Reading #6

Douglas, J. Yellowlees. The End of Books — Or Books Without End?: Reading Interactive Narratives. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

“If the book is a highly refined example of a primitive technology, hypertext is a primitive example of a highly refined technology, a technology still at the icebox stage.”

Douglas discusses the contrasts of print media and its advancement into the technological world. He gives an in depth discussion of both the positive and negative changes, how stories can become even more fulfilling through narrative possibilities presented through game versions or interactive novels. He also references the beloved Jane Austen, explaining that her immortal classics can become even more well known through film adaptions, but the classic is still a classic, and more loved in its original form.

The preference Douglas obviously has for hypertext is reinstated throughout this text, his raving glorification of it never ceases. He refutes any negative claims given by critics that hypertext will hinder readers in any way. Douglas firmly believes that hypertext is the future of reading, as it is so much more immersive than regular print text which does not interact with its reader.

His dismissal of print fiction is harrowing, particularly seeing as this book was written 14 years prior to today, and hypertext is yet to overtake the classic novel.

Symposium #4 – Question #1

How can you judge the validity of things on the internet?

I think trying to judge the validity of things on the internet is quite similar to judging the validity of any opinion raised in society today. Lengthy research must be done. You should never assume that just because someone has posted or said something that they are the trustworthy. You have to look into things for yourself, don’t assume something is valid unless you’re absolutely certain. For example if someone references a study or a quote from an ‘expert’, you need to look into the truth in their words, do your own investigating to see if they had their information correct. The same matters for images, we no longer live in an era when the camera doesn’t lie, thanks to applications like photoshop. An excellent thing about google is the image search option, where you can drag an image into the search bar and find the same or similar images. This is great for finding out where the image originally came from, and finding other sources relating to the validity of an image.

Paul Graham’s ‘The Age of the Essay’

A number of things struck me in Paul Graham’s essay titled The Age of the Essay. Prehaps most importantly, this line: “Above all, make a habit of paying attention to things you’re not supposed to, either because they’re “inappropriate,” or not important, or not what you’re supposed to be working on. If you’re curious about something, trust your instincts. Follow the threads that attract your attention”. What about this particular line, three quarters of the way through this essay struck me? It was because that is exactly what I was doing. I was disregarding his main point and focusing on a tiny error in his writing.
Earlier in this long winded and frequently digressing essay, Graham, while explaining how he hasn’t explained himself well, says “…in the course of the conversation I’ll be forced to come up a with a clearer explanation…” You may notice the simple typo, an added ‘a’. Or you may have breezed over it as many others will, but I have always been rather against any piece of writing that had any spelling, grammar, or punctuation issues.
Again this can be linked to Graham’s later question of what makes someone qualified to write on this subject? At Graham’s simple inclusion of an extra ‘a’, I had automatically deemed him unfit to discuss literary essays. I know nothing of his qualifications, his previous work, or any other aspect of his academic life, but I have already painted the picture in my mind that he is somebody that doesn’t quite know what he is talking about.
I regularly do this while reading, if an article misses a quotation mark, I stop reading, having decided that the journalist is lacking in intelligence, or at least the ability to proof read. If a story lacks clarity in a single sentence, I will skim the rest, having come to the conclusion long ago that stories without good writers are of no importance to me. What gives me the right to act so high and mighty above all other writers? Absolutely nothing. I lack any qualifications, and my own writing is far from perfect. Yet I still dictate who I consider to be a worthy academic by their use of linguistics.
At the start of this essay, I considered Graham’s ideas to have much depth, agreeing with his scepticism of school children being forced to write about literary classics as opposed to something they actually consider relevant, or something they are passionate about. Slowly over the course of the reading though I began to have less and less belief in Graham’s opinions. Perhaps it was his constant digression from the topic, what he would most likely call ‘surprises’ in his essay.
Graham would most likely disagree with my points in this review of his work, but in a way I think he would also be proud of my focus on his finer points, rather than the overall intent of the essay, and my ‘disobedience’ as having no right to make judgement on his work, but still doing so.