Books and Computer Technology: “It Looks Like a Book…”

By Llewellyn Brown.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

With the exponential expansion of information technology, it is superfluous to expound the virtues of computers in reproducing and making written works available to large numbers of readers. It is however crucial to understand that such technology is not simply a neutral vehicle for conveying words and messages, for the fundamental reason that language is not primarily about meaning and communication of ideas.
It therefore becomes apparent that the complementary acts of reading and writing necessarily involve the material and the subjective (understood in logical terms as Lacan’s subject of the unconscious) dimensions of human existence.
We can then see that computer technology entails the eradication of the material aspect of writing: kept at an incalculable distance behind a screen, the book becomes ‘virtual’. At least two consequences can be observed. Firstly, one can read only the page which appears on the screen, the rest vanishes. Secondly (the ‘Google effect’), we are lead to believe that nothing is forgotten or lost, that everything is immediately available thanks to a search engine.
What is lost is the material and tactile aspect of reading and writing: both concern the material and physical trace on the page, that correspond to the original inscribing of the subject’s body into the humanizing world of language. Thus, reading, for example, requires the dialectic movement back and forth through the pages of a physical book, a movement that involves alternation between forgetting and recall, rediscovery and anticipation. The same physical dimension involved in inscribing is called upon in all forms of creation (dance, painting…).
Our research thus aims to explore what is at stake for individual liberty and creativity, taking into account the physical – or even carnal dimension – of existence that is systematically evacuated from post-modern approaches.

Keywords: Book, Computer, Virtual, Writing, Inscription, Materiality, Body, Psychoanalysis, Memory, Language, Subjectivity

International Journal of the Book, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.49-62. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 556.710KB).

Dr. Llewellyn Brown

Teacher in Secondary Education; Tutor in University (Paris X), Paris, France

Teacher of modern French literature in secondary education, and of English in university (Paris X-Nanterre). Research and publications on authors such as Jean Giono, Marguerite Duras, Henri Michaux and Samuel Beckett. Studies oriented by pychoanalysis (Jacques Lacan) and involving a topological approach to writing. Editor-Director of the Série “Samuel Beckett” (Éditions Lettres modernes Minard). Books published; “Figures du mensonge littéraire” (L’Harmattan, 2005), “L’Esthétique du pli dans l’œuvre de Henri Michaux” (Éditions Lettres modernes Minard, 2007), “Beckett, les fictions brèves: voir et dire” (Éditions Lettres modernes Minard, 2008).


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