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Calculator of the Humanist:

Inclusive, Constructive, Malleable

My thoughts turned to the ideas Bolter presented about electronic text being inclusive, constructive and malleable. The video presentation by Wesch demonstrated each of these qualities in dramatic fashion.

Electronic text is inclusive in the way it accepts and incorporates graphics and elements beyond alphabetic writing (eg. :D). Bolter describe it as “a continuum in which many systems of representation can happily coexist”. (p. 37) Wesch certainly demonstrated the accepting, inclusive nature of graphics and text in his video.

Electronic text is constructive because “an electronic writer can build new elements from traditional ones” (p. 37) Just watching the text transform and re-construct as Wesch moved from one thought to another in the video really highlights this idea.

Electronic writing is malleable. Bolter stated “electronic writing, which is extremely malleable, can be fashioned into a tree or into a forest of hierarchical trees.” Wesch demonstrated this malleability in graphic form. Wesch described the organization of materials without constraints, without being closed, bounded, fixed, limited or categorized. This brought forward the image of text being malleable, open, fluid and unlimited. These ideas connected as I write, delete, edit, retype and finally ‘fix’ my text in time and space.

Which brings me to the final thought that connected material from Bolter and Wesch together for me. Bolter described electronic writing in terms of word processing where the “writer is thinking and writing in terms of verbal units or topics”. (p. 29) Bolter described these units as pages of information that can be linked and connected hierarchically. Wesch’s video changed the notion of units to smaller components – the single word – that can be linked, tagged and found in the infinite, ethereal world of webbed and electronic text. (This brings the hierarchy down to the small branches of the tree!).

However, while electronic textual reference units have been reduced to single words, they exist without the semantic attachments that go with those words. eg. bank can mean the institution/building or the side of the river. Both will be found if I search my document or the web for the word ‘bank’.

This makes me rethink the statement that ‘every word counts’.
Is print text bound by this notion? Is electronic text remediating this concept?

References:

Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Wesch, M. Information R/evolution found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4CV05HyAbM

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