The Social Life of Information John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid

Other writings by the authors of
The Social Life
of Information

Material Matters

The Future of the Book
ed. G. Nunberg California, 1996: 63-102

Material Matters:
Aspects of the Past and the Futurology of the Book.

Paul Duguid

Copyright 1996 Regents of the University of California & Brepols (Belgium)

1 Good bye the book?

With barely the flick of a digital switch, the long era of the "coming of the book" appears to have given way to the brief period of its going.[1] For it is going, predictions insist, like the telegram, the Bakelite phone, the vinyl record, or the analog computer before it. United only in a shared sense of inevitability, gloomy bibliophiles and triumphant technophiles wave the book good bye.[2] As elegies are read, eyes turn from history to the future. To be concerned with the past risks appearing like Shakespeare's Salisbury, vainly trying to "call back yesterday, bid time return", while to talk about the continued relevance of the book can pick you out as a modern Erewhonian.[3]

I want to argue, however, that there are good reasons beyond either nostalgia or an insurmountable hatred of technology to question the apparent choice between leaping to the new or drowning with the old. If nothing else, futurologists do have a habit of announcing both deaths and births prematurely. Talking machines, domestic robots, automated language translators, and a host of other "new technologies" have, for forty years or more, been perennial examples of "vapour ware", always coming yet never coming "within the next decade". Even the paperless office, long on the timetable, still shows little sign of arriving. Indeed, many digital offices can't even do without the typewriter, though its nunc dimittis was sung years ago. The forward thrust of predictions tends to insist we don't look back. But past predictions, particularly failed predictions like these, deserve more attention than they get. The point of reexamining them, though, is not to gloat. Rather, it's to understand where predictions go wrong.

With technological predictions, I suggest, assumptions about the relation between past and future, on the one hand, and simplicity and complexity, on the other, make claims more plausible than they should be.[4] If we accept the past as simple and the future complex, we tend not to question the idea that complex new technologies will sweep away their simple predecessors. So, for example, in 1938 The New York Times could easily assume that the heavily engineered typewriter would do away with the simple pencil.[5]

Or take, as another example, the matter of the door. Since the twenties, one way people have known they were watching a film about "the future" (and not merely about people who revelled in Spandex avant la lettre) was the inevitable presence of sliding doors. The supersession of the simple hinge by automated sliding technology long ago became a visual synecdoche for the triumph of the future. Yet while the sliding door still appears on the futurological screen, the millennia-old manual hinge endures all around us (even on our laptop computers and cell phones). One reason it survives, I suggest, is that despite its technological simplicity, time has given the hinge a rich social complexity that those who foresee its imminent demise fail to appreciate.[6] Hinged doors, after all, are not just to be passed through; they communicate polysemously. We can, for instance, expressively throw them open or slam them shut, hold them or let them swing, leave them ajar and hide behind them, satisfyingly kick, punch, or shoulder them, triumphantly barge them open or defiantly prop them shut.

The survival of pencils and hinges (and even typewriters), long after the development of alternatives, argues that, in forecasting technological conquests and describing the march of technological complexity, we have a tendency to underestimate what Raymond Williams calls the "social-material complex" of technologies are only a part.[7] Like an exasperated gardener, we snip triumphantly at the exposed plant, forgetting how extensive established roots can be. Pencil and hinge survive technological cuts on the strength of their deep social resourcefulness. And for similar reasons, we may find that the simple hinged book will prove as enduring. The closed cover, turned page, broken spine, serial form, immutable text, revealing heft, distinctive formats, handy size, and so on offer their own deep-rooted and resilient combination of technology and social process and continue to provide unrivalled signifying matter.[8]

So, to explore issues concerning the past and the futurology of the book, I start from the simple fact that, despite lugubrious elegies and triumphant dismissals, the book, like the hinge, is still here. Its continued presence raises these related issues of the resilience of artefacts and the frailty of predictions and allows me to suggest that to design robust new artefacts (design being itself an act of prediction) it may be important not to dismiss survival as cussed and irrelevant resistance, but instead to consider, in social and historical terms, the sources of endurance.

Unfortunately, the necessary task of addressing the relation between old and new technologies can be difficult. If, as Benjamin suggests, the Angel of History goes backwards into the future, "face turned towards the past" and wreckage piling at its feet, technology's angel usually advances facing determinedly the other way, trying to sweep objects and objections from its path.[9] There is much to be gained, I believe, from getting the two to see eye to eye. Unfortunately, as I shall argue, this has recently become only more difficult. Technology's angel is engaged in a passing flirtation with "critical theory", which harbours much of what Jameson calls postmodernism's "deafness to history". To add deafness to blindness is not what McLuhan expected when he foretold a return to the synergy of the auditory and the visual, though it may explain why the volume of debate and, in particular, of the demonisation of the book has, as a result of this flirtation, been raised a notch or two.[10]

In particular, any idea that old technologies can tell us anything about new ones has been discouraged by two futurological tropes (supported in varying degrees by critical theory) that I intend to examine in some detail. The first is the notion of supersession -- the idea that each new technological type vanquishes or subsumes its predecessors: "This will kill that", in the words of Victor Hugo's archdeacon that echo through debates about the book and information technology. The second is the claim of liberation, the argument or assumption that the pursuit of new information technologies is simultaneously a righteous pursuit of liberty. Liberationists hold, as another much-quoted aphorism has it, that "information wants to be free" and new technology is going to free it. The book, by contrast, appears never to have shaken off its restrictive mediaeval chains.

Together ideas of supersession and liberation present a plausibly united front. But this front, I want to suggest, conceals some significant conflicts. First, cultural arguments for supersession lean heavily on the language of postmodernism, while liberationists' arguments about emancipation are laden with the ideas of postmodernism's great antipathy, "the enlightenment project". And second, technological ideas of supersession understandably expect progress through technology, while liberation looks for freedom from it.

The latter conflict in particular reflects, I go on to claim, uncertainty about relations between form and content, information and technology. In general, both supersession and liberation assume that information stands aloof from the technology that carries it. Whereas I argue that if books can be thought of as "containing" and even imprisoning information, that information must, in the last analysis, be understood as inescapably a product of book making. Books, I conclude, are not a hide-bound alternative to the freedoms of the multiply linked items of hypertext, but an important social, political, and historical solution to problems raised by the particularity of such linked items.

So in the end, I suggest, to offer serious alternatives to the book, we need first to understand and even to replicate aspects of its social and material complexity. Indeed, for a while yet, it will probably be much more productive to go by the book than to go on insistently but ineffectually repeating "good bye".

