• 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.

    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’.”)


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