Before I begin, I think you will need to read this post at things magazine. (Note that although that has tomorrow’s date I promise I am not backposting this, it just has to do with timezones and seeing into the future.)
Now while I normally do not require background reading before my posts can be understood I think here it is necessary. This past month my book group, here at Carnegie Mellon, read Middlemarch by George Eliot. This nearly eight hundred page novel was too much for many of us to read. I found myself skipping ahead lines in the longer townsfolk dialogue passages and after finishing proclaimed she needed a stronger editorial hand.
And while I do think that some editing could have been helpful in that case I am now entrenched in an academic world where we are packing as much content as we can into an eight page paper, some thirty slides, a twenty minute lecture over lunch, or a three story elevator ride. Eight hundred pages of victorian literature simply can’t be made to fit without significant efforts.
“We are sliding towards an irreversible obsession with totally visual communication.”
Visual communication is ridiculously attractive because it is fast and I am convinced we are moving in this direction solely because of time constraints; I don’t think there are complete advantages to the replacement of text for visuals, in many cases they are worse (in fact my research is possibly helping to prove that, stay tuned).
I strongly dislike FFFFOUND! because even if I want to browse a repository of images I want to be able to read the context, I want to understand the narrative, the creation, the people, the process. (There are a ton of images on ffffound that are totally unlabeled and impossible to trace back to any reference point and I still can’t google search starting from an image)
“The vast majority of weblogs act like sluice gates, simply helping the flow of culture along without adding to the volume of water in any way.”
And maybe I am just adding to the landfill, but I would like to hope I am actually adding something relevant. At least I have the awareness that if I am solely an internet filter there will always be a better filterâ€“almost certainly a collaborative oneâ€“and so I have to strive to be more than that.
And now I want to disagree with his reading of Chris Cobb’s piece There is Nothing Wrong in the Whole Wide World because 1. I have my books in order by color and as anyone who has challenged me on this point I can find any of them, without looking; and 2. while the colorsort provides an aesthetic background for the apartment I think it shows how attached in memory I am to these books.
There are many that I can recall the color of much more readily than the author. The experience of holding the book, carrying it around with me for a week or more, has left with me that moment in time where I lugged around the large burnt-orange Cantos of Ezra Pound, or when I classily would slide out my slim bright orange classic copy of Barthes’ Mythologies. While the arrangement might provide visual skimming, it is at the same time pulling out those exact hues which have been forever tucked into my mind along with the memory of a particular story.
I don’t have a solution, and maybe we just aren’t ready for one yet. We have just given millions of people access to technology that allows them to be rapidly visually stimulated, that can and does display thousands of images at them everyday. I know that I want to see less and know more about the less I do interact with. I am not absorbing enough and a youtube video I saw today will be a vague memory in three months, if not entirely obliterated. We are not yet intelligent enough in our ways of interacting with this type of information onslaught and so the memories I retain best are encoded into the hex values of the spines of the now nearly obsolete paper bound information receptacles that line my apartment’s walls.