2 The Supersession of the Book

The idea of supersession is never too far from discussions of the book, where the words of Hugo's archdeacon are repeated again and again:

This will kill that. The book will kill the building. . . . The press will kill the church . . . printing will kill architecture.

And though the book notably did not "kill" architecture, these words are now read against it. The gloom of the archdeacon is transformed into the triumph of the digerati: computer architecture is set to take revenge. Thus it seems fitting that the dean of architecture at MIT should envisage a future in which the book will exist only as a sort of methadone treatment, irrelevant except to those "addicted to the look and feel of tree flakes encased in dead cow (and prepared to pay for it)".[11]

Of course, futurological predictions that the past is slipping into irrelevance encompass much more than just books. Following Toffler's announcement that society was crossing the greatest divide since barbarism gave way to civilization (a change driven, as he saw it, by the "great growling engine of technology"), the rhetoric of technological revolution and dismissals of the ancien régime have become quite unexceptional. Talk of breaks and disconnections, of paradigm shifts and social transformations, of waves and generations, and of disjunctions between old and new abounds. It's now merely a reflex, more obligatory than provocative, for Negroponte to tell us we're entering a "radically new culture" propelled by the technological movement from "atoms to bits". Under the cumulative weight of these proclamations, it becomes increasingly easy to believe that to fall behind in the technological race is to fall behind the human race. Technology's path, in this view, is "inevitable and unavoidable" Negroponte tells us. To demur or look back could be a symptom of "lunacy" according to Lanham, of isolation "in a quaint museum of the intellect" in the view of Feigenbaum and McCorduck, or of clinical "Future shock", those morbid symptoms of the inadequate individual in the face of progress.[12]

But if the reach of this revolution concerns humanity as a whole, the book nonetheless forms an important centre-piece. Nor is it merely a symbol of reaction. Accepted by many as an "agent of change" in the Gutenberg revolution, the book is easily cast as a force of reaction in the information one.[13] Its material lineaments stand accused of foisting a vast amount of ideological baggage on innocent people. Thus Landow sees its "center and margin, hierarchy and linearity" as fostering a malign "conceptual system". The book is something, he insists with some urgency, "we must abandon" in order to go through "this paradigm shift, which marks a revolution in human thought".[14]

In such accounts of a textual revolution, voices of critical theory and postmodernism join those of technologists in proclaiming supersession. Undoubtedly, they are well suited for this role, for, in Jameson's words, postmodernism "looks for breaks" and when it finds them it usually portrays them in suitably supersessive terms. Thus Olsen, who is credited with the first use of postmodern, sought complete secession from the past: "had we not, ourselves (I mean postmodern man) better just leave such things behind us?" More famously, Lyotard announced the "postmodern condition" by unequivocally dismissing precedent: "the status of knowledge is altered . . . the general situation is one of temporal disjunction". Perhaps nowhere is the sense that culturally the past has been left behind more evident than in Baudrillard's writing, which repeats on page after page that things are "no longer . . .", "no more . . .", "never again . . ." the way they were: "ne . . . plus", "ne . . . plus", "ne . . . plus" echoes down his writing.[15]

"Only disconnect" seems to have become the united rallying cry of contemporary cultural and technological theorists alike, and this apparent convergence is sometimes offered as independent and cumulative evidence of an epistemological or even ontological shift. I contend, however, it is more a case of coincidence and opportunism.

To understand what drives the claims of both technologists and compatible cultural theorists, we should notice that, while recalling the archdeacon's sense of patricide, they invert his attitude towards it. His was a cry of loss and regret. These new cries of supersession are, to the contrary, triumphantly dismissive. They celebrate escape from the clutches of the past and in so doing reveal that most assertions of supersession are at base declarations of independence. This desire to secede from history and set to work on a newly cleaned tabula rasa involves both settling accounts with the old and selling accounts of the new.

To take the latter first, claims of supersession are, above all else, a significant marketing ploy. Rapid technological development has increased pressure to sell the new on the heels of the old, no matter how durable the old. Sales departments no longer offer just a new car, but a new type of car. The new, by implication, doesn't merely replace the old; it supersedes it. The recurrent advertising theme of a "revolution in technology" insists that the machine we have is out of date and the one we need is in the showroom. In the process, establishing a break, reestablishing year 1 of the postrevolutionary era both distracts from the resilience of the old and neatly bids up the future of the new, as if to claim, so Henry James noted in apostrophizing the ever-renewed "New World," that "since you had no past, you're going in for a magnificent, compensatory future".[16]

We should not be too surprised, then, to find technological debate opportunistically embracing the idea of supersession. And we should also acknowledge that intellectual movements too need to exploit their own short model years with all the energy of a sales force. The "posts" have indeed promoted themselves as a revolutionary departure from a narcoleptic past. And as with technological marketing, such promotions have dealt handily with much of history's awkward clutter. An assertion of postmodernity promises, as Jameson points out, "to get rid of whatever you found confining, unsatisfying, or boring about the modern, modernism, or modernity".[17] History can undoubtedly be one of those confining issues and facets of postmodernism attempt to cast it off in the name of posthistoire.[18] But escape is never easy. Dismissals of history always recall the history of dismissal. Claims of supersession have, in fact, a well-documented history mapped by, among others, Walter Jackson Bate, Harold Bloom, Raymond Williams, and Stephen Toulmin.[19]

Bate's study traces various strategies for dealing with the "burden of the past", and claims of supersession and new beginnings are among the most significant. Moreover, Bate notes an intriguing relation between such cultural claims and technological innovation. He suggests that whenever techniques of cultural preservation (the development of printing, libraries, and museums, for example) improve, the perceived increase in the cultural burden prompts a new generation to try to find ways to throw off the old.[20]

On occasion, technology can be seen playing a double role in this process. Where established technology prompts secession by threatening to suffocate a new generation with the legacy of the old, "new" technology, if sufficiently distinct, can be invoked as a means of escape. Marinetti's "Manifeste de Futurisme", a classic claim for supersession ("nous sommes," he declares, "sur le promontoire extrême de siècles!"), provides a clear precedent for this double involvement of technology. Its vision was propelled, as Banham notes, by a desire for "the overriding of an old, tradition-bound technology, unchanged since the Renaissance, by a newer one without traditions". The old, along with "le Temps et l'Espace", Marinetti insisted, must be annihilated by "la vitesse" of new technology. Museums and academies, which Marinetti dismissed as "cimetières d'efforts perdus", were to be swept aside to allow the Futurists to set out unburdened. In particular, Marinetti insisted to his followers, "boutez donc le feu aux rayons des bibliotheques".[21]

