My Thoughts on Alan Liu

I have just finished my re-reading of this rather long introduction. I find that it suffers from the same problem a lot of the weightier text books sometimes have in that they assume that the reader is already as in-depth a follower of their research as they are and admittedly we seem to be somewhat in the deep end with this being a “companion to Digital Literary Studies” and not an introductory course.

+5 Nerd Points for getting the joke.

There is an interesting start in referencing Plato and the reluctance of those around him to “encounter” new media; in his case writing. This same reserved approach to the new can be seen at present but not so much for the new generations. I think perhaps this could be an issue more related to those who are used to the “old media” for lack of a better term having issues with their own encounters of the “new media”.

Liu takes this point on board however and postulates that this scepticism is a healthy approach to the new, suggesting that all new comers to new media immediately want to see why this new form is better than the last and if it has the same level of detail or information as its predecessor.

“The trick is to play the “old” and “new,” “codex” and “digital,” and “literary” and “informational” off each other in ways that thwart any facile modernization narrative and foster surprising recognitions about the scholarly and cultural potential of new media.”
This is an interesting concept. I am intrigued that the focus should be to accumulate and acknowledge any perceived prejudices by accompanying them with proof of what has gone before and the changes that have already occurred in textual analysis. Whether this will serve to revolutionise the way in which we view text or change the nature of the focus is the issue.

In adapting and discarding previous methodologies, we must ensure that the core of the data is still present; for this is not adaptation of the type of knowledge one might accrue from text as Tolkien might have done with the heroic in his adaptation and modernisation for his work, this is merely a transferral of the subject from physical codex to digital, just as it was taken from scrolls or papyrus before.
“The task of studying new media, it might be said, is to help us better to understand what it meant to write, read, and imagine in the past; while, inversely, that of studying old media is to help us appreciate what it now means to encode, browse, simulate, etc. “Digital literary studies” should make that possible.”
This seems to me to be the core of the introduction and though I was a while getting to the bottom of a long-winded approach, I can see the benefit of what Liu is getting at. It is important that we develop our understanding of past literature in order to embrace the new.
I do not believe that this should be necessary for generations to come, unless they involve themselves in this specific act but as we are on the cusp of a change in the ways and means through which text is accessed, it is important that we make sure that the transmission or migration of these media from old to new is done correctly.

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