualitatively different. It has to be. But the news is arguably the same. Navigation requires a different logic and one in which I'm still a novice, shaving doesn't interupt my reading (I just turn it on voice) and if I'm reading outside a gust of wind is not a problem. I can check the details online at a single click. Yet for all its newness I'm disappointed with the reduced depth of modality. The colour supplements are grey and the illustrative content paired to the linguistic bone. So e-readers represent an interesting moment in technoliteracy, one in which convergence is always a promise and divergence a commercial reality. Ergonomically well honed, easily portable and with glare reduction to die for the Kindle has so much going for it. But then it's not particularly versatile. Although our technology is getting light and more mobile, you still need to pack your bag with all sorts of devices each one of which probably has the computing power to manage all those separate functions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

DJs go digital

töken experience from yöyen munchausen on Vimeo.

Well of course they went digital years ago - at least as soon as CD-Js took over from turntables. I first saw this when Shuiab Meacham and his kids rocked the Crucible in Sheffield. Apart from obligatory glances in the rearwiew mirror (making CDs sound like scratched and pitted vinyl) and nostalgia in the form of the decks-are-best crew, DJs have moved on with the technology using what the boffins come up with and the sound companies can sell. DJEmmaLou told me about the touchscreen interface in the video which takes DJ-ing into a new space. There is some talk of gestural music interfaces, but at the moment all we have is haptics (here). In my imagination the truly gestural DJ will also be a dancer whose movement in space triggers the sound we hear. Now that would be a hard act to follow!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The book is dead

Philip Dodd's radio debate on the future of the book in the era of e-readers holds no surprises. But it's still entertaining to listen to an exploration of familiar positions. From print nostalgia to digital utopia the viewpoints are clearly presented. David Almond is the most plausable as he acknowledges that the significance or pleasure of the book is distinct or deeper than its material form. He also recognises the creative possibilities of new kinds of writing and reading without being too quick to claim that the book is dead. On the other side of the fence, the print nostalgics feel they have history on their side and their arguments are based on the materiality of the book. The fixity and durability of print text is seasoned with plenty of reference to the aesthetic and multisensory qualities of bundles of inked paper that have been glued together. Perhaps for now the both/and arguments are the most sensible. I was interested in an audience contribution on how e-readers might be used as part of a lending library services. Perhaps Amazon's aggressive marketing of the Kindle is poised to challenge the nature of everyday reading.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Social rituals

Weddings, blessings and civil partnerships are significant social rituals and ones in which new and old textual practices play an important role. Oral recitation, repetition and the signing of official texts are often the centrepiece. But official practices sit alongside very important unofficial ones. So whilst some sort of professional photography seems necessary in order to keep a record of the event, these images jostle against the Facebook sets and the casual snaps and short movies captured by the guests. New and old ways of mediating the event comfortably co-exist and hardly raise comment. this is my contribution!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Daily blog?

At yesterday's ELMAC conference we played a bingo-style icebreaker with each item related to some sort of digital literacy. I got quite a lot of hits as someone who keeps a daily blog. I was rather aware of the irony, since it's over a week since I posted anything. What with a family wedding in Cyprus and an evaluation of BBC's Talkie Time to write up, life's been pretty full-on. So I kicked back on Friday night and watched the film adaptation of The Reader. It's a while since I've read the book but I was struck by the emphasis on the redemptive power of literacy. I'm not sure that it's a message I'm too happy with it. Nevertheless it's a good story - am I reading too much into it?

Friday, October 01, 2010

Are all texts virtual?

Looking at books on an e-reader certainly makes you question the nature of the text. Changing the font, adjusting the size and flipping across pages on a handheld device makes you realize that the text isn't the same thing as its material form. What's true for the e-reader is true for the book. The material form and the place of its appearance are the medium which carries the message but not the text itself. In a sense you could argue that the text is virtual and only becomes recognisable at its point of contact with the material world. Pixels on a screen, ink shapes on paper are the result of technological processes that convey textual meaning. To make-meaning we have to see through these processes. I've been arguing that a sort of believing has to take place. Something rather similar happens in dramatic and filmic texts: for most of the time we have to look beyond the artifice. If that's true, are all texts virtual?