If the past cannot easily be physically burned to the ground, it can at least be theoretically or ideologically reduced to ashes. Raymond Williams explores ways in which this has been done. Tracing ideas of temporal disjunction back to Heisod, Williams shows that claims about the utter newness of the new long antedate both postmodernism and modernism.[22] (Declarations of separation may actually be one of the ties that perennially bind one generation to another. So regularly do generations insist on their utter newness that the first to be truly different may in fact be the generation that does not claim this distinction.) Within this tradition, certain ways of dismissing the past recur. In particular, as Williams argues, the past is repeatedly portrayed in a version of "pastoral" that extracts idyllic and simple aspects of an earlier age only to contrast them with the assumed complexity and sophistication of the present.[23]

This strategy emerges in contemporary dismissals of the book. Characterizations of the present "condition" often portray the past, either directly or by implication, as a time in which, for instance, the prelapsarian sign and referent walked hand in hand their amiable way. For Baudrillard this was the child-like phase of history in which "l'image . . . est le reflet d'une réalite profonde".[24] By contrast with our own, in these pastoral societies the author was apparently both alive and suitably authoritative, and the reader naive and suitably subordinated. The inhabitants of the past saw the book, some have claimed, as "the natural and only vehicle for a written text" and the text simply "a transparent window into creative thought" and consequently they suffered beneath the "tyrannical" voice of print.[25]

We should always be suspicious of the contempt that flows beneath a surface of idealisation and concern. And we should note how often the characterisation of "them" is in fact a self-aggrandisement of "us". Roger Chartier describes a similar world "in which the book was revered and authority was respected" until the book "lost its charge of sacrality" and "reverence and obedience gave way to a freer, more casual way of reading". What distinguishes Chartier's account from these other claims, however, is that he is describing attitudes of eighteenth-century urban elites towards the pastoral innocence of their rural counterparts and forebears. Significantly, a scepticism we have been led to believe characteristic of the postmodern reader was, it seems, evident even at the start of the enlightenment project. In this light, our claims to a new, technologically mediated epistemological dis-illusionment seem particularly hollow.[26]

In the end, the apparent convergence of technological futurism and cultural theory fails to distinguish itself with decisive clarity from the very past it attempts to escape. Instead, it primarily recapitulates what it sought to supersede. Of course, we all know that those who forget the past are condemned to repetition, primarily of Santayana's tedious aphorism, but the problems of supersession may require stronger remedies. As a practical matter, naive ideas of supersession may actually be making some forms of repetition difficult rather than inevitable. While our technological superiority has long been taken for granted, high acid paper and silver nitrate film are silently destroying significant regions of twentieth-century cultural production with much more success than Marinetti had with the nineteenth. Meanwhile, the rapid predatory supersession of both hardware and software is rendering recently created digital documents and archives inaccessible or unreadable. To save significant products of our digital being, we may have to move, some suggest, from bits back to atoms.[27]

We need to be cautious about the trivialisation and dismissal of the past, however, not simply because we may lose particular documents or artefacts, but because we are also losing valuable cultural insights gained through old communicative technologies, just as we are trying to build new ones. Disinheriting the present from the past rejects a legacy of many and varied strategies that our actual as opposed to idealised predecessors engaged to deal with the problems of the sign, of narrative, of linearity and nonlinearity, of deferral and differance, or of authority -- problems which the past, pastoralisation to the contrary, was insufficiently benign to obscure from its inhabitants. Just as archivists are now resurrecting apparently otiose paper documents to help fathom unreadable digital archives, so we may need to reassess earlier communicative artefacts and forms to revive some of the newer ones.[28]

Of course, it's easy to portray such an attitude as no more than nostalgia and resistance in the face of progress -- a nostalgia that fails to appreciate, moreover, how different the past is from the present and that clings naively to a seamless view of history, which the sophistication of "critical" critiques has long since made problematic. Undoubtedly, Bachelard's notion of coupure, disseminated by Althusser and Foucault, has made simple ideas of historical continuity and recovery untenable. Equally, Foucault's caution against searching for "origins" has rendered searches for historical precedent highly suspect. But there is no need for those who seek, in Johnson's words, to "explore times gloomy backwards with judicious eyes" to cede the theoretical high ground so easily. Indeed, many who assert the utter newness of the new need themselves to pay more than lip-service to the force of these arguments. Claims of supersession, for instance, often escape portraying history as seamless only by the factitious insertion of a single seam, which often falls just behind the claimant. Beyond this single, uniform rent that frees the claimant from the past, history usually looks not the complex of tessellated breaks or ruptures we are led to expect, but placidly smooth and undifferentiated. Portrayals of a postmodern rift occasionally appear to be no more than a grossly naive reading of Althusser or Foucault that hopes to sweep aside problematic issues from the past simply by declaring a new problématique. Ozenfant nicely parodies such cataclysmic analyses by calling the first section of his history of painting and sculpture "From Before the Deluge to 1914".[29]

In particular, the broad, parallel rents in the social and technological fabric produced by theories of the simultaneous transition of technology and culture into a new era assume a process of remarkably even, parallel development. These looks quite naive beside more thoughtful analyses of uneven development.[30] Where supersessive rifts do allow some room for uneven development, it is usually only to lend unexamined support to widespread notions of "culture" and even biology lagging behind "technology" and needing to catch up. Thus to keep up with technology's autonomous unfolding, Vannevar Bush, the father of hypertext, feels we need to develop a new language, de Landa suggests a new form of "synthetic reasoning", Schrage a more advanced gene, and Jameson new organs.[31]

Similarly, it is claims of supersession rather than appeals for improved historical analysis that seem primarily concerned with origins. To the extent that technological and critical-theoretical triumphalism declares a supersessive break between past and future, it implicitly makes itself the new origin. Like Satan's autochthonous army, it wants to "Know none before us, self-begot, self raised" and so set the terms for future debate.[32] To resist simple ideas of supersession, by contrast, encourages richer investigation of those very genealogies supersession makes untraceable. Though prone to declare unbridgeable rifts himself, Althusser, in his critique of Hegelian ideas of supersession, argues that only by rejecting supersession, by refusing to succumb to the banalities of Hegel's all-subsuming progress can we "retreat" (as Althusser calls it) to the genuine complexities of history.[33]

