Bolter Part 2- on Digital Writing and Culture

I must say, while the initial chapter of Jay David Bolter’s Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print was a rocky start, subsequent chapters were more impressive and thought-provoking, particularly Chapter 10, entitled “Writing Culture.” In this chapter, Bolter asserts that “E-mail, chat rooms, and the World Wide Web have become sites for highly mediated versions of community” (204). In addition to the double meaning of “sites,” I appreciate that Bolter gives a nod to the mediated quality of digital space. When talking about in-person versus digital community, it is important to realize that means and intensity of mediation is a critical difference. I think that in-person communities could be less mediated, and more transparently. In a digital environment, we often never know how many people (and other machines) have the ability to mediate in one way or another (especially if we consider oversight and surveillance as part of mediation). 

Chapter 10 also references the very temporary nature of digital networks: “What we have come to valorize in electronic communication, however, is largely the capacity to promote multiplicity, heterogeneity, and immediate, if temporary connections” (204). One ubiquitous example that came to my mind is undergraduate classroom community. Students come together for one semester/quarter of work, and become “friends.” They talk to each other in class, work in groups, peer review, and maybe even study together. However, the majority of students in class will not remain friends after the conclusion of the class (exceptions being those who know each other outside of class, preexisting relationships, and Learning Communities). However, these people are much more likely to be acquaintances long after class concludes. In a digital friendship (for example, one on Facebook or Twitter), once the relationship ends and one party unfriends or unfollows the other, the connection is immediately broken and will take effort to rekindle. Granted, clicking the “add” button is also immediate, but significantly more awkward than not saying “hello” passing someone on the sidewalk.

What are your thoughts on mediation and transparency of community (both in-person and digital)?


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