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Books, Books, and More Books @ HASTAC 2011

                During the Session E1 “Lightning Talks” two particular presentations stood out to me, so I wanted to explore some of the topics and ideas that were brought up through hearing these talks. The first two talks of the session and the two I will focus on are Staci Stutsman’s “Blogging and Books: Communal Authorship in a Contemporary Context” and Spencer Striker’s “The Future of the Book is Now – a Case Study”. Both talks gave perspectives on the ways in which the evolution of written text into digital text. I would like to discuss some other applications for these discussions as well as supplementary resources that relate to each topic.

Stutsman’s talk was in a more traditional format than many of the HASTAC talks, but the paper she read addressed an issue that is greatly discussed among literary scholars (especially since the movement into Poststructuralist thought). Traditionally, the work of an author has been created singularly, but as the role of the author has changed so has this view. Today the reader is considered to play just as much of a role in the production of a book as the author does (Stutsman references Roland Barthes “Death of the Author” as an example of this new role). The internet gives authors the chance to connect with their readers and it is from this interaction that the role of the author becomes less clearly defined.  Within the digital age an audience can participate in the production of the text through blogs and/or forums created by the author or the fans of the authors work. Participatory culture has also spawned what Stutsman described as “blooks” in which authors create books from their blogs (she gives the example of Julie Powell’s the author of “Julie & Julia” and Jennette Fulda the author of “Chocolate and Vicodin”).

From this perspective, the reader of the blogs has a lot of power and influence when it comes to what the author writes (as do editors, and reviewers, etc). This belief that the reader has power because he or she can interact with the author and influence the authors work is also related to research done on fandoms and the influence that fans have on their favorite media through commenting on forums and creating fan fiction. As seen with shows like Glee, what fans write in fan fiction can and does influence what the writers and producers of various shows and movies create (popular pairings can move from the fanfic world to become “cannon” in the scripted reality of the shows). In all of these cases, authorship makes the move from a singular activity to a communal conception in which people are collaborating and sharing ideas.

Spencer Striker’s talk briefly discusses the history of the book, from clay tablet to digital tablet*, and the history and movement from language to writing to computers. The e-book has taken us to a new level of reading and interacting with texts (Striker references the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies iBook). Yet, I think that it is also worth mentioning that e-literature that is produced for desktop computers can be just as interactive and engaging as the app/books that can be found in the iTunes store. In reality, interactivity is a main tenant of electronic literature. Also, with applications such as Readability, it has also become fairly easy to read text online.

In conclusion, it has become apparent that the role of the reader is always evolving and it will be great to see what the future holds for literacy and publishing.

*It is also worth noting the recent Wired Article on the founder of Amazon and the new Kindle Fire Tablet.      

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