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  • 在现代网络化的环境下纸质书还能存在下去吗
  • 2014/5/25 10:35:45
  •  数字媒体时代的来临让人类顺延千年的读写习惯受到了前所未有的挑战。纸质书会因此从我们的视野中消失,成为我们永久的回忆吗?手写习惯会因此退出历史舞台,成为我们永远的怀念吗?让我们带着这些疑问,随本文作者一起探寻数字媒体时代读与写的命运……

    What will happen to reading and writing in our time?
    Could the doomsayers be right? Computers, they maintain, are destroying literacy. The signs—students’ declining reading scores, the drop in leisure reading to just minutes a week, the fact that half the adult population reads no books in a year—are all pointing to the day when a literate culture becomes a distant memory. By contrast, optimists foresee the Internet ushering in a new, vibrant3) participatory4) culture of words. Will they carry the day5)?
    Maybe neither. Let me suggest a third possibility: Literacy will continue to thrive, but in forms and formats we can’t yet envision.
    That’s what has always happened as writing and reading have evolved over the ages. It was less than 100,000 years ago that our human predecessors first made meaningful marks on surfaces, notating the phases of the moon or drawing animals on cave walls. Within the past 5,000 years, societies across the Near East’s Fertile Crescent6) began to use systems of marks to record important trade exchanges as well as pivotal7) events in the present and the past. These marks gradually became less pictorial8), and a decisive leap occurred when they began to capture certain sounds reliably: U kn red ths sntnz cuz Inglsh feechurs “graphic-phoneme9) correspondences”.
    A master of written Greek, Plato feared that written language would undermine human memory capacities (much in the same way that we now worry about similar side effects of “Googling”). But libraries made the world’s knowledge available to anyone who could read. The 15th-century printing press disturbed those who wanted to protect and interpret the word of God, but the availability of Bibles in the vernacular10) allowed laypeople11) to take control of their spiritual lives and, if historians are correct, encouraged entrepreneurship in commerce and innovation in science.
    In the past 150 years, each new medium of communication—telegraph, telephone, movies, radio, television, the digital computer, the World Wide Web—has introduced its own peculiar mix of written, spoken and graphic languages and evoked a chaotic chorus of criticism and celebration.
    But of the changes in the media landscape over the past few centuries, those featuring digital media are potentially the most far-reaching12). Those of us who grew up in the 1950s, at a time when there were just a few computers in the world, could never have anticipated the ubiquity13) of personal computers. A mere half-century later, more than a billion people can communicate via e-mail, chat rooms and instant messaging; post their views on a blog; play games with millions of others worldwide; create their own works of art or theater and post them on YouTube; join political movements; and even inhabit, buy, sell and organize in a virtual reality called Second Life14). No wonder the chattering classes15) can’t agree about what this all means.
    Here’s my take16).
    Once we ensured our basic survival, humans were freed to pursue other needs and desires, including the pleasures of communicating, forming friendships, convincing others of our point of view, exercising our imagination, enjoying a measure of privacy. Initially, we pursued these needs with our senses, our hands and our individual minds. Human and mechanical technologies to help us were at a premium17). It’s easy to see how the emergence of written languages represented a boon. The invention of the printing press and the emergence of readily available books, magazines and newspapers allowed untold millions to extend their circle, expand their minds and expound their pet18) ideas.
    For those of us of a 19th- or 20th-century frame of mind, books play a special, perhaps even spiritual, role. Works of fiction—the writings of Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, William Faulkner—allow us to inhabit fascinating worlds we couldn’t have envisioned. Works of scholarship—the economic analyses of Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes, the histories of Thucydides19) and Edward Gibbon20)—provide frameworks for making sense of the past and the present.
    But now, at the start of the 21st century, there’s a dizzying set of literacies available—written languages, graphic displays and notations. And there’s an even broader array of media—analog, digital, electronic, hand-held, tangible and virtual—from which to pick and choose. There will inevitably be a sorting-out process. Few media are likely to disappear completely; rather, the idiosyncratic21) genius and peculiar limitations of each medium will become increasingly clear. Fewer people will write notes or letters by hand, but the elegant handwritten note to mark a special occasion will endure.
    I don’t worry for a nanosecond22) that reading and writing will disappear. Even in the new digital media, it’s essential to be able to read and write fluently and, if you want to capture people’s attention, to write well. Of course, what it means to “write well” changes: Virginia Woolf didn’t write the same way that Jane Austen did, and Arianna Huffington23)’s blog won’t be confused with Walter Lippmann24)’s columns. But the imaginative spheres and real-world needs that all those written words address remain.
