Bolstered by the recent advancements in technology, our society has gradually departed from the culture of the printed word to a computer culture structured by the digital word. Everyday the superior performance of computers appears to render printed literature more obsolete - e-mail and chat rooms have nearly eliminated traditional written letters, the Internet has all but replaced the need for libraries and paper catalogues and, soon, hypertext will completely overtake the realm of the printed novel. Computers have saturated our literary environment to such a degree that it is difficult to imagine a time when print was our most prized communication technology. To make an accurate hypothesis about the computer culture, and how it will affect the way we study and think about literature in the future, it is necessary to examine the development of past societies when faced with equally sweeping changes in literary technology.
The ancient Greeks were one of the first peoples to experience a pivotal technological revolution. This culture, once deemed illiterate or preliterate by scholars, has now been recognized as having, "its own coherence and dignity, and we have come to call it [an] oral rather than illiterate [society]" (Borgmann 38). Before Homeric epics like the Odyssey and the Iliad were transcribed into the large volumes we read and study today, these tales were told orally by a bard during daylong festivals. Hobart and Schiffman, authors of Information Age: Literacy, Numeracy, and the Computer Revolution, contend that the purpose of storytelling in this era wasn't, as many literates believe, to preserve the cultural history. Instead, memory served as a form of commemor...
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...with the creation of the Internet, or World Wide Web. This technology combined the interactive elements of oral culture and immersive qualities of print to create a hybrid of traditional storytelling (Murray 71). Like its oral ancestors, computer culture, "erodes the boundaries between the real and the virtual" (Turkle 10). Users can participate with hypertexts much like they could with a bard - clicking on the various hyperlinks within a work closely resembles the oral audience members' collective body movements as they identify with a story. Computers also resemble the independence of print culture, because they do not require face-to-face interaction in order to attain information. This format is still in its infancy, and will not fully develop until it ceases to depend on its technological ancestors, instead of implementing its own expressive power.
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