In all, then, I suggest it's important to resist announcements of the death of the book or the more general insistence that the present has swept away the past or that new technologies have superseded the old. To refuse to accept such claims is not, however, to deny that we are living through important cultural or technological changes. Rather, it's to insist that to assess the significance of these changes and to build the resources to negotiate them, we need specific analysis not sweeping dismissals. Indeed, as Williams argues, proclaiming our distance from the past only prevents "the reality of a major transition" from being fully "acknowledged and understood".[34]

In the case of the book, it's helpful to note Foucault's remarks on the author function: "It is not enough to repeat the empty affirmation that the author has disappeared . . . we must locate the space left empty by the author's disappearance, follow the distribution of gaps and breaches, and watch for the openings that this disappearance uncovers". And again, "Themes destined to replace the privileged position accorded the author have merely served to arrest the possibility of genuine change." A similar case can be made against unguarded assumptions of the death of the book. Technological supersession too easily suggests that there will be no space left empty, no gaps or breaches to worry about, and (as I argue in the following section) that all technological change is progress towards the removal of privilege. Technology, it is assumed, is projecting society into a postmodern, posthistorical plenum where the only problems are caused by Luddites.[35]

3 Liberation Technology

Except at their most vaunting, assumptions of supersession tend to run beneath the surface of debate as pressures and tendencies that shape discussion rather than as topics that appear within it. One symptom of this subterranean presence, however, may be the claim of liberation. Leo Marx has argued that, unless protected by claims for simultaneous emancipation, deterministic visions of technological development quickly turn dystopian. Information technology in particular is often painted as either the panopticon or the beacon of liberty. (The famous Apple advertisement during the Superbowl of 1984 presented both by opposing imprisoning Big (Brother) Blue to the liberating rainbow of Macintosh.) The idea that supersession brings with it liberation provides a bulwark against the darker side of this opposition.[36]

So where statements about supersession are often muted, the cry of liberation tends to ring clear. Hence the wide currency of Stuart Brand's extravagant aphorism that "information wants to be free", which has been picked up by many who want to chase off the, by contrast, imprisoning book. Bolter talks about the "revolutionary" goal of "freeing the writing from the frozen structure of the page" and ultimately "liberating the text". Barlow claims information "has to move", Nelson suggests that only with new technology can the "true structure and interconnectedness of information" emerge, while Sterling argues that information "wants to change . . .[but] for a long time, our static media, whether carvings in stone, ink on paper, or dye on celluloid, have strongly resisted the evolutionary impulse".[37]

This language of liberty moves quickly to such icons of freedom as the market and the frontier. Thus Rheingold evocatively subtitles his book on electronic "communities", "Homesteading on the electronic frontier". The Electronic Frontier Foundation, with which Brand, Barlow, Sterling, Rheingold and others are connected, brings many related ideas of liberty together, associating "electronic" technologies with the frontier and the "marketplace of ideas" and in so doing casting doubt on pre-electronic technologies like the book. Intriguingly, such proclamations occasionally transfer attributes of liberty from people to information. Freedom of information, once a citizen's right to gain access to information, by a sleight of argument becomes the right of information to move freely, free of material impediment. This is not to deny the important First Amendment issues taken up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. But for a variety of reasons, the language of personal freedom is being attached to information, which as a result is given autonomous desires and an independent existence and evolution. Technological futurology occasionally transfers autonomy and rationality from people and societies to machines. Here, there's a similar exchange. Information is endowed with human attributes and simultaneously a certain independence from human control.[38]

This transference ultimately rests on dualistic assumptions. Where once we had ghosts in machines, now we have information in objects like books. Technology is thus called upon to do for information what theology sought to do for the soul. But this liberation technology is quite distinct from liberation theology, for where the latter turned from tending the soul to tending the body, liberation technology turns in the opposite direction, away from the text's embodiment towards information's pure essence. When the young Wordsworth let out the impassioned cry against the book,

Oh! why hath not the Mind
Some element to stamp her image on
In Nature somewhat nearer to her own?

The Prelude [1850], V, 45-49

his more down-to-earth associate replied calmly that this "was going far to seek disquietude" (ibid, l. 53). But now the question is being asked again and more earnestly, and digital information technology is being offered as the answer. The book, no longer its incarnation, has been reduced to the incarceration of the word. But a technological Prospero seems at last to be at hand to free the informational Ariel from the cleft pine (or wood products) in which he has been trapped.[39]

Barlow, an influential populariser of the electronic future, uses the idea of a wine or spirit stoppered in a bottle as a metaphor for this entrapment. The image goes back at least to Milton's Areopagitica: "books . . . do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect bred in them". But as that last phrase indicates, Milton resisted any simple image of the book as mere container: "books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are". Barlow, however, disdains such qualification. The container, as he sees it, is thoroughly superseded, and, like a good genie, the contents once free will not go back.[40]

Many present this release in near apocalyptic terms. Electronic text will, Lanham argues, "disempower . . . the force of linear print" and "blow . . . wide open" social limits imposed by the codex book, in the process democratizing the arts and allowing us "to create that genuine social self which America has discouraged from the beginning". Landow agrees it will liberate readers from the "tyrannical, univocal voice of the novel" and create the sort of intertextuality that, in Thaïs Morgan's words, will free "the literary text" from "psychological, sociological, and historical determinisms". While for Bolter it will remove a veil of distortion so that "what is unnatural in print becomes natural in the electronic medium".[41]

A fair amount of post-structuralist theory is being ingested to provide intellectual support for what is, in fact, the demonisation of the book. In particular, Barthes's powerful distinction between the "work", servant of one master, and the "text", an item of pleasure for many, is invoked directly or indirectly to confirm the idea of books as procrustean containers. Electronic technologies are spoken of as if they would shake the "text" free from the "work", (though Barthes himself held "it would be useless to attempt a material separation"). And more explicitly, Barthes's concept of the lexia has proved an influential and tendentious term for the unit of liberated text.[42]

Yet the invocation of Barthes raises some doubts about the convergence of theorists and practitioners. For Barthes, the lexia was the arbitrary unit into which he separated text in order to disrupt "blocks of signification of which reading grasps only the surface, imperceptibly soldered by the movement of sentences, the flowing discourse of narration, the 'naturalness' of ordinary language". Starting with these lexias, and with the errors of his structuralist-scientistic past clearly in mind, Barthes sets out to explore "several kinds of criticism (psychological, psychoanalytical, thematic, historical, structural)" which collectively destroy any notion of "totality" and deny "'naturalness'" to the work. As a result of the ensuing dramatic reconstruction of the text, the work is revealed to be an impossibility, a denial of its own assertions.[43]

