[Humanist] 26.959 bindings and boundaries

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Apr 13 09:13:43 CEST 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 959.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2013 08:35:07 -0400 (EDT)
        From: lachance at chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: Bindings and Boundaries

Yesterday evening I attended an event under the auspices of Spur (a
festival of politics, art and ideas). A few hundred of us gathered at the
Toronto Reference Library to hear a discussion about the future of the
book. The panel featured Paul Holdengräber (LIVE at the New York Public
Library) and Hugh McGuire (LibriVox and PressBooks) in a discussion
moderated by Sarah Fulford (Toronto Life).

Sarah launched us on our speculations with a question about bindings: the
physicality of the book and its impact on the reading experience. It was
an auspicious beginning. And soon the conversation turned to other forms
of bondage – being spellbound by deep reading.  I think that general
consensus was that regardless of platform or embodiment that the artefact
of the book may take there are many distractions to reading that is
concentrated and sustained. We all appreciated HughÂ’s story of reading
over the course of several weeks, while engaged in a daily commute, the
whole of TolstoyÂ’s _War and Peace_ on an electronic device and missing his
stop often during that time.

Inspired by the discussion, I mused a while longer in a blog entry on the
various etymologies of the word reading (in few different languages).

And smiled at the paradox of bindings setting us free (as if reading were
a type of willing enslavement and manumission was promised at the end) and
wondered about how the metaphorics could be extended beyond the codex. I
entertained the idea that with electronic texts, the game becomes one of
intersecting at the boundaries, keeping the play in bounds. That is in the
circle of awareness, within the attention. Or caching for some future

You have often drawn our attention to the fungibility of the electronic
artefact. Could it be that the reading of a traditional codex is about
liberating the semiotic material to inhabit for a while a construct in the
mind? And that the electronic book is about capture and release – in a
sense the reader must supplement the containment in order to enjoy the
pleasure of the text?

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