The Push-Pull Between Author and Reader

 

… not the opening you were expecting? Between the 16th and 19th centuries, this was how poets, novelists and essayists addressed their audiences (Dorner 1993). The writer had to ‘woo’ the reader from the very beginning and there was an expectation that once they began reading, they would remain faithful and loyal, staying with the reader from the beginning of the text until the very end.

My, oh my, how the author-text-reader relationship has changed. We now exist in a society of textual ‘users’. With masses of information digitally available to us on any one subject, we skim, we study, and we scan until we find something that is of use to us –a notion entirely relatable to me as a university student. Dorner (1993) says that the author has adapted and now greets its audience with a “Look, I know you haven’t got time to fall in love, so I’ll inject you with my ideas as quickly as I can”, and that instant gratification suits our generation of readers just perfectly.

The digital media environment has also created a new ‘use’ of texts, as the notion of interactivity becomes increasingly prominent. With the ease of cut and paste functions, audiences can now co-participate, re-sequence and interactively transform texts how they see fit.

Take music, for example. It was once composed and produced for the audience to listen; the writer wrote, and the audience listened. Simple. Nowadays, when a piece of music is produced, not only is it consumed, it’s expected to be re-mixed by other producers or covered by different artists, it’s played alongside video productions and it’s transformed into digital ring tones. Cover (2006) suggests that this audience interactivity with texts redefines and blurs the traditional author-text-reader relationship even further.

Intellectual property is problematised in the online environment and texts are now valued for their commodification, rather than for what they truly are. Ultimately, we can see how the digital arena has transformed the notion of authorship since the days of ‘Dear Reader’ with audience respect and loyalty.

References:

Cover, R 2006, ‘Audience inter/active: Interactive media, narrative control and reconceiving audience history’, New Media & Society, vol.8, no.1, pp.139-158.

Dorner, J 1993, ‘When readers become end-users: Intercourse without seduction’, Logos, vol.4, no.1, pp.6-11.

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Cyborgs: A Fictional Reality

‘Chiba. Yeah. See, Molly’s been Chiba, too’. And she showed me her hands, fingers slightly spread. Her fingers were slender, tapered, very white against the polished burgundy nails. Ten blades snicked straight out from their recesses beneath her nails, each one a narrow, double edged scalpel in pale blue steel. – Gibson (1988)

What you’re reading is an excerpt from William Gibson’s (1988) ‘Johnny Mnemonic’, a piece of cyberpunk literature depicting a science fictional world. Here, each human body’s surface and organic structure has been technologically manipulated and enhanced, creating ‘cyborgs’ with unimaginable strength and supremacy. While Molly has retractable razor blades built into her hands, others have the teeth of a Doberman or sophisticated inbuilt information storage systems.

The ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ world seems as far fetched as science fiction comes, but when we look a little closer into the world around us, the technology is in fact already here and the cyborg is not so much of a fictional creation after all.

Tomas (2000) suggests that Gibson’s fictional world is slowly becoming a very real part of contemporary existence and says that given recent advances in information technology, genetic engineering and nano-technology, changes like these will soon encompass the human body and its sensorial architecture.

In our world of rapidly evolving technologies, the human body is increasingly open to technological enhancement. We’ve given super-human vision to the colour-blind, developed high-tech prosthetic limbs, inbuilt computer chips and information storage devices, developed a cybernetic piece of living tissue, and forged a bio-hacking phenomenon. We are now seeing the gradual merging of man and machine, which are creating capabilities that far exceed typical human functions.

So instead of viewing cyberpunk literature as radical science fiction, perhaps we should inspect these texts as theories of the future, giving us an insight into human evolution and determining which body alterations will provide the best competitive edge in a prospective cyborg world. If you could make one alteration to your wiring or physical structure to create your ultimate cyborg self, what would it be and why?

eye

References:

Gibson, W 1988, ‘Johnny Mnemonic’, Burning Chrome, Grafton, London, pp.14-36.

Smart, S 2010, Cyborg Eye, image, Bike Rdr, viewed 23 March, http://blog.bikeridr.com/2010/03/advantage-cyborgs/

Tomas, D 2000, ‘The Technophilic Body: On Technicity in William Gibson’s Cyborg Culture’, in Bell, D & Kennedy, B (eds.), The Cybercultures Reader, Routledge, London, pp.175-189.

#Selfie Obsessed or Self-expressed?

A little over 40 years ago, a small indigenous community of Papua New Guinea had their photographs taken and shown to them in Polaroid form. These people struggled to interpret them at first, but as they began to recognise themselves, their stomachs trembled and their faces filled with fear, as the “terror of self-awareness” set in (Wesch 2009).

Today, in a stark contrast, we exist in a world filled with self-portraits and generations obsessed by them. The selfie is taking over and it’s safe to say that the terror of self-awareness has undoubtedly diminished. Many suggest that the reason we see these mirror shots, pouting teens and sexually suggestive poses is because they’re showing us how much they love themselves and they want us to hit the “like” button to reinforce this claim (Nelson 2013). The explosion of these photographs is seen as a token of our unusually narcissistic society (Saltz 2014) and it seems so simple to write these selfie-posters off as proud and self-absorbed.

click for image source - Goodger, L 2013, Instagram profile

One of my friends is ‘that girl’. You know the one, she lives for the prospect of showcasing her latest duckface (with the #newlipstick) and sees every mildly exciting event as an opportunity to check in to Instagram. She’s got a reputation for it and has undoubtedly been unfollowed and unfriended many a times for the repetitive clogging of news feeds. It would be simple to label her vain and self-obsessed, however she actually exhibits the lowest self-esteem out of anyone I know. So is the selfie a little more complex than what many first assume?

Every reasoning behind self-documentation is independent of its own creator. Indeed, many post a selfie for validation, however, it seems wrong to typify every self-photographer with the same motivation and intent. What about a selfie taken in protest or a selfie taken to bring a smile to the face of others?

Selfies are the ultimate self-expression and since when did we become a world to hate upon self-expression, rather than embrace it? Like it or not, the selfie is shaping society as we know it and it’s here to stay. As far as I’m concerned, take advantage of that front facing camera and #self-express your little hearts out.

References:

Nelson, O 2013, Dark undercurrents of teenage girls’ selfies’, The Age, 11 July, viewed 22 March.

Saltz, J 2014, ‘Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie’, Vulture, 27 January, viewed 22 March.

Wesch, M 2009, ‘YouTube and You: Experiences of Self-Awareness in the Context Collapse of the Recording Webcam’, EME, vol.8, no2, pp19-93.