“Ceci tuera cela” : this book will destroy that building (p. 1).
It seems suiting for Bolter to begin his introduction with a quote from Victor Hugo’s Notre-Damn de Paris. Being that the message behind “Writing in the Late Age of Print” is to highlight the relationship between man’s attitudes and the technological changes of writing, there is a sense of irony and almost comedic undertone in the quote. Let me explain myself. Personally, I think that majority of people have difficultly with change. There is something so uniquely human about tradition. We have an obsession with time, repetition and fear what we do not know. We have a difficulty breaking free from our comfort zones and tend to snub the concept of “out with the old and in with the new.” That is solely my own belief, but it does in fact echo Bolter’s use of Victor Hugo’s text. For example, Hugo’s priest feared that print would harm the church. He worried that outside influence would infect the minds of those practicing religion. The irony: The Bible is the most printed and worldly read piece of literature, people still continued to write by hand, and the art of writing was never lost. Print did not necessarily take away from written script, but it did “displace handwriting, in the sense that the printed book became the most highly value form of writing” (p. 2). This was 1482. Fast-forward a little over 500 years. Evidently, print is now being displaced by another form of “material”: the web. To put it into perspective, handwriting < printed books < The Internet/World Wide Web. Yes, the Internet has without a doubt taken over when it comes to documentation, communication, and the spreading of literature and research. While this advance in writing and technology has led many to be enthused, others still question with hesitation. As Bolter stated, “The questions that concern both the enthusiasts and critics include: What is the nature of the challenge that digital media pose for print? Will digital media replace print? Does the advent of the computer announce a revolution in writing, or is the change less significant?” (p. 6). It seems that there is a love-hate conflict between printed books and online/computer resources. Some may argue that printed books are “portable, inexpensive, and easy to read, whereas the computer is hard to carry, expensive, and needs a source of electricity” (p. 8). They have a point. But, just to play devil’s advocate, the computer can house thousands upon thousands of books, novels, journals, magazine articles, etc. It can speedily find copies of text that may not be physically available. “Electronic writing is mechanical and precise like printing, organic and evolutionary like handwriting, visually eclectic like hieroglyphics and picture writing” (p. 8). Clearly, the scale is constantly balancing. If there is one thing we should gather from Bolter’s introduction it is that regardless of the consistency in which writing is documented, it is still an art in practice.