The Fate Of The Book Essay

2265 words - 9 pages

Probably one of the most dramatic changes which has taken place in the way that human beings communicate is the advent of the high-tech, digital communication media which have dominated the last decades of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. As Birkerts (1994, pp.104-112) points out, the influence of telecommunications in the modern age is analogous to the development of rail transport in the industrial revolution: not only a means of transforming methods of contact between one geographical region and another, but also a way in which an entire ideological structure could be extended, in the form of a far-reaching network, on a massive scale. In much the same way as the railways enabled the growth of capitalism, so the new communications media offer an opportunity for national and transnational conglomerates to "establish global empires" (Birkerts, 1994, p.125).However, as Birkerts also notes, it would be overly simplistic to assert that the older forms of communication, such as the print media, are being abandoned wholesale in favour of the new. Rather, western society is in the throes of a transition which carries with it its own ideological baggage, distinct from both that of the old and of the new. An example familiar to most is the change in the way that news is disseminated: despite the prevalence of online versions of most major newspapers, print copies are still produced and still maintain sizable circulations. Similarly, although round-the-clock satellite news channels are increasing in popularity, there has been no significant decline in the viewing figures for the more intellectual and analytical news programmes, in which soundbites and instant updates give way to detailed and thoughtful analysis of current situations in context.One might account for the continuing prevalence of print on pragmatic grounds: it is easier to carry a newspaper than to carry a computer. However, even though laptops, palmtops, Net-linked mobile phones and other easily portable forms of electronic communication are becoming almost universal in western society, people are on the whole reluctant to abandon newspapers, print magazines and books entirely. Perhaps this is due in part to the impermanence of digital communication: websites can be amended, upgraded, removed in a matter of moments and whilst this is a positive feature where constantly updated information is required, it also emphasises the transient nature of electronic communication.As Berger (1999,p.87) points out, such communication is a two-way process, depending on the interaction of text and audience, and the form this interaction takes varies considerably when the text itself is not static. The observer's relationship with, say, a photograph is dependent on numerous factors in terms of the way the image is perceived, but throughout the process of these different "ways of seeing", the image itself remains constant. As he points out, that which is seen can only be...

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