Sunday Book-Thought 76

The increase in constraints designed to eliminate all ambiguity from text admittedly facilitates reading, making it faster and more efficient. Reading can also be assisted by computerized aids, which have become necessary as a result of the growing volume of information to be managed every day; these include Web search tools and text analysis tools currently being developed, notably at We need to recognize, however, that the relationship between reading and writing is a zero-sum game, in which the gains of the former come at the cost of more constraints for the latter. Thus the activity of writing, which was already extremely complex, becomes even more so, especially if the author wants to produce texts that can be read by an increasingly broad and distant readership and processed by the above-mentioned programs or even translated automatically. In a society that is increasingly information-based, the movement toward neutrality and objectivity that has been under way since the spread of print will necessarily be reinforced, especially in scientific texts.
Christian VandendorpeFrom Papyrus to Hypertext: Toward the Universal Digital Library, trans. by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009 [first published Montréal: Éditions du Boréal, 1999)]), pp. 20-21.


Sunday Book-Thought 72

Writing turned a spotlight on the high, dim Sierras of speech; writing was the visualization of acoustic space. It lit up the dark.
A good quill put an end to talk, abolished mystery, gave us enclosed space and towns, brought roads and armies and bureaucracies. It was the basic metaphor with which the cycle of CIVILIZATION began, the step from the dark into the light of the mind. The hand that filled a paper built a city.
The handwriting is on the celluloid walls of Hollywood; the Age of Writing has passed. We must invent a NEW METAPHOR, restructure our thoughts and feelings. The new media are not bridges between man and nature: they are nature.
The MECHANIZATION of writing mechanized the visual-acoustic metaphor on which civilization rests; it created the classroom and mass education, the modern press and telegraph. It was the original assembly-line. Gutenberg made all history available as classified data: the transportable book brought the world of the dead into the space of the gentleman’s library; the telegraph brought the entire world of the living to the workman’s breakfast table.
Marshall McLuhan (designed by Harley Parker), Counterblast (London: Rapp & Whiting, 1969), pp. 14-15.