    I also question the predicted disappearance of the material book. When they wanted to influence opinions, both the computer giant Bill Gates and the media visionary Nicholas Negroponte25) wrote books (the latter in spite of his assertion that the material book was becoming anachronistic26)). The convenience and portability of the book aren’t easily replaced, though under certain circumstances—a month-long business trip, say—the advantages of Amazon’s hand-held electronic Kindle reading device trumps a suitcase full of dog-eared27) paperbacks.
    Two aspects of the traditional book may be in jeopardy28), however. One is the author’s capacity to lay out a complex argument, which requires the reader to study and reread, following a circuitous29) course of reasoning. The Web’s speedy browsing may make it difficult for digital natives to master Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (not that it was ever easy).
    The other is the book’s special genius for allowing readers to enter a private world for hours or even days at a time. Many of us enjoyed long summer days or solitary train rides when we first discovered an author who spoke directly to us. Nowadays, as clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle has pointed out, young people seem to have a compulsion to stay in touch with one another all the time; periods of lonely silence or privacy seem toxic. If this lust for 24/7 online networking continues, one of the dividends30) of book reading may fade away. The wealth of different literacies and the ease of moving among them—on an iPhone, for example—may undermine the once-hallowed31) status of books.
    But whatever our digital future brings, we need to overcome the perils of dualistic thinking, the notion that what lies ahead is either a utopia or a dystopia32). If we’re going to make sense of what’s happening with literacy in our culture, we need to be able to triangulate: to bear in mind our needs and desires, the media as they once were and currently are, and the media as they’re continually transforming.
    It’s not easy to do. But maybe there’s a technology, just waiting to be invented, that will help us acquire this invaluable cognitive power.

    在我们这个时代,读与写的命运将会如何?
    末日论者的观点是正确的吗?他们坚信,电脑正在毁灭人们的读写能力。其征兆就是:学生的阅读成绩下降,人们每周用于休闲阅读的时间只有几分钟,有一半的成年人一年之中没有读过一本书。所有这一切都预示着一个日子的到来:读写文化即将成为一个遥远的记忆。相反,乐观论者则认为,因特网将引领一个生机勃勃的、可以全民共享的文字新文化。他们的观点能独领风骚吗?
    也许这两方的观点都不对。让我来提出第三种可能吧:读写文化将会继续繁荣,但其存在的形式和形态我们还无法预见。
