One of my favorite classes during my undergrad years was an English class called “Hyper-Literature.” We had a young, tech-savvy professor who encouraged us to cite Wikipedia sources and play computer games for class credit. (I know!) The class also challenged us to look at the role of text in our lives. People seem to be much more confident in the veracity of a book than in the credibility of internet articles.
Detractors of sites like Wikipedia (it’s not perfect, though) argue that “anyone” can add information–meaning, then, that the information posted there is somehow more fallible than the information you’d get in a book. (Um, anyone heard of the 1994 “scholarly” work, The Bell Curve? You know, the book that “scientifically” proves Black people are inferior? Yeah, that book exists. And some people still stand by the “facts” in that book.) What I think is super-cool about sites like Wikipedia is that information is more communal. Sites like that allow for the democratization of information. The fact that “anyone” can edit the site is powerful. Also, it seems to have created a community of “fact-checkers” as well–information that is not factual is generally quickly corrected by a member of the community.
Digital texts operate in the interstice–meaning, they operate in a space that seems unguarded by the burden of “canon.” And that’s really important.
There are books, however, that definitely challenge the conventions of physical text. Books like House of Leaves (a real mind-bending read!) and Best American Experimental Writing (a book of poetry), the former using hyperlinks and the latter often using internet slang via text and imagery, challenge us to re-think what a book can do and be.
Don’t get me wrong, I love books.
Being the only kid in the house practically demanded that I dive totally into the worlds created by writers, that I engage my imagination wholly–so my love is pure. However, I also know that “canon” often means exclusion. It often means singular, homogeneous, and anti-POC. Marginalized people can tell stories in ways they simply could not have conceived of before with the proliferation of digital media and digital text.* These relatively new digital modes allow for different interpretations of authority and power. They allow for wider accessibility. They allow for faster dissemination and a wider audience. They allow for multi-medium storytelling.
All for the good.**
And so here I am, a book-lovin’ black girl seeking to help change the tide.
Since writing this post, my views on the digital have shifted a bit. Words followed by an asterisk indicate comments below this post.
© losethepaper, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and losethepaper with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.