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    Revolution 3.0: Reading and Writing in the Digital Age

    In their introduction to The Book History Reader, David Finkselstein and Alistair McCleery write: "The history of human communication can be interpreted as comprising three major revolutions: in the movements from orality to literacy, from the written text to the printed text, and from print to computer-generated content."

    We're currently living in the middle--or perhaps more accurately, the early stages--of this third revolution. My portfolio will attempt to track some of the ways in which technology is changing two of the most basic human activities of the past four centuries: reading and writing.

    It's been said that the second revolution--the printing press era--was all about creating mass consumption and that the second revolution--the Internet and, to a lesser extent, the desktop publishing era--will be all about mass creation. With the advent of blogs, RSS feeds, and social networks, how are reading and writing communities changing? On a more individual, phenomenological level, how are the actual processes of reading and writing being altered? Will our descendants mean the same thing that we do when they say they "write" or "read" something? What forms will that reading and writing take?

    As a former literature student, I'm also interested in exploring the ways in which my beloved medium is being transformed by technology. Recently, I came across the following quote by the poet Kenneth Goldsmith: "With the rise of the web, writing has met its photography." Photography forced painters to redefine the terms of their genre: What could paintings do that photographs couldn't? And, conversely, what could photographs do that paintings couldn't? And what kind of an artist was a photographer, anyway--where did the camera end and the artist begin? Goldsmith's analogy isn't perfect--for one thing, there's a lot more crossover between writing for the page and writing for the Internet than between painting and photography--but I think it's true that gauntlets are being dropped in literature's path. One of the areas I'm most interested in is the burgeoning field of collaborative writing. The success of Wikipedia has convinced many people that the wisdom of crowds can be harnessed for informational purposes. But what about artistic purposes? What are the limits and possibilities of collaborative writing? Is it possible to create a work of art without a guiding aesthetic consciousness? Or will we have to develop entirely new criteria to judge these emerging forms of narrative? Though I have a deep and old-fashioned love for traditional storytelling forms, I'm going to do my best to be non-partisan on this topic; this portfolio will neither be an elegy nor an endorsement.

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    Selected Work:
  • Gaza: The Basics (Slate)
  • Is Sunbathing Good for You? (Slate)
  • A Teaching Moment in "No Child" (New York Times online)
  • The Most Important Story of Her Life (Poets & Writers)