Unlecture #6 Cadence not Content: The Rarefaction of the Book

The scatter of ideas at the beginning of this unlecture soon formed into an engaging and challenging theory on what things do, not what they mean. I entered the room as someone who buys a book a week from Amazon because I love to own a physical collection which one day I can pass on to my children. Owning a set of Jack Kerouac novels is like owning an album of photos – it’s nice to have the content in a medium all of its own because, as was discussed last week, it makes the reading of the book or the viewing of the photos a unique experience.

However, the unlecture and Adrian’s article ‘Novels, An Assemblage of History’ demonstrated to me that the medium of the book is not necessary to retain the things we love about its content. The epiphany was Adrian’s statement that “it seems to be an extraordinary intellectual chauvinism to think that something that has been around for about 12% of the time we’ve had writing (and stories) is the final, privileged forever, definitive and going to stay just where it is thank you very much, narrative form”. In light of this statement, the defence for the particular medium of the book melts away into just another unique and historical artefact.

Now, Elliot made an important point to remember within this discussion: that content will change the system and structure emerges through practice. However, with this in mind Adrian’s focus on cadence over content is an interesting exercise in developing a new form of reading that may become just as valuable as the book is to us now. It may not be this current version of hypertext that lives on but structural experimentation is how new inventions are made. The experimentation with hypertext is but one part of the “messy assemblage” of our ever revolutionising mediums of communication. It doesn’t have to be my favourite part.

However, there is still a place for my book buying habits. I bought a record player in 2009 and buy about 10 vinyls a year. When I was old enough to need my own music (first dancing solo at 5 years of age) the music was on a cassette. I was not alive for the 30 or so years when the medium of the vinyl reigned supreme, and yet I took up buying them in the era when only a computer was required to listen to music. So, I can easily project that I will continue to buy books, but increasingly for the experience they provide. In other words, I can have my cake and eat it too. I can own my library AND enjoy the comforts of ever-economising and increasingly environmentally forms of artistic expression and communication.

Musicians around the world are both experimenting with forward-thinking ideas and bringing back the old ones. The same can be done, and can be enjoyable, for communication.