Hi, All. We’ve made it to the final, few, fantastic weeks of the semester and I can’t help but feel like we (ENG 576ers) are back to where we started. We’ve been caught in a mobius strip.
We started out talking about Mr. Peanut and I was beside myself trying to figure out what was going on and feeling uncomfortable not knowing what to think about the twisting plot and the so very meta fictional elements present in the novel. And here we are reading Katherine Hayles and about to see her in person. I didn’t quite realize how full circle we had come until I got to the section about the future of the novel in her article “The Future of Literature: Complex Surfaces of Electronic Texts and Print Books.” In this section, she narrows in on her thesis regarding the growing connection between the electronic and print world. A comparison she makes, like that of a mobius strip, two seemingly opposing sides conjoined. “Digital technologies have completely interpenetrated the printing process,” says Hayles (96). Digital technology is no longer separate from print. The two have become one, so to speak. And that is the future of the novel.
I see it. At least I can see the metamorphosing , to use a Hayles’ word, of the novel in our readings for this class. The novels we’ve read aren’t quite as technologically advanced as perhaps a novel with pages of code, like Hayles example, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but there are elements of technology present in ways that I know I haven’t spent as much time focusing on since this class began. Maybe it was viewing Sherlock and seeing so many technological elements at work or the playful use of footnotes in Oscar Wao that would have been a bear to typeset before computers. Now, I’m seeing how much we need to be plugged in to be in the know. Electronic texts are everywhere and my experience with technology is so much a part of the way I read that I never noticed it prior to this class. Now it’s in everything I’m reading or watching.
Hayles spends some time discussing the CAVE, an immersive virtual reality environment (87). Since Hayles is much more scientifically equipped than I am, I could be completely missing her point in mentioning this, but I think her inclusion of this all comes down to how we are reading in the 21st century. The way I read is entirely different than the way my mother reads or her mother because of the exposure I have had to digital technologies. I do find myself searching for patience when I have to explain “simple” computer commands to my mom (Love you, Mom!), but it makes sense, really. Consider this quote: “Studies indicate that children exposed to long hours of interactions with computers show distinctively different cognitive styles than their parents who were raised largely with print” (93). There’s a reason my Aunt turned to me and my little sister this past weekend when she couldn’t figure out her phone. We just get it even though we’ve never see her phone before (Except we couldn’t actually help her. The point being, she assumed we could and we felt a certain amount of comfort in trying.) Hayles continues in her article to explain two different modes of thinking: hyperattention v. deep attention. She notes that computers enhance hyperattention, aka minds that crave stimuli, and that of intense concentration of the deep attention minds, aka ability to read a long, Victorian novels. I see both in myself and so might Hayles, because she states that the contemporary world is caught between the two.
What ended up standing out the most to me was that this Hayles article was published in 2006, which wasn’t that long ago. I graduated high school in 2006. It was only seven years ago. But then I realized how quickly my environment and daily interaction with technology has changed since. I barely spent time on the computer in high school, granted we were the family that still had dial-up. Twitter? Come again? Facebook? Only cool college kids knew what that was. E-readers wouldn’t become popularized until the following year with the release of the first Kindle. Whoa. 2006 IS outdated! Given the hyperattention of the younger generation, change is happening fast and I’m curious to hear a contemporary Katherine Hayles take on it.