Digital Literacies

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Kindling

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Going down to London by train the other day, and then returning today, I saw a few people reading Kindles as they travelled. My Mum bought one for my Dad as part of his Christmas present – and apparently he is really pleased. I was quite surprised that Mum bought one for Dad, as I thought they might both think that it is better to hold a ‘real’ book. But he is prepared to give it a go and is looking forward to the new experience. Apparently this new technology is really taking off now – but will the book ever be usurped?

I wonder if Kindles will really take off – it is a couple of years since I saw them on the American Amazon.com and we had to wait awhile before they became available in the UK (as usual). Apparently a few schools are buying them now – thinking they may motivate reluctant readers. There is a lot of sentimentality about books however – and people say they like to hold them, annotate them, turn the pages – and even that shelves full of books make a place look homely etc. They are not ‘neutral objects’ and we sometimes imbue them with feelings that maybe are associated with when or where we read the book. The Kindle will be an object that mediates many books – however I have to admit that my laptop – maybe a mere mediator – has accumulated associations for me – so that it feels like it is mine; it is customised with my preferred settings and software etc etc. So too, other technology things – they acquire a history, a provenance, that makes them important to us beyond their material value. Will this happen to the Kindles (or their successsors)?

At the moment we still think of authors as writing BOOKS. You author a book and the idea of the electronic artefact is that it is an adaptation. This contrasts with musicians – who decide they will make a new record, or new album. Thus we anticiapte that music is mediated through technology, that it can be listened to via electronic formats. The idea is that musicians produce music intended to be mainly heard as a recording; the electronic aspect is not a translation of what was originally intended, it is primary. But novels are written, intended to be printed on paper pages, bound in sequence.

I think that it will not be until authors write with the intention that the electronic format is primary, rather than secondary, that they will really be accepted. So maybe authors will take more advantage of the electronic affordances – moving images maybe; words that sparkle; or where sound plays a more important role. Otherwise the electronic format will always be seen as a substitute.

Written by DrJoolz

December 30th, 2010 at 9:24 pm