Re: Book Shaped Thought

“At last thought has a medium that helps it past the limitations of physical books that brought us to think of long-form thought as the highest and most natural shape knowledge could assume.” (pp.96)

I am not an expert on authorship, readership, or book history, nor have I sufficiently read or am familiar with David Weinberg’s writing to understand the complexities of his views. I’m sure he has forgotten more about the above fields than I’ll ever know. However, at least from my cursory reading, the above passage seems blanketing, inappropriately worded, or possibly wrong.

I should articulate that it appears I’m somewhat more conservative than Weinberger, at least after my limited, vicarious exposure to him through Too Big to Know. Even still, I agree with him on nearly all points. Networking, and most significantly the Internet, has changed the way in which have to think of and make use of knowledge. Times are changing, and I consider it for the better.

That being stated, it’s hard to completely agree with the above-quoted passage. I surrender the fact that the printed form is somewhat limited transferring knowledge and long-form thought has disadvantages, but I’d argue that digital mediums do not supplant the physical book. They simply avow new perspectives, and these perspectives, while novel, are no more important than others.

I wouldn’t argue that the spirit of the passage is in agreement with his central discussion, that networked knowledge allows consumers partake of it in personal, natural, and dynamic ways, but the above passage, at least to me, seems to ignore the benefits of long-form thought in authorship and scholarship.

Weinberger addresses the benefits of book authorship on page 103, but I think he ignores the point of my contention. While true the exacting path of the printed form is inflexible, it clarifies and codifies a writer’s thoughts. More than a product of expertise, the printed, long-form is an authorial tool. It solidifies position. Books may be the ideal environment for such modalities of thought, I’d hardly say they limit others.

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