    自古以来,在读与写的进化史中,它们一直都是这样发展的。将近十万年以前,我们人类的祖先开始在物体表面刻画有意义的符号,在洞穴内壁上记录月相的变化或者描绘动物的形态。在过去五千年的时间里,在近东的新月沃地一带生活着的一些部族开始使用符号系统来记录重要的贸易交换信息,以及现在和过去发生的重大事件。这些符号逐渐摆脱了象形的特征,最终发生了关键性的质的飞跃,开始使用有规律的符号来代表特定的声音,这就是英语语言“音形对应”的特点,因为这个特点,你能读懂这样的句子:“U kn red ths sntnz cuz Inglsh feechurs ‘graphic-phoneme correspondences’.”(译注:即“You can read this sentence because English features ‘graphic-phoneme correspondences’.”)
    古希腊语文字大师柏拉图曾担忧文字语言将会破坏人类的记忆力(就像我们今天担心谷歌搜索可能会产生类似副作用一样)。但图书馆的产生使得每个能读书的人都可获取全世界积累的知识。15世纪印刷出版业的发展使那些想要捍卫和阐释上帝圣言的人深感不安,但用通俗语言写成的《圣经》的面世使得普通人也能掌控自己的精神生活;同时,如果历史学家没弄错的话,印刷出版业的发展也激发了商业活动中的创业精神和科学活动中的创新精神。
    在过去150年的时间里,每一种新的沟通媒介——电报、电话、电影、无线广播、电视、数字计算机、万维网——都以自己独特的方式将书面语、口语和图像语言混合起来,也都会引起一阵乱糟糟的口水大战,其中有犀利的批评,也有由衷的赞美。
    但是,过去几个世纪以来,在媒体领域所发生的变化中,最具深远影响力的大概要数数字媒体带来的变化。20世纪50年代,世界上所有的计算机加在一起也不过就几台,成长于这个时代的我们无论怎样也不会想到个人电脑现在会如此普及、无处不在。仅仅半个世纪以后,就有十几亿的人能够通过电子邮件、聊天室和即时通讯系统进行沟通;在博客上表达自己的观点;和世界各地数以百万计的人一起玩游戏;创造自己的艺术作品或戏剧作品并发布到YouTube视频网站;通过网络参加政治运动;甚至在叫做“第二人生”的虚拟现实游戏里生活、购物、销售、组织活动。难怪喋喋不休阶层会对这一切所代表的意义众口不一、聒噪不休。
    下面是我的看法。
    当基本生存得到保障以后,人类就可以腾出手来追寻其他的需求和愿望,包括享受以下乐趣:相互沟通,结交朋友,说服他人接受自己的观点,施展想象力,享有一定的隐私。最初,我们利用自己的感官、双手和头脑来满足这些需求。能够给我们以帮助的人和机械技术十分稀少。显而易见,书面语言的出现代表着一种进步。印刷术的发明以及随处可得的书籍、杂志、报纸的问世使得数以百万计的人们能够扩展自己的圈子、开阔自己的思想、阐述自己独特的观点。
    对于我们这些具有19或者20世纪心态的人来说,书籍扮演着一种特殊的角色,甚至可以说是精神支柱。小说作品——简·奥斯汀、列夫·托尔斯泰、威廉·福克纳的著作——使我们有机会畅游自己无法想象的迷人世界。学术著作——卡尔·马克思和约翰·梅纳德·凯恩斯的经济分析、修昔底德和爱德华·吉本的历史巨著——为我们了解过去和理解现在提供了理论框架。
    但是现在,在21世纪之初,各种可获得的阅读资源令人眼花缭乱——有书面语言,有图像显示,还有符号语言。媒体的种类更是五花八门——模拟式、数字式、电子式、手持式,有的是实体的,有的则是虚拟的——可以随意挑选。其中不可避免地将会有一个大浪淘沙的过程。但很少有哪种媒体会完全消失,只是每种媒体独特的优势和特有的局限会变得越来越明显。现在很少会有人手写便条或信件了,但那种为纪念某一特别场合而手写的字体优雅的便笺还会继续存在。
    我一刻也不曾担心读写文化会消失。即使在新的数字媒体时代,能够流畅地阅读和写作仍然是必需的基本能力;而且,如果想要抓住人们的注意力,你还必须写一手好文。当然,“一手好文”的含义是一直在变化的:弗吉尼亚·伍尔夫的写作风格就和简·奥斯汀不同,阿里安娜·赫芬顿的博客和沃尔特·李普曼的专栏也不同。但所有这些文字所涉及的人类的想象空间和现实世界的需求都是保持不变的。
    有人预测实体书籍会消失,对此说法我也深表怀疑。不管是电脑巨人比尔·盖茨还是媒体梦想家尼古拉斯·内格罗蓬特,在想要影响他人的观点时,他们都采用了写书的方式,尽管内格罗蓬特曾声称纸质书已经过时。书籍的方便和易于携带的性能不是轻易就可取代的,当然在某些情况下——比如一个月的商务旅行中——亚马逊的手持电子阅读器Kindle还是要比一箱破得卷了边的平装书更有优势。
    然而,传统书籍在以下两个方面也许正面临困境。其一是作者布局复杂论证的能力,因为这需要读者仔细地研究,反复地阅读,跟踪一系列迂回曲折的推理过程。互联网的快速浏览功能使得生活在数字时代的人们很难读懂康德的《纯粹理性批判》(当然它一直以来都不容易读懂)。
    另一点是书籍的一个特殊功能,那就是它能一连几个小时甚至几天使读者进入一个完全属于自己的世界。我们都曾享受过在漫长的夏日里或者在孤独的火车旅行中的那种经历:我们第一次探索一个作者的隐秘世界,听他面对面向我们娓娓倾诉。而现在,正如临床心理学家谢里·特克所指出的那样,年轻人似乎患上了沟通强迫症,总是一刻不停地和他人进行联系,短暂的孤独寂静与独处对他们来说似乎像毒药一样有害。如果这种每周7天、每天24小时泡在网上的欲望继续下去,读书的一个好处也许就会消失。丰富多样的阅读资源和切换灵活的阅读方式——比如在iPhone上——可能会损害书籍曾有的那种神圣地位。
    但不管未来的数字时代会给我们带来什么,我们需要克服二元论思维带来的危害,即那种认为我们前面不是完美的乌托邦就是糟糕透顶的敌托邦的观点。如果我们想搞清楚我们文化中的读与写到底发生了什么变化,那么我们需要有一个三角形思维:牢记我们的需求和愿望,牢记曾经的媒体和现有的媒体,牢记媒体在不断地变化。
    这样做并不容易。但是,或许会有这么一种技术,它将帮助我们获得这种宝贵的认知能力。这种技术正等待着人类来发明。

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