The Reading Machine Revisited
It’s easy to fixate on the cognitive events that constitute the act of reading, the silent process happening inside our head as our eyes scan the words and our mind makes sense of them—or whatever it is that it does—but there’s another way of looking at this phenomenon. It can be observed from the outside, as a behavioural phenomenon—a theory of reading without a theory of mind
Writers and their Professions
The compulsion to write is a mysterious one. After all, there’s something suspect, something unattractive and childish about wanting to impose your words on others, lashing your every passing sensation to the alphabet. The invitation to read one’s particular arrangement of words, therefore, always comes circumscribed, with excessively humble titles and self-lacerating prefaces. In more...
This does not exist only for books, it exists for any reproducible work. We can say this not only of “book” but also of “film”, “record” and so on. In this sense, Benjamin’s famous assertion that reproduced work differs from our older notions of art in that it has no aura can be turned on its head: reproduced work leads us to suspect the existence of an ideal...
“I will come back and I will be millions”
Already in 1936 Walter Benjamin could write that even the existence of Letters to the Editor had changed the whole game. Things have certainly become more pronounced since then and now almost everyone in a developed country, and many in not-so-developed ones have access to the means of production of publication in the strongest sense. True, not everyone has access to the big budgets that...
Trained on my library of articles on Instapaper, the Amamnuensis will select articles from my Twitter feed and my Feedly feed. These are in turn saved to Instapaper. Depending on level of confidence, some are marked as favourites . Even more assortative links are shared on Twitter. The Amanuensis highlights interesting passages. The Amanuensis is trained on the books I’ve read. The Amanuensis...
Copyleft and Right
When a public gallery announces that it has been bequeathed the works of a recently deceased artist, the tone is always one of gratitude and praise for the artist’s generosity. Museums and universities accept the papers of retired statesmen and writers with equal gratitude. Such donations, I’m sure, are transacted across several meetings and much legal negotiation. But surely these...
The literal and the literary
The transforming quality of literature has been amply documented. Indeed, the modern Western canon begins with the cautionary tale of Don Quixote, a perfectly ordinary man turned into an idealistic clown by the augmented reality of Romance novels. Through the gauze of his library, milkmaids became grand ladies and windmills became giants. A couple of centuries later, Emma Bovary desperately...
The Reading Machine
At one point in the distant future, long after our sun has faded and its planets have passed, Pantography will produce the text, “in a village in la mancha, the name of which i cannot quite recalk”. One hour later, right on schedule, it will come out with a line that is indistinguishable from the opening words of the Penguin edition . If, upon seeing it, you were to hurry off to...
The ostensible intention of these notes is to create a transparent continuity between the notes I gather from day to day and “finished” texts. There is also something comforting about the idea that all my notes, which I gather readily as I go about my day, will almost automatically—like drops of mercury on a flat surface—gather themselves into finished texts. Obviously, the...
We always knew that the lipstick, the food, the made-up uniforms were there to distract you from the obvious fact that you are hurtling through the air at several hundred miles per hour. Even the laws of aerodynamics seem to have cooperated in the sham. Bernoulli’s very elegant principle was supposed to account for the miracle of mechanised flight. The truth, it turns out, is much messier. The...