Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A 'thoughty' treatise of sorts...!

Scene I: A breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room, I slipped in there.  It contained a bookcase: I soon possessed myself of a volume, taking care that it should be one stored with pictures. I mounted into the window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk; and, having drawn the red moreen curtain nearly close, I was shrined in double retirement. 

Scene II: Bessie asked if I would have a book: the word book acted as a transient stimulus, and I begged her to fetch Gulliver’s Travels from the library.  This book I had again and again perused with delight.  I considered it a narrative of facts, and discovered in it a vein of interest deeper than what I found in fairy tales. 

Like Jane, was I, when I had my hard copy of Switching Codes: Thinking Through Digital Technology in the Humanities and the Arts in hand. I was, too, like Jane - ‘shrined in double retirement’, and very much like her, this particular book, ‘I had again and again perused with delight’!!!

Well, everything about the book fascinates me! The book is simply unrivalled in the treatment of its new-age subject with time as its central metaphor or paradox!

After ploughing in all earnestness through the 440 pages of ‘transient stimulus’ that the book offers, my eyes rested on the wonderful epilogue to the book titled, ‘Enquire Within upon Everything’ by Richard Powers.

After having read through this wonderful book (in around a week’s time), I was thrilled or rather enthralled by this ‘oh boy’! epilogue. What a brilliant way of putting things in perspective! Indeed most of the essays in the volume, like the ‘Migration of the Aura or How to Explore the Original through Its Facsimiles,’ or ‘the Truth in Versions’, or ‘Untidy Generativity’, or ‘Electronic Linguistics,’ or ‘Rewiring Culture, the Brain, and Digital Media,’ or ‘Re-placing’ – now all these wonderfully thought-provoking articles have their logical culmination in this wonderful epilogue by Powers. Those of you who’ve read his ‘Pulitzer-winning’ novel The Echo Maker can tune yourselves in without much ado - in sync with his frame of mind – to yet another brilliant narrative of Powers - this time in prose – for those wonderful ‘relating modes of thought’ that pervade this thoughty [my coinage J ] treatise!

Just giving you excerpts [aka a teaser trailer] from the first two pages!

Say a boy is born in a northern middle class suburb of the large Midwestern metropolis of C.

Say he is born in the year 1989.

This is the last of years. This is the first of years.

This is the year the walls come down and the webs come up.

The boy learns to point and click right around the time he learns how to talk.

From the earliest age, he is always able to cut, paste, or undo.

By eight, the boy will type with two thumbs much better than he can write with either whole hand.

Card catalogs become obsolete by the time he reads his first book.

The first graphical web browser is outmoded before he starts second grade.

By the age of eleven, the boy has difficulty doing fewer than four things at once.

He never once needs to use a print reference, except as an exercise in historical nostalgia.

His favorite childhood pet, a virtual Jack Russell terrier that he breeds and trains and romps around with online, dies when the boy goes on a summer vacation with his family and is away from the web for two weeks.

The boy builds an online mausoleum for the deceased digital dog, which he forgets all about and never dismantles. The site ends up drawing condolences, tearful empathy, and mocking abuse from all over the world, even after the boy himself dies, nine decades later.

In junior high, the boy discovers music. He grows obsessed with acquiring copies of the world’s fifty million musical titles. In time, he comes to carry with him access to enough music that he could listen to a thousand pieces a day for a century without repeating.

After puberty, the boy falls hard for information science. Between high school and his graduation from college, the world’s information doubles. It will double again several times before he dies, until just the indexes themselves outstrip the total data of his childhood.

In high school, the boy joins a club of everyone on earth who shares his name and birthday. The club has hundreds of members and adds dozens more a year. Soon, new members are located and added to the mailing list immediately upon birth.

The boy doesn’t really remember his college years. But he does remember vividly the details of those years that he spends the rest of his life retrieving from various social networking sites.

While in college, the boy makes a nice income by adding helpful tags to other people’s travel photos. His tags make it possible for anyone to spend Sunny Afternoons/By Large Bodies of Water/With Friendly People/Cooking Chicken/On the Grill for /People/Playing/Volleyball, anytime the desire strikes.

After graduation, the boy makes a living teaching software how to tag pictures automatically.

Later, the boy makes a living helping to create a system that can match any person’s browsing history with exactly the product they don’t yet know they need.

People who buy the things that the boy buys often buy the very next thing that they are told that people like them often buy… ...

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