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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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David Gunkel

Name: David Gunkel, Northern Illinois University

Presentation Title: "What's the Matter with Books?"

Date: October 24, 2002


One of the great ironies of our culture's obsession with digital technology and cyberspace is the proliferation of publications that announce the end of the book, the obsolescence of print, or the death of literature. In book after book we read about how the computer, the Internet, and virutal reality will eventually replaced the "civilization of the book" with the wired and now wireless civilization of computer-mediated communication. Such books, however, are involved in a curious and potentially contradicotyr for of self-effacement. What these publications state about their subject matter appears to question and even invalidate the material in which the statements have been made. In announcing the apocalypse of print technology and culture, these print publications attempt to erase the material of their own technological production. What's the matter with books is that the subject matter of so many print publications in this, Bolter's so called "late age of print," effectively makr of erasig and crossing out that, no matter how complete, remains to be read. In "What's the Matter with Books?", Professor Gunkel examines this matter that affects writings on technology and the narratives of technological change. He will then examine the history and mechanisms of this "paradox of the book," investigate how it has been explained or negotiated, and suggest some alternative ways to understand the relaitonsihp fo the computer and the book.