I thought it was interesting that Lori Emerson’s primary goal through Reading Writing Interfaces seemed to be a call toward demystifying devices by making visible the processes taking place when they are used, but yet she did not spend much time detailing those processes. I was hoping to leave this book with a base knowledge of what exactly is going on inside the black box, rather than a confirmation of my already cynical view toward the black box.
With that in mind, I did find several elements of Emerson’s argument to be particularly interesting, especially the chapter on the “typewriter-as-interface.” I thought the shift away from a poetics of “semantic meaning and toward a poetry whose meaning is more about a process of making” could be a relevant framework to our course (94). So often, I have been so stuck on the plot elements of the fictional texts we have been reading this semester that I sometimes forget to encounter the book as an interface. I think our class has led me to be especially adept at identifying the thematic matter about interfaces within the plot—what kind of interfaces appear in the plot, what is the plot itself saying about our relationship to technology, etc.—that I am quick to forget the interface right in front of me. Where can we see the “process of making” in the novels we are reading?
This reflection has led me to agree with Emerson’s thoughts on the book: “It is just that the conventions of the book, in which we have been so enmeshed, lull us into believing that a paper-bound or bookbound text is stable, perhaps even knowable” (154). I am certainly guilty of this implicit trust in the book form, even in a class such as ours. From this quote on 154, it seems that Emerson calls us to apply a certain amount of skepticism toward the book form as well as digital interfaces, but she ends the book by saying:
“that supposedly antiquated device, the book, is fast becoming a safe haven for readingwriting because its particulars cannot be tracked, monitored, indexed, fed into an algorithm, and given back to us as a commodity. Perhaps, the future of digital literature is readingwriting that is born of the network but lives offline—digital literature transformed into bookbound readingwriting that performs and embodies its own frictional media archaeological analysis” (184)
This ending puzzled me. If Emerson calls us to be critical of the inherent knowledge of bookbound writing, while also encouraging the digital literature of the future to make use of the book form exclusively, how are we to approach books in a way that “demystifies” their authorial power? I want to think more about what Emerson means by “readingwriting that is born of the network but lives offline” and “bookbound readingwriting that performs and embodies its own frictional media archaeological analysis.” How does Emerson see books fitting into a future of digital literature that exposes its (digital) process through a distinctly non-digital format?
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Your post is making me realize that I never fully understood her method throughout the book but its still something I find fascinating. What does it mean to apply a media archaeological analysis to interfaces? I wish I knew more about that at the end of reading this.