"The Gutenberg Elegies" by Sven Birkerts

Kevin Patrick kpatrick@circit.vut.edu.au
Fri, 11 Oct 96 09:53:57 EST


While both Birket's and Spender's respective books largely sound the
death-knell for the book as a meaningful medium (meaningful in the since
that they 'matter' to people's everyday lives), particularly with the advent
of computer technologies, an article in the current edition of Quadrant,
'Confessions of a Technologically Illiterate Old Man' (the author's name
escapes me) puts a different slant on the relation between books and computers.

The article argues that computers will largely take over the rudimentary
information seeking/packaging 'donkey work' that has lead, the author
claims, to the increasing proliferation of 'non-books' - a phenomenon which
he believes poses the real threat to the future of the book as a meaningful
form of expression, rather than the ascendancy of the computer.

It's been a while since I've read Birkert's book, and I've only dipped into
Spender's work, but my impression of the latter was that this was someone
writing still flushed from their first embrace with new technologies - an
understandable reaction, and one I shared when I first discovered the Net in
my current capacity as a researcher at CIRCIT, but one that should not
necessarily form the basis for denigrating  the continued power/prestige of
the book as a cultural artifact. (The irony of course being that
Spender/Birkerts and others have chosen to convey these prophecies of doom
via the printed word, rather than through its electronic counterpart).

My two cents worth,
- Kevin Patrick
Kevin Patrick, Researcher 
Centre for International Research on 
Communication and Information Technologies (CIRCIT) 
14/300 Flinders Street, Melbourne 
Victoria Australia 3000
Tel: 03-9248-1184   Fax: 03-9248-1170
Email: kpatrick@circit.vut.edu.au
CIRCIT Home Page: http://teloz.latrobe.edu.au/circit