Barthes's dramatic strategies undoubtedly challenge those who accept the book as writ. But, as I've suggested already, the ideally naive reader envisaged here is, above all else, a pastoral idealisation. In fact, Barthes's ideas seem to challenge more forcefully many of the enthusiasts of electronic hypertexts. For while Barthes's poststructuralist legacy merges easily with the general demonisation of the book, it does not fit so easily with ideas of pure, natural information or the grand information-retrieval concepts put forward by, for example, Vannevar Bush and Ted Nelson, the great forefathers of practical hypertext. (Nor is it quite at home with the fairly conventional pedagogical goals of, for example, Lanham and Landow.) Many who embrace post-structuralist forays against the codex to support their arguments for the electronic emancipation of information or society, too easily forget that these forays were launched to a significant degree because the book was presented not as a prison, but as a key technology of the grand narratives of emancipation. Dominant strains of postmodernism and ideas of posthistory have long insisted that all such emancipatory narratives, whether they concern books or information technologies, are illusory.[44]

Critical theory aside, the idea of liberation technology superseding the entrapments of the past has its own internal problems. The argument that supersession and liberation belong together rests on the paradoxical prediction that freedom from technology can be achieved through technology. Here it's perhaps possible to detect the shadow the military has cast over a great deal of technological futurology.[45] The desire for a technology to liberate information from technology is not far from the search for a weapon to end all weapons or the war to end all wars. The idea that the latest weapon is an agent of peace, that the latest putsch will be the last is seductive. But ultimately it is both corrupting and misleading. As with so much optimistic futurology, it woos us to jump by highlighting the frying pan and hiding the fire. In face of such arguments, we do better to remember Andrew Marvell's ambiguous celebration of Cromwell's conquest and liberation of Ireland:

The same art that did gain
A power must it maintain.
or how Ariel quickly discovered that the same magic that liberated him from the tree indentured him to Prospero.[46]

4 Material Information

The tangles supersession and liberation get into result, I think, from the dualistic assumptions I referred to earlier. In this section, I suggest that, if we avoid the assumption that information and technology, the "semiotic" and the "perceptual" in Bolter's terms, are as distinct and separable as wine and bottles, we avoid the problematic tangles. After discussing this idea of dualism and it's connection to the trope of pastoral a little further, I outline an alternative way to think of information. This alternative, more systemic approach emphasizes the role of material artifacts in both making and warranting information.[47]<

Ideas of supersession, I argued earlier, often rely on a pastoral characterisation of the past (or future), and this can help explain both the source and the nature of the problematic dualism. William Empson argued that pastoral attempts but always fails to depict a reconciliation of the inimical products of mind and matter.[48] It's not surprising, then, to find pastoral visions in debates about the book and its past and future. Ideas about the reconciliation of conceptual and physical, mind and matter, sign and signified provide the common ground between pessimistic and optimistic views of technological development. Extreme pessimistic views suggest that the coming of the computer is destroying previous reconciliation achieved by the book. Extreme optimists hold, by contrast, that any prior sense of harmony was a delusion and that the computer will both dispel those illusions created by the book and in its place achieve true reconciliation, offering the "real character of information", "the genuine social self", and so forth.[49]

A significant alternative position shares the optimists' view that the past was an era of delusion, but distinguishes itself by denying the promise of future reconciliation. Harmony, this view suggests, is always a deception; attempts at reconciliation can only end in contradiction. (This view explains why pastoral, like the Queen's jam, is something never achieved today, but only projected into yesterday or tomorrow.) This position escapes the disappointment of the one and the hope of the other, but it nonetheless shares the dualism of both optimist and pessimist. It argues less against their dualistic assumptions, than their vision of harmonious reconciliation. So Empson and Barthes, for example, see a pastoral landscape seeded by the intentions of Marvell or Balzac but producing only self annihilation and contradiction.

Varied though their destinations may be, there is evidently one way to avoid starting down any of these paths and that is to reject the dualism with which they all begin. In the next few paragraphs I sketch an alternative position.[50] Rather than thinking of wine in bottles, each of which has a separate identity, information and technology can be more usefully considered as mutually constitutive and ultimately indissoluble. Apt images then would be rivers and banks, Yeats's example of dancer and dance, or Newman's of light and illumination: you don't get one without the other. In this view, information is undoubtedly less autonomous than liberationists would hold; on the other hand, books appear more productive and less like the passive constraints supersessionists make them out to be. Indeed, it can be helpful to think of them as I.A. Richards did when, somewhat uncharacteristically, he declared that "a book is a machine to think with".[51]

Viewing the book as a machine, we quickly bridge the supersessive chasm some have dug between new technology and the book, as if one were a machine and the other not. Indeed, the idea of it as a "machine to think with" makes the book seem much closer to what are standardly called information technologies than either those who idealise it in Miltonic vein as "the Soul's progeny" or those who demonise it in Mitchell's terms as "tree flakes encased in dead cow" seem to believe. In the end all information technologies and the information they carry -- whether made from trees and cows or sand and petroleum -- are not independent, but interdependent.[52]

If books and the information they carry are interdependent, then, as a machine, the book is clearly more than a conduit for ideas produced elsewhere.[53] It is itself a means of production. This concept goes beyond the simple idea of an individual book producing the information it contains. Books are part of a social system that includes authors, readers, publishers, booksellers, libraries, and so forth. Books produce and are reciprocally produced by the system as a whole. They are not, then, simply "dead things" carrying pre-formed information from authors to readers. They are crucial agents in the cycle of production, distribution, and consumption. This is why, as McGann puts it, "readers and audiences are hidden in our texts, and the traces of their multiple presence are scripted at the most material levels".[54] Recent work by McGann and other "bibliographic" critics such as McKenzie, Chartier, Genette, and Darnton increasingly acknowledges this systemic relation of the work, the author, and the audience and the role played by the passage of physical books in creating, maintaining, and developing this literary system. Their work and related ideas about cultural production and consumption of cultural artefacts offer fuller and more complex accounts of the book than those implicit in claims of supersession and liberation.[55]

