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									4/4/06                         Resistance to New Technologies                      Conklin

Why I am NOT Going to Buy a Computer
By Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry‟s „reasons for not buying a computer‟:
  1. Become less hooked to energy: writing by daylight hours.
  2. Doesn‟t matter to him (what does matter is economic justice, ecological health,
      political honesty, family and community stability, and good work.)
  3. Cost; both monetary and physically. Technological innovation requires discarding
      the “Old Model” in this case, his typewriter and his wife.
  4. “I do not wish to fool myself”: If someone can use a computer to write better than
      Dante he will speak of computers in a more respectful tone, thought he will not
      buy one.

Wendell Berry‟s „standards for technological innovation‟
  1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
  2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
  3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
  4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
  5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
  6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or
      she has the necessary tools.
  7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
  8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back
      for maintenance and repair.
  9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes
      family and community relationships

Discussion Questions
   1. What did you think of the handy alternative to
   2. Do you agree with Berry‟s “standards for technological innovation?” What about
       these statements do you agree with, disagree with? Do we see some of these
       standards in our most recent advances?
   3. In Berry‟s response to the letters, he suggests that his difference of opinion is a
       „threat to their complacency” and questions the anxiousness surrounding his
       critics opinions of his actions and their defense for computers. Why do you think
       Berry needs to defend his points? How Berry‟s reaction similar to his critics
       reaction of him?
   4. What did you think of the last line of the essay: “Finally, it seems to me that none
       of my correspondents recognizes the innovativeness of my essay. If the use of a
       computer is a new idea, then a newer idea is not to use one.”
   5. We‟ve discussed „fear‟ of technology in class before. Do you think Berry is afraid
       of using a computer or does his resentment and resistance to technology go
       beyond that?
4/4/06                          Resistance to New Technologies                       Conklin

A Time of Reading
By Sven Birkerts

The author starts out by referencing another essay by Arthur Krystal‟s. In summary of
Krystals article Birkerts lays the ground work for us of the causes of the loss of reading.
The changing of cultural conditions, loss of interest (compared to falling out of love), and
lack of time to devote to the art of reading are some of Krystal‟s main arguments for the
change in culture.

After addressing some of Krystal‟s theories the author addresses the idea of
Romanticism, something I think he holds critical to the shift in reading trends. He defines
romanticism as the opposite of empirical, of a fabulous, fictitious character; going beyond
what is rational or practical. I wonder what about society today has led to the loss of
romantic views. Could it be solely to blame on technological advancements or are we
(society) stretching ourselves to thin with family, community, and work related

Contributing factors to the loss of reading.
   1. Distraction. Increased stimuli from electronic devises.
   2. Loss of “me time”. No societal sanction for meditative isolation.
   3. Historical dissociation, replaced by our current obsession with pop culture. No
       tradition, no feeling of connectedness with “then”.
   4. Living with less of an awareness of a „higher goal.‟ Loss of the belief that society
       is progressing in some direction, that its members have a mission.

The author also highlights the increasing transformations society is undergoing.
Reading not only requires focus and time, but also immersion. A belief that what you are
reading relates to your current surroundings, something he feels we have lost over time.
In the final paragraphs of the article the author bring us back to his initial purpose, to
discuss the time of reading. The author proposes that reading is not dead, simply
transformed. The point of reading is no longer for content or information, but to preserve
the act; setting aside time to read-even though it is unnecessary.

Discussion Questions
   1. Do you believe, as the author states, that love of literature and reading is
       „romantic‟ and has been diminished by increasing technologies, a shift in societies
       state of mind, an erosion of privacy, and other economic factors? Is Romanticism
       a lost but necessary component of literature?
   2. What do you think of the implied blame on literature itself as the downfall to
       reading; instead of a personal responsibility (i.e. work schedules, parenting
       demands, etc.) Does the lack of „romanticism‟ in society leave less inspiration for
       modern authors?
   3. Has reading diminished? Book sales and printing costs have increased yet the
       authors „gut‟ tells him that we are distancing ourselves from the culture of books
       and ideas. Do you agree?
4/4/06                          Resistance to New Technologies                       Conklin

    4. Are non-readers indifferent to books and literature as the author suggests? Do you
       agree that we are experiencing less exposure to ideas and a fading of cultural
       resonances of the book?
    5. Do you agree with the factors attributed to the loss of reading? What do you think
       of the shift that has taken place in today‟s society?
    6. Is the art of reading lost? Do you think the “Time of Reading” will move from
       love of literature to the process of page turning? Is reading becoming
       unnecessary. Like “walking after the advent of the automobile?”

The Gutenberg Elegies
The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age
By Steven Birkerts

8. Into the Electronic Millennium:

Underlying themes for discussion:
    “proto-literacy”: the shift between oral and literate culture; a slow shift that took
   centuries. What of the “proto-electronic” shift in technologies (print to electronic
   media, visual and non visual technologies)? How can we see, evaluate, and
   understand these changes currently?

     Commercially sponsored education: using visual media that is “youth friendly”
    and exploiting/capitalize it to enhance learning. The author poses the question “Is the
    what of learning to be determined by the how? What do you think are the
    implications for changing the way we teach?

     Potential developments stemming from the “proto-electronic” era:
      1. Language erosion. Will the shift between book culture and electronic
         communication destroy our understanding of and appreciation for language?
         Is verbal intelligence being replaced by “Plain Speak”? Or will language
         survive, as it always has on the printed page, as the author suggests in his final
      2. Flattening of historical perspectives. Will the changes in information storage
         and access to printed works change our perception of history? Will we lose
         interest in the past because it is not instantly accessible?
      3. Wanning of the private self. Is technology taking away our privacy, and how
         we view individuality?

9. Perseus Unbound:
     Perseus 1.0: an interactive database that holds the equivalent of 25 volumes of
    ancient Greek literature by 10 authors. Also includes a photographic database, a video
    with narration and descriptions. How does this and other video technologies as a
    teaching tool change the way we teach? What are the benefits and consequences to
4/4/06                         Resistance to New Technologies                       Conklin

    the changes in knowledge and learning? Are we headed toward an “educational

     Is the process of study as vital to the understanding as the materials studied? If we
    continue this line of innovate electronic based learning programs, are we at risk for
    losing the excitement of research and study in place of knowledge and if so will the
    knowledge come without appreciation and understanding?

10. Close Listening:
     “Deep Reading” Experiencing a book in your own thoughts and voice vs.
    listening to a book on tape, having to conjure images using someone else‟s inflection
    and voice. What, if any are the effects this have on reading?

11. Hypertext: Of Mouse and Men:
     Hypertext vs. Print text. How has hypertext changed the way we read? Is being an
    interactive reader better or worse than being contained by the author?

     The author states: “Transmission determines reception determines reaction.”
    How has increased technology affected this theory? Beyond fax machines, emails and
    mobile phones... how will the most recent explosion of text messaging and instant
    messaging change the way we communicate?

Review: Do you agree or disagree with Birkerts theories surrounding books and reading?

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