Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Gutenberg Elegies

Information of the Future Task Force

12/15/06 Meeting Minutes

The Gutenberg Elegies

Rob Krapohl led a discussion on The Gutenberg Elegies by Birkerts. He read an excerpt from the chapter “Death of Literature” which was a summary of Birkerts’ argument. It spoke about how technology is antithetical to inwardness, and how he values the state a book puts him in more than the content.


  • Birkerts seemed to have a limited historical perspective on literature – just bound to its novelistic development. This may make it harder to accept different developments in literature. For example, Hamlet was meant to be performed, not read.
  • The current trends could be a corrective to the overly inward perspective of the modern age, which was individualistic and separate from others. There could be a move toward the communal.
  • Birkerts seemed to view reading as a secular transformative experience – perhaps a substitute for spiritual transformation through Bible reading and prayer.
  • In the past, people had more time for reading. Deep reading is difficult for modern people. They don’t have patience to work through the long descriptions of a novel.
  • Throughout history, there have been readers and non-readers, and people like different things and get different things out of reading.
  • Modern people have more difficulty with nuanced arguments.
  • We seem to be losing the physical world as life becomes more digital.
  • Birkerts could be entrenched in the modern world view of the Enlightenment, which is individualistic, and therefore may have a strong reaction to the postmodernism of the electronic age. The Internet could either promote community, or more isolation at the computer.
  • Can we use technology to promote art and literature? Students seem to be connecting more to digital than to books. They experience things disconnected from context – songs separate from the albums, video scenes separate from the whole movie.


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