Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

I thank Greg for the above epigraph from Douglas Adams (via reference to the Slate article), and I’d like to appropriate it as my motto for the Texts & Technology program here at UCF.  It suggests people’s normal reactions to emerging technologies just as it explains both modern and past critical reactions to technologies (as well as predicts future ones), including responses to writing, the printed book, the radio, the television, the computer, and whatever may come in our future.  It explains my interest in and motivation about markup structure (like XML) just as it explains my mother’s and grandmother’s adversity to even attempt understanding the same subject.  This seems very much a result of the “interpenetration” of code that Hayles describes.

Hayles discusses the possibility of widespread writing (like blogs, for one example) creating opportunities for more people’s voices to be heard/read, consequently creating the possibility for an overwhelming amount of low-quality writing (i.e., her introduction to the first chapter, in which Brother Jacob “shamefacedly” admits possession of a printed codex).  I’m not particularly fond of the examples of e-lit that Hayles provides with her book (Oh. No. Visions. Of. Tachistoscope. Flash. Before. My. Mind’s. Eye), but I’m not going to dismiss it as worthless or low-quality by any means.  I’m certain there are people who enjoy it enough to make up for my disinterest in the emerging genre.

Before someone labels me a hypocrite for going against my new motto, I assert that besides e-lit, there are several genres I engage with and believe will gain critical value as they gain a foothold within popular culture.  Indeed, just because I, a single person, don’t enjoy it doesn’t mean it will fall into obscurity.  The Pac Rat article by Clay Risen that Dr. Saper linked to us on archiving old video games seems particularly relevant here; what happens when, finally, someone decides that there should be a critical canon of video games, but games like Sea Dragon are inaccessible or utterly forgotten?  Already, with but a few decades of gaming history behind us, each new platform or system creates a new, complex layer that needs to be accounted for when organizing a chronology.  The article itself establishes a relevant connection to the rise of the novel, when it was considered “corrupting,” much as many video games are portrayed today.  As Hayles says, “media strike the drumbeat; literature marches to the tune” (89).

Hayles’ pondering the possibility of low-quality writing becoming rampant (again, the Brother Jacob example, especially) seems to reflect the notion of new genres as corrupting or decadent, too.  The same uncertainty for the future of literature and thought always seems to be a relevant concern for each generation that witnesses a new technology, until it is gradually accepted that the genre isn’t going away just because some people don’t like it.

Advertisements