Thursday, July 05, 2007

Avatars of the Word

As James O'Donnell said, here: "Universities are triumphant testimony that technologies rarely supplant one another" JOD notes St. Jerome and Cassiodorus were transitional figures, in the transitional moment from textual / scroll culture to textual / codex culture. Those figures offer us some glimpse of what it is like to live in a transition from one knowledge paradigm to another. We have stopped noticing that the codex, the 'book', is also a technology in the same way we have stopped noticing that printing is also a technology. In comparison to the scroll, the codex allows random access to any part of a text - makes possible indexes - concordances - side by side comparision in a way that the scroll could only dream of. Criticism of the printed book included the statement that 'one cannot compare and correct various versions of a text, as they are all the same'. Well, that's true but publishers could afford to proof read when they were chunking out many copies of a work in a way not possible when copies were copied by monks. Now we in the modern hypertext world can restore the immediacy, and the mutability of text - who knows if a web page will say the same thing today as yesterday - or will be in the same place?
I don't fee that I have done justice to work - see this work's home page for more discussion.

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