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HUIN105: From Blogs to Bards


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Slide show for a lecture based on chapter 2 of my book Blogging - this covers the development of communication technology from writing through print, broadcast media and to the internet. It's not really self-standing and should be viewed in connection with reading the chapter.

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HUIN105: From Blogs to Bards

  1. 1. From Bards to Blogs Jill Walker Rettberg Associate Professor University of Bergen, Norway [email_address] HUIN105, University of Bergen, 2009
  2. 2. Major shifts in communication technology: <ul><li>Writing (early writing existed 2-3000 years B.C.; writing was still controversial to Plato) </li></ul><ul><li>Printing press (China, 11 th century, Gutenberg, c. 1439) </li></ul><ul><li>Broadcast media (20 th century) </li></ul><ul><li>Internet (late 20 th century) </li></ul>
  3. 3. Walter Ong, 1982: <ul><li>Orality (before writing) </li></ul><ul><li>Literacy (writing, print) </li></ul><ul><li>Secondary Orality (radio and television) </li></ul>4. Secondary literacy?? (internet) -- Stuart Moulthrop And maybe
  4. 4. Writing will destroy memory Plato : Phaedrus
  5. 5. Plato: Written texts are unresponsive Plato: Phaedrus SOCRATES: I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer . And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them , and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves . PHAEDRUS: That again is most true.
  6. 6. John Durham Peters: two traditions in communication <ul><li>Dissemination </li></ul><ul><li>Dialogue </li></ul>(Peters, John Durham. 1999. Speaking Into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.)
  7. 7. Dis- sem -ination Sem = seed
  8. 8. Dissemination’s primodial spokesperson: Jesus A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13: 3–9)
  9. 9. This is the model of mass media and mass advertising <ul><li>Most will not hear, or will ignore the message. </li></ul>But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (Matthew 13: 23)
  10. 10. Dialogue’s primordial spokesperson: Plato Would a husbandman, who is a man of sense, take the seeds, which he values and which he wishes to bear fruit, and in sober seriousness plant them during the heat of summer, in some garden of Adonis, that he may rejoice when he sees them in eight days appearing in beauty? At least he would do so, if at all, only for the sake of amusement and pastime. But when he is in earnest he sows in fitting soil, and practises husbandry, and is satisfied if in eight months the seeds which he has sown arrive at perfection. (Plato, Phaedrus )
  11. 11. Do blogs disseminate or engage in dialogue?
  12. 12. 1450s: The printing press
  13. 13. Qualities of print that led to cultural change: <ul><li>Dissemination </li></ul><ul><li>Standardisation </li></ul><ul><li>Reorganisation </li></ul><ul><li>Data collection </li></ul><ul><li>Preservation </li></ul><ul><li>Amplification and Reinforcement </li></ul>
  14. 14. The “Wicked Bible” of 1631 Typo: printers forgot the word “not” “ Thou shalt commit adultery.” (= Du skal bryte ekteskapet .) (standardization)
  15. 15. Ortelius: Theatrum orbis mundum (1570-1598) Collaboration, revisions, data collection.
  16. 16. Qualities of print that led to cultural change: <ul><li>Dissemination </li></ul><ul><li>Standardisation </li></ul><ul><li>Reorganisation </li></ul><ul><li>Data collection </li></ul><ul><li>Preservation </li></ul><ul><li>Amplification and Reinforcement </li></ul>
  17. 17. 1990s: The Web
  18. 18. The Gutenberg Parenthesis Tom Pettitt, MIT5 conference, May 2007.
  19. 19. Technological transitions lead to new literacies <ul><li>Print </li></ul>Network literacy Web Literacy (create, share and navigate social media - 57% of US teens by 2005) ( (read and write - 70-90% of Europeans by late 18th century)
  20. 20. New literacies shape our ideas of the relationship between self and world <ul><li>Print </li></ul>Web Literacy Network Literacy Private/Public collapse: Self is connected to network Private/Public divide: self is distinct, separate
  21. 21. Young man reading <ul><li> by JorgeQuinteros Creative Commons licence: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 </li></ul>
  22. 22. Silent reading ... the increasingly common practice of silent reading, which fostered a solitary and private relation between the reader and his book , were crucial changes, which redrew the boundary between the inner life and life in the community. Roger Chartier: The Practical Impact of Writing
  23. 23. Silent reading Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as growing numbers of people learned to read, new ways of reading became popular. The most novel of these (..) was private reading in a quiet place away from other people, which allowed the reader to engage in solitary reflection on what he or she read. This privatization of reading is undeniably one of the major cultural developments of the early modern era. Roger Chartier: The Practical Impact of Writing
  24. 24. The library is a place to retreat to, a place from which the world can be seen - but the reader remains invisible. See Chartier, “The Practical Impact of Writing”, p. 130.
