Sunday, July 18, 2010

PL 46/10: Broadband and books

Filed under: 1bib — plinius @ 10:46 am

I found this NYT quote in tekst2null.

A person who becomes a citizen of the literary world enters a hierarchical universe. There are classic works of literature at the top and beach reading at the bottom.

A person enters this world as a novice, and slowly studies the works of great writers and scholars.

Readers immerse themselves in deep, alternative worlds and hope to gain some lasting wisdom. Respect is paid to the writers who transmit that wisdom.

A citizen of the Internet has a very different experience. The Internet smashes hierarchy and is not marked by deference.

Maybe it would be different if it had been invented in Victorian England, but Internet culture is set in contemporary America. Internet culture is egalitarian. The young are more accomplished than the old. The new media is supposedly savvier than the old media. The dominant activity is free-wheeling, disrespectful, antiauthority disputation.

These different cultures foster different types of learning.

The Medium Is the Medium


The literary universe is not a stable cosmos, of course. It is an arena – champ – where groups and individuals struggle:

  • to fill the most attractive positions within the prevailing hierarchy (Nobel, Goncourt, Booker, the great American novel)
  • to influence the rules that will define the future hierarchy

Readers from the well-bred, well-fed upper middle classes used to immerse themselves in Cicero and Dante, Kant and Hegel (mainly Germans, though), Melville and Tennyson. Today, most educated people I meet could not care less about the Western Canon.

If they read the high-brow stuff, they read modern classics: Mann, Sartre, Beckett, Lessing, Derrida, Mahfouz.

From Dover Beach

And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night …

The web and the book

tekst2null is the avatar – or virtual shadow – of the book tekst2null, which was published in Norway a few weeks ago.

The authors – Jon Hoem and Ture Schwebs – have done an excellent job in explaining the web as a communication medium. Sociologically they represent Florida’s creative class. They have studied and written about the web since 1994, which gives them a much more balanced view than less experienced writers.


Below I’ve listed the youngest generation (post 1930) of the world’s most quoted authors (in 2007).

  1. Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) Sociology 2,465 citations
  2. Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) Philosophy 1,874
  3. Anthony Giddens (1938- ) Sociology 1,303
  4. Judith Butler (1956- ) Philosophy 960
  5. Bruno Latour (1947- ) Sociology, anthropology 944
  6. Ulrich Beck (1944- ) Sociology 733
  7. David Harvey (1935- ) Geography 723
  8. Edward W. Said (1935-2003) Criticism 694
  9. Barney G. Glaser (1930- ) Sociology 577
  10. George Lakoff (1941- ) Linguistics 577
  11. Benedict Anderson (1936- ) International studies 573

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