Jentery Sayers at the University of Victoria posted a really interesting video set from a debate the humanities faculty put on about the book or the death thereof. Couldn’t help being interested since it’s what’s absorbed me generally for the past several years, and since we here at Messiah had out own symposium on the book this past February.
I embedded one video below with part of Jentery’s speech–unfortunately split between two videos, and Jentery’s head is cut off some of the time, a talking body instead of a talking head. The whole set is on Jentery’s website and apparently somewhere on the University of Victoria and of course on YouTube. Worth my time this evening, though perhaps it says something about me that I am spending my time on a Friday night watching Canadian professors dressed in robes and addressing one another as “Madame Prime Minister” and “Leader of the Opposition”. Better than Monty Python.
The event is described as follows:
As independent bookstores close their doors, newspapers declare bankruptcy and young people are more familiar with negotiating digitized data, it seems that the era of the printed word may be on it’s way out. Indeed, the emergency of digital humanities research seems to imply that, even in the most book-centric fields, the written word may be obsolete. Join us for a good-humoured look at whether the book is dead or if rumours of its demise are premature.
Takeaway line from Jentery: “New Media Remediates Old Media”. I’m still unpacking that, but I like Jentery’s general sense of the commerce between the traditional Gutenberg book and New Media. It does seem to me that in a lot of ways this interaction between media forms is really what’s happening right now. Every book published has a web site, a Facebook page, and the authors interact with readers via twitter and personal blogs. A lot of what goes on in new media is repackaging and mashups of old media. I do think though that its also the case that old media repackages new media as well. Movies end up as books, and blogs become books that become movies.
It seems to me that our divisions between English and Film/communication/digital media might make less and less sense. Would it make more sense to imagine books as such as “media” and simply have media studies, rather than imagining these things separately.
Other memorable line was someone quoting McLuhan. “Old technologies become new art forms.” Or words to that effect. I think this is right, and in the long haul I keep thinking this may be the destiny of the traditional book, though i could be proven wrong. I think book binders could be a growth industry, as well as publishers that specialize in high end book products. I’ve mulled over the question of the book becoming an art object several times before, so I won’t bother to do it again here.
Side note: Jentery Sayers was extremely generous with his time, attention, and intelligence in engaging with a number of faculty and students at Messiah College last week. A lot of good ideas and great energy even if the computer hook up was less than desirable. Much appreciated. The clip of Jentery’s speech is below: