The approach to digital culture I abhor would indeed turn all the world's books into one book, just as Kevin (Kelly) suggested. It might start to happen in the next decade or so. Google and other companies are scanning library books into the cloud in a massive Manhattan Project of cultural digitization. What happens next is what's important. If the books in the cloud are accessed via user interfaces that encourage mashups of fragments that obscure the context and authorship of each fragment, there will be only one book. This is what happens today with a lot of content; often you don't know where a quoted fragment from a news story came from, who wrote a comment, or who shot a video. A continuation of the present trend will make us like various medieval religious empires, or like North Korea, a society with a single book.The Bible can serve as a prototypical example. Like Wikipedia, the Bible's authorship was shared, largely anonymous and cumulative and the obscurity of the individual authors served to create an oracle-like ambience for the document as the literal word of God. If we take a non-metaphysical view of the Bible, it serves as a link to our ancestors, a window. The ethereal, digital replacement technology for the printing press happens to have come of age in a time when the unfortunate ideology I am criticizing dominates technological culture. Authorship - the very idea of the individual point of view - is not a priority of the new ideology. The digital flattening of expression into a global mush is not presently enforced from the top down, as it is in the case of a North Korean printing press. Instead, the design of software builds the ideology into those actions that are the easiest to perform on the software designs that are becoming ubiquitous. It is true that by using these tools, individuals can author books or blogs or whatever, but people are encouraged by the economics of free content, crowd dynamics and lord aggregators to serve up fragments instead of considered whole expressions or arguments. The efforts of authors are appreciated in a manner that erases the boundaries between them.The one collective book will absolutely not be the same thing as the library of books by individuals it is bankrupting. Some believe it will be better; others, including me, believe it will be disastrously worse. As the famous line goes from Inherit the Wind: 'The Bible is a book... but it is not the only book' Any singular, exclusive book, even the collective one accumulating in the cloud, will become a cruel book if it is the only one available.
Jaron Lanier
Couldn't I try...Naturally, it wouldn't be a question of a tune...But couldn't I in another medium?...It would have to be a book: I don't know how to do anything else. But not a history book: history talks about what has existed - an existent can never justify the existence of another existent. My mistake was to try to resuscitate Monsieur de Rollebon. Another kind of book. I don't quite know which kind - but you would have to guess, behind the printed words, behind the pages, something which didn't exist, which was above existence. The sort of story, for example, which could never happen, an adventure. It would have to be beautiful and hard as steel and make people ashamed of their existence.I am going, I feel irresolute. I dare not make a decision. If I were sure that I had talent...but I have never, never written anything of that sort; historical articles, yes - if you could call them that. A book. A novel. And there would be people who would read this novel and who would say: 'It was Antoine Roquentin who wrote it, he was a red-headed fellow who hung about in cafés' and they would think that about my life as I think about the life of the Negress: as about something precious and almost legendary. A book. Naturally, at first it would only be a tedious, tiring job, it wouldn't prevent me from existing or from feeling that I exist. But a time would have to come when the book would be written, would be behind me and I think that a little of its light would fall over my past. Then, through it, I might be able to recall my life without repugnance. Perhaps one day, thinking about this very moment, about this dismal moment at which I am waiting, round-shouldered, for it to be time to get on the train, perhaps I might feel my heart beat faster and say to myself: 'It was on that day, at that moment that it all started.' And I might succeed - in the past, simply in the past - in accepting myself.
JeanPaul Sartre