Saturday, June 2, 2012

Writing in Different Dimensions

          Language and writing are dimensional. Writing and printing linearly take us into the second dimension. In this dimension words are being put on a page to be physically read. In “The New Dialogue,” chapter seven of his book Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing, Jay David Bolter argues that linear writing causes a much more difficult power struggle concerning the control the writer has over the reader because the writer and reader become distanced from one another. Even if the writer prints the piece exactly how he wants it to be read, the reader has the choice to read it non-linearly and read sections in a different order, or skim over different paragraphs.
In the beginning of the article, Bolter mentions that an encyclopedia is the happy medium between a linearly printed book that has “a continuous path for the reader to follow” and “the numerous paths of the modern newspaper, in which several stories are laid out on each page and therefore compete for the reader’s attention.” (p. 76). I found this interesting because I feel that a perfect example that supports Bolter’s argument for moving writing out of the second dimension is Wikipedia (a free online encyclopedia). Wikipedia is a “writing space that allows for a more interactive, associative, and non-linear form of writing and, by implication, way of thinking.” In fact, any Wiki site is open to editing. There are also links that one can explore to find related articles or information that either support or refute the information one is already reading.
            Bolter says it is the internet takes us into the third dimension with hypertext and links. However, not only does it propel us forward into the technological future, but it also brings us back almost full circle to the time of Socrates and his argument for dialogue. Socrates argued against writing, claiming that it would promote forgetfulness and that people would not use their memory if they always had something to reference.
            In my opinion, even if Socrates opposed every other type of writing, he wouldn’t oppose some forms of internet writing because it contains the interactivity that he argued for. Unlike with writing in the second dimension in which the author and reader are separated by time and space, one can have a live, interactive dialogue online. In fact, if Socrates were alive today, he could create a blog in which he could teach by posing questions in his posts, and have philosophical debates in the comment section underneath. He would be able to teach the world, not just the crowd of people sitting around him.

Work cited:
Bolter, Jay David. Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing. Hillsdale, New Jersey Hove and London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1991. Print.

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