Lunenfeld, P., & Brody, F. (1999). Chapter 7: The Medium is Memory. In The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media (pp. ix, xi, 134-149). Retrieved from http://monoskop.org/images/8/86/Lunenfeld_Peter_ed_The_Digital_Dialectic_New_Essays_on_New_Media.pdf
This book is a collections of essays presented at “The Digital Dialectic: A Conference on the Convergence of Technology, Media, and Theory” in August, 1995 at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Peter Lunenfeld edited the book and the section for this review, Chapter 7: The Medium is Memory, was written by Florian Brody.
This simple fact explains a lot about the context of Chapter 7. Florian Brody is president of a publishing company, with a background in linguistics and computer science, he has worked for the Austrian National Library and was a technical director of a book project, and he teaches at the Vienna University in Austria and Art Center College of Design in California. Hefty credentials to say the least, but his vocabulary is so extensive that his work of The Medium is Memory is almost incomprehensible to the average person, of which I consider myself to be, even maybe a bit above average. I have two college degrees, I’m working on my third, I’ve taught English from Kindergarten through the 9th grade, I’ve been fluent in reading, writing and speaking Spanish, and I’m trained in multimedia design. Despite all that, I could hardly tolerate the lofty vocabulary that caused me to use a dictionary for some word in about every paragraph and struggled throughout to understand what he was saying.
In reality, I’m not even sure what his point was other than books are going out of favor due to new technological media, which is nothing we don’t already know today. Books have been icons of knowledge and extensions of memory, but that is still happening with online books, only their physical format has changed. Personally, I’d much rather read a book on a Kindle (or Nook, etc.) for several reasons:
- My eye-sight is borderline for needing reading glasses and on my Kindle, I can enlarge the print so that I can read it easily without glasses
- I love to read in bed and with a Kindle, I don’t have to struggle with holding the book open to the right page, which is always a challenge with a large or heavy print book
- I don’t have to reposition a reading light with every page turn because my Kindle has an internal light
- I don’t have to worry about fines for returning a book to the library late, nor do I have to be on a wait list to get the book I want
- I can browse through hundreds, if not thousands, of books at the touch of my fingertips any time of day on as many topics as I can think of and usually the book I want is available for free
- I can buy books that I really want to keep with essentially no storage bigger than my Kindle, which I also read on my cell phone, so there are no storage issues in my house
- My Kindle will read the book to me and although it is in a fairly monotone voice, it is something a print volume can never do
- Best of all, I can obtain audiobooks narrated by fantastic voices that make me feel the reality of a book much more than the voices I hear in my imagination
- I can listen to my Kindle reading to me or an audiobook anytime and anywhere, especially while commuting, which is why I go through 2-3 books a month by simply riding in my car to and from school
- Since I can see so many topics and the covers of books much faster on a Kindle than in a library, I read a greater variety of books
- It is much easier and faster to read a summary of each book on a Kindle than it is in a library…picking up each book individually…finding my reading glasses…finding the right place on the cover to read a summary…putting the book back on the shelf
- I have neck issues from a car accident and I love never having to tilt my head sideways to read the titles on spines of books
- Throughout my life, you’d know my books by their turned corners, highlights, and notes in the margins – all of which I do on my Kindle, with highlights and ink that never fades and pages that never get rumpled
- Frequently I want to find something I highlighted and a Kindle lets me search for it by using a few words in the subject, saving me the frustration of flipping through pages in a book and reading all of my highlights or markings until I find what I was looking for
- When I reach a word I don’t know or want to know more about, I find out everything I need with a click of the dictionary button on my Kindle and because of its ease, I use the function frequently, but few people make the effort to find a dictionary or thesaurus when reading a printed book
- I can browse AND obtain books to my heart’s content any hour of the day, regardless of whether or not the local library is open
There are certain books, those with numerous illustrations or pictures, that I still make an effort to obtain from a library, but I’m always a bit sad at having to give back the friendly companion who has spent hours with me over several weeks. My Kindle books never leave me and no one in my house complains about how much storage space they are taking up.
I do agree with Mr. Brody that our information age wants a colorful, interactive environment and that leads us to being drawn to things visually more than those in print. This is a two-edge sword – because of the visual appeal, we may read less; however, because so much more is available at our fingertips, we may read more, and what we read may be of greater variety.
In retrospect, the reader of The Digital Dialectic must bear in mind that it was printed in 1999. At that time, the internet had not even been available to the public for ten years. Maybe it was written during the time period when people feared we’d no longer have printed books, just like we’d no longer need the US Postal Service because of email. Both have survived the inception and exponential growth of technology and found their place to augment the world of new media.