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??? COHPAnATIST Evoking Emerson's question, "where do we find ourselves?" Halliburton argues that the world is both a place that acts upon us and an activity in which we engage. Both are ongoing. Building on this phenomenology, interpretation becomes the discovery ofthe underlying grammar and rhetoric that mediates the economic, political, social, and cultural. From reconstructing to experiencing, the "things" of our world become fateful. In the first volume ofhis project, Halliburton has gone a long way in showing how. Thomas L. CookseyArmstrongAtlantic State University GEOFFREY NUNBERG, ed. The Future oftheBook. Afterword by Umberto Eco. Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California P, 1996. 306 pp. In his afterword to this rich and exciting collection ofessays based on a conference at the Center for Semiotic and Cognitive Studies at the University ofSan Marino in 1994, Umberto Eco reflects that discussing the future ofthe book makes it almost inevitable that someone will quote Frollo's famous line from Victor Hugo's NotreDame de Paris: "Ceci tuera cela" (295). This claim that the book will kill the cathedral, that the alphabet will kill images, implied not only that printing and rising literacy would challenge the authority ofthe church, but also that the book would change our mode ofexpression. As Hugo puts it, the "book ofstone, so solid and durable" would give way to the "book ofpaper, yet more solid and durable." What these essayists ask is, will the book of paper give way to the "book of (computer) bits, yet more solid and durable?" What is most remarkable about their responses is that despite the evident fascination that most ofthem seem to have for the new(er) technologies of mediating communication, they collectively refrain from closing the book on this issue, a task sometimes difficult given the extremes to which the issue is often taken. On one side, there are those like the writer E. Annie Proulx, cited as claiming that "books are forever." The information superhighway might be good for "bulletin boards on esoteric subjects, reference works, lists, and newstimely, utilitarian information," writes Proulx, but "[n]obody is going to sit down and read a novel on a twitchy little screen. Ever" (37). This view is called "bibliophilia" in this collection (9). Bibliophiles also like to stress the relative portability and inexpensiveness ofprinted books, or to charge that you cannot read your computer screen in bed. But, as George Landow points out in "Twenty Minutes into the Future, Or How Are We Moving Beyond the Book," most books that we, or better yet our students actually "experience," are not this kind ofbook. They have narrow margins, typographical errors, and tiny type, not to mention that "many ofthem begin to collapse, break apart, and drop pages during the week in which they are assigned" (2 1 0). Such responses to the bibliophiles point out deep weaknesses in common lines of argument against computer mediated discourse. And, perhaps even more significantly , they draw attention to how the material nature of texts affects reading, something often neglected in comparative studies ofreading and re-reading. The "technophile," on the other hand, tends to believe that computer-mediated discourse will supersede print, that a "Digital Age" is near. Yet, despite their differences , both bibliophile and technophile tend to share two beliefs: (1) that the future ofdiscourse is contingent upon the technologies that mediate it; and (2) that history VcH. 23 (1999): 169 REVIEWS is driven by a kind oftechnological materialism in which technologies ofmediation develop to the point where they are supplanted or superseded by newer ones. Fortunately, though, the contributors to this volume generally avoid both bibliophilia and technophilia. Moreover, several essays, like Paul Duguid's "Material Matters: The Past and Futurology ofthe Book," helpfully bring out various weaknesses in both ways oflooking at the future ofthe book. Duguid explains that such "oversimplifications separate the past from the future, the simple from the complex, technology from society, and information from technology" (89). He suggests a good middle-ground where book-culture can co-exist with computer-culture. According to Duguid, we need to look at technology in its "social-material and historical context," and avoid considering the future ofthe book through perspectives that isolate technology...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 169-170
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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