For instance, arguments of Michel de Certeau and Richard Johnson help explain how easy it can be to idealise information technology and demonise the book as if the two were not, indeed, both machines. de Certeau and Johnson hold that in attempting to understand cultural artefacts travelling a social circuit, it's essential to distinguish the different cardinal points of the system. To take one and ignore the others inevitably misrepresents the system as a whole and the role of the artefact within it. Similarly, it's a mistake to contrast analyses made from two different points on the circuit. Arguments against the book, for example, often characterise it not in terms of the whole cycle, from writers to readers and back again, but from the point of authorial production alone. Isolating this position allows the book to appear to exert malign, authoritative influences over passive audiences. (Indeed, as de Certeau argues, the isolation of production more generally both leads to and ultimately vitiates many of Foucault's arguments about the efficacy of power.)[56]

Information technology, by contrast, is often characterised in terms of the circulating text or of cultural consumption, but not of production. Privileging the circulating text makes information seem remarkably self-sufficient and the book, by contrast, imprisoning. In the past, "practical", "new", as well as structuralist critics looked from this point of view, granting the text an autonomy distinct from its production or consumption. And this is also essentially the view of those liberationists who defer to the autonomous integrity of information. A third position moves to consumption alone -- a stance taken up by Stanley Fish, whose readers appear liberated from all constraints -- by contrast, devolves all power to the consumer.

By amalgamating the last two positions, supersessionists and liberationists have been able to create an idealised picture of new technologies that makes these appear as complete departures from the book's determined assaults on both texts and readers. But this conclusion is achieved only through incompatible forms of analysis. Furthermore, as we saw, it also leads to the tangle between the two alternative positions, one of which sees the text becoming independent of technology, while the other consumers becoming independent through technology. Looking at communication technologies in the round, by contrast, circumvents these partial, isolated, and antagonistic accounts. For the book at least, cultural theorists, contemporary bibliographic critics, and literary sociologists have recently begun to do this. It still needs to be done for alternative information technologies.

The attention to the book as a material object involved in a social circuit helps in particular to explain some problems with evolutionary accounts like Sterling's, which view information technologies as progressively removing material encumbrances from the "true" information assumed to lie beneath them.[57] In Sterling's view, the printed codex can be no more than a material burden on the information "inside", which technology now permits us to remove. This approach, the essence of what I have called "liberation-technology", discounts the substantial role the book plays in coordinating consumption and production and so maintaining the social system of information. In so doing, it renders the process of publication particularly absurd, for instead of removing material constraints, publishing appears to add them. The manuscript appears to be the more authentic form from which the various stages of book production retreat into artificiality and imprisonment.

Considered as part of a larger social system, however, publication is not so easily portrayed as an act of incarceration. It is rather, as McGann describes it, an act of socialization. The production of a book is a shaping of an artefact capable of travelling a public circuit and coordinating production and distal consumption. On their own, manuscripts have a very limited reach and are essentially private documents for local circuits, lacking the forms and warrants that make them more generally consumable. Publication is then very much a process of producing a public artefact and inserting it in a particular social circuit. Indeed, what general intelligibility manuscripts have is due not to the autonomy of information, but to a reader's understanding of the broader literary system. Manuscripts are read not as a purer form, but as incomplete versions, rapid prototypings of the artefact they are intended to become. To turn them into public forms requires more, productive work. Consequently, what from the liberationist point of view are looked upon as material constraints, from which text should be "freed", are more often social resources that, if removed, need to be reconstituted or invoked in some other way if the status of the text is to be maintained to any degree.

Newspapers, more easily thought of as purveyors of information than producers, in fact provide another example of the production process. Certainly newspapers convey information as news. But before they convey news, newspapers first make it. News is not simply made elsewhere and then put onto paper, affirming the simple, dualistic separation of information and technology. News is made in the process of editing the paper, which determines not so much what news is "fit to print", but that what fits and gets printed is news. Editing and copyfitting are not mere "mechanical" tasks, but social processes of abstraction through which events become stories that become or fail to become news.[58] The ensuing circulation of the printed paper through a society (ensuring that the "same" news is available to everyone at roughly the same time) then warrants the selected items as "social facts".[59]

This process is also quite distinct from the related liberationist vision of people individually gathering sui generis news out of vast database. Without constraints, data so stored lacks both the shape of news (when should a correspondent stop writing, taping, filming?) and its social status (can an item I download be "news" for me but not for anyone else?). News is, rather, a shaped product and the shaping contribution of technologies is implicitly recognised in the way news databases rely on newspapers of record, relying on these to warrant what the database carries as news. Radio and television programmes similarly report the content of the front page of the major daily papers. But radio and television have proved themselves capable of producing news themselves as well as carrying news produced elsewhere. I don't want to stumble into demonisation, here. New technologies are not incapable of producing news, but at present they primarily reproduce it, deferring in the process to older, more established, public forms. This ready and often unnoticed deferral has important implications for the design of information technology. If designers assume this technology is merely a conduit for free-standing information, new technologies are more likely to remain subordinate to residual technologies than to offer creative alternatives, let alone supersede them.

The implication that technologies are just conduits for information produced elsewhere both denies the material role technologies play in producing information and, as I noted at the end of the previous section, assumes that information has an inherent shape and integrity independent of the system in which it is produced and consumed. Information is taken to be self-sufficient, self-explanatory, and self-legitimating. Yet, as Lyotard notes, legitimation is always a central problem for information.[60] Liberationists give information the burden of guaranteeing its own legitimacy, putting it in the position of Epimendes asserting (or even denying) the Cretan paradox.[61] But information cannot so validate itself. Merely writing "Legal Tender" on the face of a bank note is not proof against forgery. Rather, it is the record of the material process that provides collateral for writing: the material difficulty of producing the inscription warrants the banknote. This is not to argue, of course, that the material warrant guarantees legitimacy or determines consumption. But it does represent an attempt to coordinate production and consumption through a mediating artefact. And even acts of transgression, poaching, or deconstruction acknowledge the attempt.[62]

Acknowledging the coordinating role books play doesn't entail accepting a rigid correspondence between what we think of as "form" and "content". Chartier is right to note that "meaning changes when form changes" (consequently, irony, the trope of self denial, travels particularly badly). But within a robust system such as the modern system of lapidary publishing, many changes can be easily negotiated. Despite new forms for old words, it's often possible to recognize a putative form (much as we recognize putative narrators and putative audiences) despite the changes in the actual material. Nevertheless, the changes we are contemplating at the moment concern more than particular inscriptions and may involve the system itself. Faced with the changes at this level, it becomes important to think not idealistically about information, but materially, in terms of what Genette calls the "ensemble heteroclite" or McGann the "laced network of linguistic and bibliographic codes". Systemic changes reach beyond particular semiotic effects, altering our understanding of not just what things might mean, but also why they matter.[63]

5. Future Concerns

As I noted at the close of the previous section, the advent of multiple new technologies is probably changing not only particular works, but to the social system in relation to which the works were written and read. It will take care and thought to negotiate these changes, and the task will inevitably become more difficult if changes are made in material processes without regard to the social practices they underwrite. If, however, information is taken to be a natural category and its material substrate ultimately immaterial or if supersession is assumed to be inevitably beneficial, these problems will remain invisible though their effects may be increasingly felt. So, contrary to the convention of ending with solutions, I end by trying to raise two related concerns that seem to me hidden to optimistic eyes (the pessimists, of course, see nothing but problems). I do not pretend that a non-dualistic, social-material approach automatically resolves these problems, only that it makes them visible and so open to attention.

