I have mixed feelings about Jay Bolter’s second edition of Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. Then again, I have only read the introduction. My critiques are that the introduction is full of binaries and outdated information. Exhibit A:
Outdated information, I can forgive. One can’t update a book fast enough to keep up with the fast-paced world of digital media (which Bolter concedes in his Preface). However, judging hypertext based on destructive binaries demands my attention. The first red flag was when Bolter quoted critic Swen Birkerts: “The printed word is part of a vestigial order that we are moving away from–by choice and by societal compulsion…” (5). Bolter goes on to state that “the inevitable was also lamentable” (5); Bolter seems to adopt this view for his own. I get the feeling he posits the tradition-challenging notion of digital media as a negative. Who is the “we” Birkerts speaks of? (I would ask my own composition students to avoid “we” and define a specific population–see my last post on age bias). Why should a move from primarily print-based text to both print and hypertext be seen as both inevitable and lamentable? Based on my own work and observations in Rhetoric/Composition and Digital Media Studies, print text still occupies an important position for scholars and the general public alike, and printed publications are arguably equal or more prestigious than hypertext publications. Some of the binaries in Bolter’s Introduction compare print text and digital text as old/new, simple/challenging, and justifiably valued/unjustifiably valued. I hope the rest of Bolter’s book positions these two writing spaces through a more accurate lens.