Better Late than Never–Comments on “Writing the Self” from Jay David Bolter’s THE WRITING SPACE

This chapter addresses one of my Luddite fears with computers: the vaccuum of cyberspace and the robbery of the human mind from the material world. Actually, Bolter doesn’t quite address this paranoia exactly, but he does explore the relations between mind, body, and the audiodigital world in the late print era. Bolter begins with the premise that cultures remediate writing technologies “at least in part in order to refashion their definitions of mind and self” (189). He claims hypertext not only redefine cultural definitions of self, knowledge, and experience but also refashions our notions of self into an electronic self, which differentiates from the “printed, filmic, or televisual self” (189-190). This electronic self is indicative of our every changing and fragmented post-modern world; therefore, the electronic is dynamic, flexible, and contingent (190).

Bolter presents Walter Ong and McLuhan’s arguments that since writing was representation and extension of the natural process of thought, and, in fact, writing was necessary for sophisticated, abstract reasoning as well as analysis and reflection(192). Reflection was important because according to Ong, “the reflexive character of writing allowed the writer to define his mind out of the confusion of thoughs and emotions that are experienced” (195). If Descartes said “I think therefore I am,” then Ong might say, “I write therefore I am.”

Writing, Bolter explains, in Ong and Jack Goody’s perspecive, also fostered categorical thinking and method, which improved our reasoning skills and defined literacy in the print age. This Cartesian view of mind and writing enabled a unified self that was rational, intelligent, and autonomous.

Others, Bourdieu, Butler, Lyotard, and Baudrillad, have argued that in fact, hypertext represents the multiple, fragmented, and material self. Rather than hypertext constructing the self into a “reasoning machine,” they argue hypertext constructs the self as social agent (198). Bolter goes onto explain that in an audiodigital age of MOOs and MUDs, “we have constructed writing as a process of assuming multiple, some what different voices” (199). Some worry that with this fragmentation, hyptertext will “free” human mind from the body and the constraints of society and culture in the embodied world (201). However, Bolter and others, Stone, Nakamura, and Kolko, claims these cultural and societal constraints are actually carried over into the audiodigital world (210). They claim “there is an indissoluble connection between the human material condition and all cultural practices, which are inevitably grounded in the material world” (202). Bolter seems to agree by pointing out that today the electronic writing culture blurs the distinction between private and public and that, consequently, because “an electronic writer is seldom alone with her thoughts,…the writer is never isolated from the material and cultural matrix of her networked culture” (202).

My response to come….

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1 Comment

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One response to “Better Late than Never–Comments on “Writing the Self” from Jay David Bolter’s THE WRITING SPACE

  1. You’re so interesting! I do not believe I have read anything like this before. So good to discover somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is needed on the internet, someone with some originality!

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