jameswj's Friends' blogs
Vinyl records; cassette tapes; CDs; Mp3 audio files. The evolution of music recording has steadily developed away from the physical state into one of advanced technology. Now it looks like printed books, which have survived for centuries, may go off in that avenue as well. While the idea of reading words off a screen isn’t completely brand new, the surging popularity of portable e-readers such as the Kindle and Nook have pushed trends in purchasing books electronically. As the world attempts to go more green every day by transforming technology, the bound book begins to lose a bit of its life.
The limitations of physical books were never lost on researchers in the past. In fact, Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” explores the theoretical “memex” as an answer to the lacking qualities found in books. His innovative tool called for a new method of research to take place, similar to the workings of the human brain. Instead of manually walking around a library to find stacks of different research materials, the user would be able to use the memex to electronically gather sources without ever leaving his chair. He can create different trails of information accessible at any moment without the traditional clutter of paper. Code numbers allow quick access to different categories of information, while call numbers for books only give you the direction. All of this takes place at the comfort of one’s desk, similarly to the portable e-readers of today. Both devices take what already exists and morphs it into a more convenient medium of reading.
Before the technology of the portable electronic reader was developed, many authors made the choice to publish on the Internet. One of the readings from the assigned website for Monday’s tutorial contains a link to an interactive e-book http:/
Do I hate the fact that e-books and e-book readers exist? Of course not. They have many different benefits, from allowing arthritic patients to read larger books to making electronic notes possible, much like how Bush proposed in his article. As time moves on, researchers continue to push the boundaries of technology today, whether with proposed tools like the memex or with media available online. However, with the mass availability and cheap prices of electronic media, the numbers of physical books will no doubt slowly begin to dwindle. Will the published book be extinct in 100 years? I doubt it. But they may just end up in a corner much like vinyl recordings in specialty stores.
I mentioned in last Monday's session that I had read a book (though admittedly not all of it) about the famous automaton created by Wolfgang von Kempelen. The book is called The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine and was written by Tom Standage, apparently a technology correspondent to the Economist (a magazine I loathe, actually) and author of another book called The Victorian Internet, whatever that means. Anyway, I mentioned this book because its author believed that this machine was purely automaton, functioned all on its own (except, I recall, that every now and then the operator had to crank it a few times to get the gears going again), and was therefore not a cyborg. Perhaps this is one of those instances where wikipedia is wrong. Only God knows, and I doubt she's willing to divest any of her well-dressed mysteries.
For those of you who enjoy clutter, below is a link to an essay by Walter Benjamin I read a while back. If you don't like clutter, no worries, there is a short description of the Turk in the first paragraph, and perhaps that's all you'll want to read. Benjamin writes as if the automaton were a hoax, but perhaps he's being ironic about something.
Without further ado, here is the link