Borrowing a portmanteau word coined by Toffler and packing a little more into it, I call the first problem the paradox of demassification. Demassification refers to the increasing ease with which socially complex technologies can be made not just for broad masses of people, but for small groups and individuals. Economies of scale, necessary for material-intensive and labour-intensive products, once guaranteed common artifacts. Flexible production of post-Fordism has made this increasingly less important. Less generically Taylored production can be more easily individually tailored. This sort of social demassification or individualization is to a significant degree the result of material demassification, which might indeed more strictly be called dematerialisation. As technology is transformed from mechanical to digital-informational, machines shed mass dramatically. Huge mainframes, for instance, have been reduced to individual laptop computers which people can work on alone and, more significantly, separately.

Individuation and separation, two effects of the two kinds of demassification, in the end pull against one another. With large machines, from production lines to time-sharing computers, activities were implicitly coordinated because people worked together in the same place on the same machine. With dematerialized, portable objects, people no longer need to congregate in single buildings or communicate through central, unifying machines in order to work together. Nonetheless, while they remained uniform, mass-produced artefacts (and books offer one of the earlier examples) continued to support social coordination despite prompting separation. With faithful duplication, people had access to what was, to all intents and purposes, the "same" object and so, though physically separated, could easily negotiate among themselves coordinated interactions. The more artifacts are tailored to individual users, however, the more such separation becomes problematic. It's hard to share and coordinate practice, if you don't share the same physical space. It's much more difficult if you also don't share common artefacts. In brief, centrifugal forces of individualization and separation are coming into conflict with centripetal social needs, which were met previously and unproblematically through shared or common material objects.[64]

Certainly, no-one wants to throw away their laptops and move back into the world of time-sharing. But having blown apart the mainframe with personal computers, we have spent a decade or more valiantly struggling to re-coordinate or "network" computational practice. (It's interesting to note that MOOs, which return users to shared space, virtual though it may be, have been compared to time-sharing machines.) To prevent similar problems with other artefacts, it may be more prudent to attend from the first to material and social needs and the way in which these have been met by the circulation of public forms and to avoid succumbing to ideas of information in the abstract or of consumption as an individual and unfettered practice. Yet one response to this paradox may be the increasing individuation and personalisation of the production of information. Using new technologies, people seem to be trying to produce and consume information with less reliance on impersonal forms and more on personal warrants for legitimation. In this context, it is interesting to consider the coming of hypertext systems, which often seek to replace public, general forms with particularised, individual links. Hypertext also offers to replace linearity with random access, narrative structure with lexias, distinctions between reader and writer with an elision of consumption and production. This type of electronic text has been greeted, as I noted earlier, with some extravagant claims, and in keeping with these, hypertext is sometimes portrayed as the means to achieve the triumphant deconstruction of old institutions and forms of authority, in particular those Marinetti attacked, the academy and the library, and with these the publishing houses and the news media. It sometimes appears possible to think of hypertext only in terms of supersession and liberation.[65]

To understand hypertext and its implications, however, we should look back as well as forward. Hypertext is not unprecedented. Hypertext theorists themselves often cite the footnote as a shadowy predecessor, but there is a less obscure and more important one, overlooked not only as a consequence of the forward-looking ideology of supersession, but also as a result of the narrowness of the sociology of literacy and information. If I am right and hypertext has a significant precedent, then of course it may lack the novelty to offer either supersession or liberation; on the other hand, precedent may offer us some way to understand social implications of the technological shift to hypertext forms.

For a precedent, we should look beyond the newspaper and related pamphlet and journal forms and beyond the book and its related forms to the robust and enduring forms of "the books". For half a millennium, bookkeeping, a system of individual blocks or lexias interconnected by multiple links, created and maintained networks of information, "books mutually dependent on each other" as the Catechism of Trade and Commerce called them.[66] A conventional set of account books comprised several generically quite different types of document: the waste book, the journal, the ledger (with its distinct types of account), the letter book (with its many authors), the bill book, the cash book, the sales book, inventories, and so on.[67] The accounting system also embraced several media, including physical objects (goods, merchandise) and complex intermediate representations (tags, tallies, chits, receipts, bills of lading, and the like). Items, books, and sets of books were elaborately linked in ways that connected items not only to those in the other types of book within a single business but to other books in other businesses (for of course every credit in one "real" account is a debit in someone else's; every bill receivable represents a bill payable elsewhere). With the spread of merchant capital, these links in effect produced a global network with several of the characteristics of hypertext. It was an endless, unfinished, nonsequential, transnational, and highly practical web of circulating information. As with hypertext, there was no single or sequential route through these entries, but only ever-new and perpetually unfinished pathways created by each new reticulating reader--writer. And, as with information technology, the system was triumphantly described by great and sober minds as the ultimate rational technology of an ultimately rational society.[68]

Far from an obscure or reserved practice, this system was both geographically and socially widely dispersed. As Braudel shows, from the thirteenth century, the travels of merchants quickly spread the complex form of the partita doppia with its necessary accoutrements from the Mediterranean around the world. At its height in the nineteenth century it had in one form or another penetrated (and interconnected) almost all societies at a variety of levels, crossing class, race, and gender boundaries. Household and petty-commodity accounting, for instance, required accounts, and this was done predominantly by women. Consequently, the fishwives who surround Peter Simple's ship in foreign ports and the bourgeois English wife of Pendennis's publisher are bound together by the books they wave. The wealthy of both sexes in both capitalist and feudal societies also kept their books, so we find Colonel Newcome and Anna Karenina (and others that had neither a wife nor servant to do it for them) engaged in the same practice. The counting-house stool provided early education for many without sufficient social connections (among them Hume and Dickens). Meanwhile poor men long provided the bulk of clerks of one sort or another and probably had more to do with accounting books than discursive ones. Many of the hanged apprentices described in Linbaugh's London Hanged appear to have been united not only in death but in the skill of "casting accompts".[69]

The history of accounting as a cultural rather than just business practice is as yet too-little explored to read too much into the effects of accounting on other types of literacy. But accounting may help explain the diffusion of the common conceptions of "information" as the content of rational technology. Bookkeeping offers a process for producing apparently robust individual items or lexias and a social practice that helped naturalize a misleading concept of information as seemingly autonomous items, put into, rather than developed out of books.

