A paper I wrote for my Literature in a Wired World class. My equivalent to hanging it up on the fridge.
Electronic texts, at this point in the evolution of the written word, are not much more than a more immediate version of books. (Examples: Where a book might reference pages or other books, a site would simply have a link. Also, electronic texts can be updated at any time from almost any location, giving them an up-to-the-minute accuracy on ever-changing world events.) While they do allow for individual reader comments to be viewed by a much greater volume of people, at this point there is no individual text to be physically altered through highlighting, cutting, or blacking out without the general public knowing, as can be done with a widely circulated book.
Interactive texts are desirable because many people find it easier to express themselves through the written word, as opposed to real-live debate, and it is much easier to find people willing to debate on the topics that interest them when they have an entire global community to choose from. They are also desirable because, in most cases, the ability to view reader responses and opinions on a website is optional. This way, everyone who reads the original text may read it without the intrusion of others� opinions on which parts are important and what certain allusions or metaphors may mean.
Structure is another important aspect of electronic texts that seems to differ from print but may not really. Though books are naturally linear in their physical presentation, episodic or cyclical texts can appear anywhere, as proven by the presence of Atwood�s text in our coursebook. Again, the electronic part of electronic texts allows the reader to have easy access to a larger, more immediate database of information without having to lug around an entire encyclopedia set, but the actual content is not much different in width and berth than what has been appearing in print for hundreds of years. The difference lies in accessibility and volume.
Another important �difference� in electronic vs. print media is one of authority on authorship. Again, the only real difference is sheer accessibility and volume. It is much more difficult to the average crackpot to get ahold of a book deal than for him to rant on his blog from his cubicle. However, this has not stopped scores of crackpots from attaining printing rights for hundreds of years. Think Notes on Virginia and Mein Kampf, the latter of which is littered with inconsistencies and grammatical train wrecks, not unlike the average blog entry. �Truth,� �authority,� and �good literature� have never been solid concepts. The clich� �history is written by the victor� and all its implications apply to all three of those terms, and will continue to do so until difference of opinion ceases to exist.
This is not to say the advent of the internet makes no difference in the world of print. Obviously. Right now, however, the revolutionary part of it does not lie in the style in which texts are being written. Like Gutenberg�s printing press, the internet has opened the world of literature, with all its crackpots and inherent falsehoods, to a much wider, less patient audience. Some things to be explored and played with now are concepts of randomness as art, multi-media literature, and of cross-culturalism in our rabidly expanding global community.
It would be interesting to see stories that play out depending on information gathered about the reader from databases on the internet through programs like those adware uses now, or to hear the soundtrack of a book as you read its animated text, or to gain access to Peruvian or Chinese styles of writing and programming and see what happens when you mix them with more westernized versions of the same. We are living on the cusp of a literary revolution, but the technology is still too new and people are still too overwhelmed with the possibilities and unsure of the future of the familiar to have really done something with this new medium. And that is okay. Because the time will soon come when the technology is second nature and the artistic possibilities are much easier to focus on. Then we will see a revolution.
FIN. 9:57 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006