In Johanna Drucker’s article, The Virtual Codex from Page Space to E-space, she talks about what makes a book a book. She uses the concept of e-space and the concept of how a book is interactive and interpreted. She also includes the program or performance of the book.

Three main points:

  1. One of the main points I want to touch on is about programing. Program means how something performs. “The literal space of the book thus serves as a field of possibilities, waiting to be “intervened” by a reader. The e-space of the page arises as a virtual program, interactive, dialogic, dynamic in the fullest sense” (Drucker). If program means to perform, then a virtual program still performs the job of the physical book as an object, meaning it is still regarded as no different than a book with pages. “We make a work through our interaction with it, we don’t “receive” a book as a formal structure” (Drucker). It is through our interactions with the program that gives it a formal structure as what a physical book has.
  1. Another point I want to make is about interpretation. “Invoking “cognitive models” suggests that a work is created through interaction with a reader/viewer in a co-dependent manner. A book (whether thought of as a text or a physical object) is not an inert thing that exists in advance of interaction, rather it is produced new by the activity of each reading” (Drucker). I believe that Drucker is trying to say that what makes a book a book is the reader/viewer and how they interpret the work in their own way. I thought of it as a book in a library. When someone checks that book out, no matter the age of the book, that book is new to that specific reader and the information is made new through it. With each reading, we learn something new. This is the same with digital reading.
  1. My last point I want to make is when Drucker states, “Thus in thinking of a book, whether literal or virtual, we should paraphrase Heinz von Foerster, one of the founding figures of cognitive science, and ask “how” a book “does” its particular actions, rather than “what” a book “is”” (Drucker). Drucker is stating that it’s not the book itself but how the information is interpreted. Meaning, that no matter what the form of the book, literal or virtual, that the book is still doing it’s function correctly.

Two confusing aspects:

  1. One point that was confusing for me was then Drucker started referring to the book with many different terms without clearly explaining them first. She would go into “phenomenal book” and then “phenomenal codex.” “For instance, think of the contrast between the literal book – that familiar icon of bound pages in finite, fixed sequences – and the phenomenal book – the complex production of meaning and effect that arises from dynamic interaction with the literal work” (Drucker). I’m not entirely sure what she means by phenomenal books.
  1. Another confusing aspect is then Drucker talked about “hypertext” and “hyperlinks.” I’m not sure what she means because she never gives the definition of these terms in her article.

Question to the author:

My question goes directly to the author. You talk on what makes a book a book and you include e-space in your argument. You never really define what e-space is. What is your definition of e-space as a whole to your argument?