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Readings, and Related Inspirations

So Futuristic!

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I am absolutely tickled by the ‘historical’ readings I have done this week in the realm of Computers and Composition.

It occurred to me, as I read Bush’s “As We May Think”, that it might matter in which order a person ingests these readings, particularly if the person (me, for example) is doing it all in a 1-2 day span.  I read them in this order:

Hawisher & Selfe “The Rhetoric of Technology and the Electronic Writing Class” (1991)

Lanham “The Electronic Word: Literary Study and the Digital Revolution” (1989)

Bush “As We May Think” (1945)

I didn’t plan to read them in this order, that’s just the way they got into my hands. I found that Hawisher and Selfe discuss a few concepts similar to Lanham’s article, like how digital technology is useful in the classroom, and further possible uses. However, while Lahnam goes into more depth about what we now know to be ebooks and digital databases, Hawisher and Selfe spend more time discussing a very important issue: the negative side of electronic composing. All along the margins of both my print-outs (because I’m an old-school paper killer like that), I wrote questions. Two recurring questions I had for both Lanham’s article and Hawisher and Selfe’s article are the following:

1. How have we answered this in the last 20 years?

2. What is the fruitful alternative to this idea?

And another very important question that tied Lanham’s article together with Bush’s was this:

How has this manifested? In what way is it different? And on what scale?

This set of questions works for almost every ‘invention’ mentioned in our readings. Lanham discusses virtual databases, and personal e-readers. Bush comes up with the Cyclops Camera, Microfilm, the Vocoder, the Thinking Machine, and the Memex.

For me, the most exciting part is to see these ‘futuristic’ ideas in real time today. Our theorists were right about these needs for development. Bush tells us that “[Man] has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory” (106) – I am using the book From Memex to Hypertext which has some changes to the article Dr. Hocks put up for us. I’ll share the book in class Monday.

And Bush is correct. We couldn’t keep on the way we were, even as late as Lanham’s article in 1989. We had to be able to link our ideas together. Now we call that hyperlinking. And I have demonstrated hyperlinking in this post. Below, I am throwing images next to each other. The first is Bush’s idea, and the second is my guess at the nearest manifestation of Bush’s idea.

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