Thoughts on Fitzpatrick, Print Culture and Digital Media

My readings for other classes this week have emphasized the development of print culture in Western society and its ascendency to the preeminent medium of knowledge dissemination. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about print culture and its very material and political effects on society. Writing made possible the production of the archive as we traditionally think of it, and the codex in particular is a technology developed for the production of the archive as library. Current critical theory has placed a lot of emphasis on questioning archives and proposing alternatives – especially for cultures that may not have an emphasis on print. Fitzpatrick correctly how current digital forms of scholarship and archive still too closely model themselves on print culture, carrying with them the biases and political power structures that are inherent in that system. In particular, I’m reminded of a documentary on Wikipedia that problematizes the citation requirements (http://vimeo.com/26469276) and a recent picture I saw depicting Spanish missionaries burning Aztec records at the same time they were writing new histories and translating the bible into indigenous languages (http://books.google.com/books?id=L5O-v2V1ryYC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA41#v=onepage&q&f=false). And an article I recently read entitled “Peer review and the Social Construction of Knoweldge in the Management of Discipline” (http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/40214251?uid=2460338175&uid=2460337935&uid=2&uid=4&uid=83&uid=63&sid=21101223615181).

A question that was hinted at last week that relates to this line of questioning regarding textuality, is what does it mean as we are moving away from programming in so many aspects of producing content? WYSIWYG and Visual Editors (like here in WP!) obscure the technical aspects of the process that we’re engaging in. Does creating interfaces that mimic traditional word processing predispose us to the production of texts and creating digital analogues to print books (which Fitzpatrick criticizes).  Even further though, we have called programming codes as language. What are the politics of creating these languages largely based on the English language? Does it distance those of us for whom English is perhaps the only mode of expression? Does, for example, a Russian programmer, who writes in Cyrillic but must use a special keyboard to type using the Romanized alphabet and English syntax to program in javascript, think differently about the code she is “writing” in ways that are more flexible? QR codes, although not popular yet in the U.S. are able to handle more complex writing systems and are especially able to handle non-alphabetic writing systems such as Japanese Kanji. Is this related to its more widespread (and possibly interesting) use in countries such as Japan and Korea?

Are there possibilities for textual criticism of code? Will future generations look at the codes behind legacy websites and extrapolate meaning from them? Are people already doing this and what does this mean for the study of literature, which is my discipline.  

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