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Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to…
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Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace (édition 2000)

par James J. O'Donnell

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The written word has been a central bearer of culture since antiquity. But its position is now being challenged by the powerful media of electronic communication. In this penetrating and witty book James O'Donnell takes a reading on the promise and the threat of electronic technology for our literate future. In Avatars of the Word O'Donnell reinterprets today's communication revolution through a series of refracted comparisons with earlier revolutionary periods: the transition from oral to written culture, from the papyrus scroll to the codex, from copied manuscript to print. His engaging portrayals of these analogous epochal moments suggest that our steps into cyberspace are not as radical as we might think. Observing how technologies of the word have affected the shaping of culture in the past, and how technological transformation has been managed, we regain models that can help us navigate the electronic transformation now underway. Concluding with a focus on the need to rethink the modern university, O'Donnell specifically addresses learning and teaching in the humanities, proposing ways to seek the greatest benefit from electronic technologies while steering clear of their potential pitfalls.… (plus d'informations)
Membre:salamat
Titre:Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace
Auteurs:James J. O'Donnell
Info:Harvard University Press (2000), Edition: Later printing, Paperback, 228 pages
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Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace par James J. O'Donnell

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The summer before beginning my studies at the University of Michigan's School of Information, enrolled students received an e-mail suggesting we get a head start on our reading, since it was expected that there would be quite a bit. So, Avatars of the Word (which I think is a marvelous title) made it onto my summer reading list as was recommended.

While I find the subjects of the book extraordinarily interesting, the text is fairly erratic and requires wading through to really appreciate the author's arguments. O'Donnell investigates changing technology through the eyes of a classical studies historian. The book is still, somewhat surprisingly, relevant even for having been written in 1998.

The author focuses on how changing technology affects the ways information is preserved and passed on from person to person and generation to generation. Particularly interesting are his arguments that these various technologies affect how people interact with, think about, and approach information.

O'Donnell manages to pack quite a bit of information and history into this relatively small volume. Unfortunately, the text wanders from concept to concept without much linearity which makes a coherent reading more difficult. Regardless, some of his ideas are quite fascinating even if the reader must search for them.

(A companion website can be found at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/avatars/)

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2 voter PhoenixTerran | Dec 15, 2006 |
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The written word has been a central bearer of culture since antiquity. But its position is now being challenged by the powerful media of electronic communication. In this penetrating and witty book James O'Donnell takes a reading on the promise and the threat of electronic technology for our literate future. In Avatars of the Word O'Donnell reinterprets today's communication revolution through a series of refracted comparisons with earlier revolutionary periods: the transition from oral to written culture, from the papyrus scroll to the codex, from copied manuscript to print. His engaging portrayals of these analogous epochal moments suggest that our steps into cyberspace are not as radical as we might think. Observing how technologies of the word have affected the shaping of culture in the past, and how technological transformation has been managed, we regain models that can help us navigate the electronic transformation now underway. Concluding with a focus on the need to rethink the modern university, O'Donnell specifically addresses learning and teaching in the humanities, proposing ways to seek the greatest benefit from electronic technologies while steering clear of their potential pitfalls.

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