  25. 25. The solitude of writing is a solitude without which writing could not be produced, or would crumble, drained bloodless by the search for something else to write. Marguerite Duras, Writing .
  26. 26. Writing is a solipsistic operation In composing a text, in “writing” something, the one producing the written utterance is also alone. Writing is a solipsistic operation . Walter Ong , Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. 1983. Page 116.
  27. 27. Writing girls by “This Year’s Love”
  28. 28. Blogging: social? solitary? - Creative Commons licence - by kk+
  29. 29. Is blogging a different kind of writing to novel-writing? One thing that was immediately clear to me, from the first blog, is that this is not an activity, for me, that can coexist with the writing of a novel . In some way I only dimly apprehend, it requires too much of the same bandwidth (yet never engages anything like the total *available* bandwidth). But, definitely, the ecology of novelization and the ecology of blogging couldn't coexist, for me. It would be like trying to boil water without a lid . Or, more like it, trying to run a steam engine without a lid. ( I wonder if that would be the case for a native of the blogosphere -- for whom, as Lou Reed once said of heroin addicts, &quot;the needle is a toothbrush&quot;? Maybe not.) William Gibson in his blog, 13 April, 2003 . William Gibson
  30. 30. J ürgen Habermas developed the theory of the public sphere as founded upon debate in the 1960s. Today, he worries about the internet.
  31. 31. The public sphere ( borgerlig offentlighet) An ideal democratic space for rational debate among informed and engaged citizens - and that mediates between state and society (Habermas 1991)
  32. 32. Blogs are often seen as a new public sphere <ul><li>Baoill, Andrew. 2004. Weblogs and the Public Sphere. In Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs , edited by L. Gurak, S. Antonijevic, L. Johnson, C. Ratliff and J. Reyman. </li></ul><ul><li>Boeder, Pieter. 2005. Habermas' Heritage: The Future of the Public Sphere in the Network Society. First Monday 10 (9). Available from </li></ul><ul><li>Notaro, Anna. 2006. The Lo(n)g Revolution: The Blogosphere as an Alternative Public Sphere? Reconstruction 6 (4). Available from . </li></ul><ul><li>Poster, Mark. 1997. Cyberdemocracy: Internet and the Public Sphere. In Internet Culture , edited by D. Porter. NY: Routledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Thompson, Garry. 2003. Weblogs, Warblogs, the Public Sphere, and Bubbles. Transformations (7). Available from </li></ul>
  33. 33. Today, Habermas worries about the Internet “ ...intellectuals seem to be suffocating from the excess of this vitalising element, as if they were overdosing. The blessing seems to have become a curse. I see the reason for that in the de-formalisation of the public sphere, and in the de-differentiation of the respective roles. (..) In this medium, contributions by intellectuals lose their power to create a focus.” J ürgen Habermas: Acceptance Speech for the Bruno Kreisky Prize for the Advancement of Human Rights, March 9, 2006.
  34. 34. Too many people are permitted to speak - a common concern to Plato, Habermas and an 18th century commentator: “ the common people talke anything, for every carman and porter is now a statesman; and indeed the coffee houses are good for nothing else” (Sir Thomas Piper, quoted in Knights 2005, 251).
  35. 35. ...the ferment engendered by access to more books... 'All the world is full of learned men, of most skilled preceptors, of vast libraries...neither in Plato's time nor in Cicero's was there ever such opportunity for studying. . .’ (Rabelais)
  36. 36. The library is a place to retreat to, a place from which the world can be seen - but the reader remains invisible. See Chartier, “The Practical Impact of Writing”, p. 130.
  37. 37. Technology doesn’t determine that we should sit still and listen. Brecht on radio: [R]adio is one-sided when it should be two-. It is purely an apparatus for distribution, for mere sharing out. So here is a positive suggestion: change this apparatus over from distribution to communication . The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as to transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him. On this principle the radio should step out of the supply business and organize its listeners as suppliers . Any attempt by the radio to give a truly public character to public occasions is a step in the right direction. (Bertolt Brecht 1932)
  38. 38. Technological determinism Technology causes our behaviour, our society and our culture to change. Cultural determinism Culture causes us to develop certain technologies. Co-construction Technology and culture develop together – they are mutually dependent.
  39. 39. Reading is no longer anonymous. Lurking is becoming impossible.
  40. 40. You’ve got to be silent to be spoken to. (..) Passivity is the “logic” of this technology. <ul><li>(Richard Sennett) </li></ul>
  41. 41. Today, the text reads the reader. Writing is not unresponsive as in Plato’s day.
  42. 42. Participatory media changes the relationship between readers and texts
  43. 43. ...and the relationship between readers and readers
  44. 44. This is a time of transition.