The Gutenberg Parenthesis

Jeff Jarvis talks about the Gutenberg Parenthesis. Those who bemoan the supposed short attention spans of the networked generation typically measure this by the capacity or willingness to read a book cover-to-cover. This assumes that reading books is normal; but what about the vast span of human history before books? Perhaps we’re seeing a reversion to ways of knowing that were diminished by the printed word… to a more oral culture in which remixing is natural.

This reminds me of the book The Alphabet and the Goddess which also suggests that reading had a powerful and not always positive effect on how we think and behave.

1 thought on “The Gutenberg Parenthesis

  1. Chris Corrigan

    Actually I think the issue is not attention spans so much as it is a breadth of attention. Before there was text humans needed to be incredibly aware of context, of everything that surrounded them of how things worked and what initial conditions led to certain kinds of results. THis is important in agrarian societies, hunting societies, transoceanic travelling cultures and other kinds of indigenous land based ways of being.

    What we have lost during the Gutenberg parenthesis I think is the ability to think systemically. Book reading has taught us to be linear and to expect a beginning a middle and an end. That is not the way the world works and I think we ignore it at our peril.


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