In Pressman’s article, “The Aesthetic of Bookishness in Twenty-First-Century Literature,” provides a sketched outline of how the threat of books’ death at the hand of technology has developed a catalyst and call to action for writers of literature in the twenty-first century. Pressman focuses on how digital technology has affected the “aesthetic of bookishness.” She also explains the fear of books end is not a new and alarming outcry from our twenty-first first century society. Pressman gives the example, “—think of Plato’s fear that writing would produce orphaned language and destroy the cultural ability to remember” (p.466). Pressman acknowledges this threat and poses the question of why does the book itself have to be the form of writing in which combats the monster of digital technology?
Pressman first talks about how digital technology has been used to try and enhance the book’s influence in society and rather instead of helping preserve the books for what they are it is changing the purpose of the book within society. On page 467, Pressman says, “The actual status of the book as a reading technology is not my focus here, but rather how the cultural and technological shift away from a book-centered society affects literature –and not necessarily the study or definition of literature…how the changing role of the book inspires a literary and, indeed, an aesthetic response.” Throughout the article Pressman expresses the impact of informational bases and technologies within our culture circulating information that leads to the removal of it from its original source.
As a result our society can become less focused and less dependent on books. Forgetting these are the original sources that created the vast network of information to begin with. Pressman says that books are not entirely dependent upon technology but it is the books themselves that are used, “to circulate within a network of readers and readings, as part of a system of distribution that connects to the larger network culture of our digital age” (p. 479). When Pressman used the example from Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts, she spoke of the “Ludovician shark” as the predator that eats from the doubts and fears of our society so it reestablishes circulated information and removes it from its speaker. As our society becomes more and more afraid of losing text other mediums are created so that we won’t be without knowledge. On page 472, these mediums are compared to the predator himself, which succeeds in growing from an increase in fear of information loss. I found it interesting how Pressman also compared this fear of information loss to fear of memory loss and Alzheimer’s. It is almost as if information from books become part of our memories and part of ourselves. These are the things we are afraid of losing and unwilling to let go of.
Thankfully, Pressman explains if we rely on books for knowledge and recognize for what they are intended to do so that we can counteract the fears and growing unaesthetic of bookishness. Or the “unaesthetic of bookishness,” that results in books being translated to other social mediums that result in error or loss in informational systems. On p. 480 Pressman says that books are meant to “…explore, critique, and challenge the changing world,” so that we as a society are more likely to keep books at the center of our circulating system.
Two things that kind of confused me when reading this article was first, on page 469, when Pressman was talking about Hayles, “posthuman paradigm of cybernetics..” and the “posthuman condition.” Is she referring to the separation of information from its owner being posthuman? What point is she trying to make in giving this example? Also, on page 471, Pressman refers to the shark as the predator of the “Information Age.” Is she referring to the “Information Age,” as in predator of all mediums of circulation or is it just technological? Or is her example of Mycroft Ward The Raw Shark Texts, refer to only technological mediums? I was a little unsure of the difference between the Ludovician shark and Mycroft Ward.
At the beginning of Pressman’s article she talks about twenty-first literature specifically, being a result of the artistic expression due to fear of the book death. What are some examples that come to mind when you think of books that have been translated to the digital media? What are some books that have changed or acquired a different face after becoming part of digital technology?