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restricted access Divine Golden Ingenious: The Golden Ratio as a Theory of Everything?
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Leonardo Reviews 323 inform, determine and shape the way we read and write, the basic assumption being that text is not just form + content but deeply rooted in technology that “formats” the medium and that doing so not only determines the medium’s content but also the possibilities we have in using it in order to think, read, write, exchange ideas and eventually build cultures and societies (given the size of the digital changes in today’s societies, a major emphasis is of course put on digitization, but Plain Text is not narrowly concerned with digital technology alone). Plain Text investigates this broad program in various ways. Logically, Dennis Tenen pays a lot of attention to the basic features and essential characteristics of text and textuality, as an object as well as a process (reading , writing, copying, circulating, commenting, remediating, etc.), and his book has great analyses of issues such as turning the page, machine writing, or reading on screen. But in all chapters, Tenen’s aim in the analysis of these topics is not just to unpack what is hidden in technology, modern or not. With a very sharp eye for historical debates and the relationships between older and newer forms of technology, on the one hand, and a repeatedly expressed belief in the necessity of a formal and materialist investigation of meaning and meaning-making, on the other hand, Plain Text pursues—and achieves— a double goal. First, Tenen manages to criticize and deconstruct a certain number of stereotypes that block any serious understanding of the mutual determination of culture and technology. Some of these stereotypes are hidden in more or less catchy metaphors (such as for instance the paper-based expressions that still structure our way of using our computer screen and that do not match at all what actually happens beneath the surface). Others refer to ceaselessly repeated conventions that do not resist more careful inquiries (such as the idea that “natural ” language is “analog,” that is continuous , while “machine” language would be “digital,” that is discontinuous ). Hence the critical rereading of Marshall McLuhan’s maxim “the medium is the message,” which Tenen considers too deterministic and insufficiently open to questions having to do with the use, or more precisely the uses, which are always plural and different , of texts and mediums. However, and this is the second goal of the book, the perspective of Tenen’s deconstruction is never to debunk or criticize. All analyses always tend to foreground the cultural , social and political a priori and implications of our “secure” and “comfortable” use of technology, as shown for instance in the book’s final critique of the longing for “analogy” and “oneness” as a philosophical ideal, the dream of an ideal world of transparency and direct contact, deprived of any technological and digital pollution. Such a longing is nostalgic; it tends to exclude anything and anyone alien while reinforcing the power of technological formatting we should ceaselessly question, not in order to reject it, but in order to try to make a better use of it (and the reader is invited to distinguish “better” from “smarter,” which is one of the modern metaphors that so successfully manage to blur the boundaries between comfort and surveillance). Divine Golden Ingenious: The Golden Ratio as a Theory of Everything? edited by O. Götze and L. Kugler. Hirmer Publishers, Munich, Germany, 2016. 224 pp., illus. ISBN: 978-3777426921. Reviewed by Rob Harle, Australia. Email: . doi:10.1162/LEON_r_0•••• This is a delightful publication with chapters that cover all aspects of the mysterious Golden Ratio. This socalled Divine Proportion is mysterious indeed, and although the book’s lofty aim is to solve the enigma, unfortunately it remains unsolved. If anything, despite the scholarly, erudite essays, the Golden Ratio as a Divine feature of the universe remains as enigmatic as ever. The book is beautifully produced and graphically rich; numerous illustrations in both color and black & white lift the book above the ordinary. Perhaps this is also partly because the layout of the book is “based on the golden ratio. The proportion of 1:1.618 defines all spacing and layout rules. The typography is also set in this ratio...