The idea of information as a product of certain forms of literacy has been traced back to the emergence of the newspaper and the journal.[70] It is both possible and productive, however, to push this history back a little further. Habermas, for instance, traces related ideas back to the commercial precursors of newspapers such as Lloyds' Register, in which information from business letters was progressively commodified. The daily abstraction of items from the flow of practice and their coding into a particular "universal" form was the work of the counting-house "traffic in commodities and news". Gradually news itself became commodified as "useful truths" were transformed into the content of newspapers. As with the serendipitous entries in a waste book, but now in increasingly public ways, items from different sources were given force and unity through being translated into a particular, socially acknowledged form. Under the warranting masthead of a newspaper, these were then circulated and sold. As Kronick and Shaffner both show, a somewhat similar process went on with scientific periodicals. It is not then surprising that the journal, the refined form of the waste book, gave its name to both newspapers and scholarly publications. Other forms of standardization (indexing, alphabetisation, page numbers) were probably also refined first in the counting house before appearing in print.[71]

To take anything from this genealogy, we should note immediately a central difference between the account book and the newspaper, journal, or periodical. Unlike the last three, account books are primarily the forms of civil society, not the public sphere. The lexias of account books, relied for warrants on the personal authority and private warrant of the counting-house and family firm to which they belonged. At least until the nineteenth century and the development of the public limited liability company, any account or entry was an entirely private affair with no autonomous or public standing. Indeed, private accounts were incapable of achieving the disinterested status required for the public sphere. The sphere of business is always the sphere of private interests.

In Habermas's account, the contrasting public sphere developed out of the agonistic contest between state regulation and the bourgeois merchants of the private sphere to whom these regulations applied. For support, both state and merchants appealed to a public sense of disinterested argument. The development of pamphlets, newspapers and other public forms of information and debate must be seen as a part of this social struggle involving the attempt to transform the particularity of personalised links, private testimony, and individual power into public, impartial, and disinterested forms. Public forms and institutions were developed to be independent of the personal privilege of the individual bourgeois merchant, the aristocracy, or the monarch. And for this to happen, personal link had to be replaced by impersonal warrants. Ideas of news, information, science, and public opinion developed as part of this process. In conclusion, then, this history is not, as pastoral views would have it, ignorant of lexias, links, and webs but one that developed very much in direct opposition to their limitations.

Undoubtedly, hypertext is clearly distinct from the old technologies of the public sphere. It remains to be shown, however, how distinct it is from the preceding private forms and, in consequence, how much genuine liberation it can really achieve. Undoubtedly, as a concept and a social context, the public sphere and its forms and institutions are not without serious problems. Nevertheless, a retreat into civil society (glimpsed in some of the more Hobbesian enclosures of cyberspace), if that's what hypertext presages, seems a far more problematic development. It would, for instance, be foolish to believe as some seem to that putting warranting back on an individual, personal basis makes everybody equal. This may remove the trappings of power, but, unlike the move to the public sphere, it leaves the sources and structures of power unaffected.

Of course, my own argument insists that technology alone cannot drive us into this privatised corner and that it is particularly important to look beyond the rhetoric of determinism, supersession, and liberation to the actual social--material practices that are developing. Here, to some extent, a more sanguine picture emerges. The popularity of hypermedia on the World Wide Web shows that much of the rhetoric of hypertext is quite inaccurate and ineffectual. Text is not being decomposed into Barthean lexias; rather very conventional whole documents, with much of their authority and their material origins putatively ascertainable, are being linked. Divisions between author and reader, producer and consumer, are being technologically enforced.

On the other hand, as these features indicate, much of the Web is being used as a conduit for old institutional forms (the careful scrutiny of institutional authority thinly inscribed in domain and site addresses of Internet URLs suggests this) and so instead of being an alternative it is probably more dependent on older forms than it need be. It will take, I suspect, more serious analysis than has yet been undertaken and a clearer recognition of the productive interdependence of technology and information to avoid either regression to private forms or dependence on older institutional ones. My own goal is not to demonise the new, but to suggest that the facile demonisation of the old, and the book in particular, allows aspects of the new to slip by unexamined, to the ultimate detriment of both old and new.

6 Conclusion

The debate about the book is caught between two voices a little like those heard at the opening of A Tale of Two Cities, one proclaiming the best of times and the other the worst, one proclaiming the future is our salvation and another pointing back to a lost Eden. I have tried to argue that, with regard to the book, both these positions too easily separate the past from the future, the simple from the complex, technology from society, and information from technology. To escape both utopian and dystopian oversimplifications, we need first to question such ready separations.

We should, for example, look not technology in isolation, but at its social-material and historical context. Enlarging our viewpoint in this way sets aside ideas of simple supersession (the separation of the past from the future) or liberation (the separation of information from technology) and avoids quasi-Weberian dichotomies between, for instance, progressive technological logic and regressive social illogic or between technologically tractable constraints and socially useful resources. Instead, we discover that the technological and the cultural, constraint and resource are finely and inextricably interwoven. If we consider the book in this light, we should discover that despite its apparent simplicity, it has a great deal to tell us and will, for some time yet, be both a useful, practical tool and a resourceful precedent for designers of alternative technologies to go by.

So if Victor Hugo is to remain our guide in these matters, to the Archdeacon's fatalist prediction of supersession, I prefer a scene from another work -- that claustrophobic moment in Les Miserables where Valjean lies alive in his coffin and, having expected liberation, hears the unexpected and terrifying clods of earth dropping slowly into the grave. His life, the words on the page seem to say, is over; but, of course, the 700 odd pages remaining in our right hand materially insist, to the contrary, that Valjean is quite unlikely to die soon. Nonetheless, as if to caution the overly sanguine, Hugo called this section "Cemeteries Take What They Are Given". If nothing else, this offers a useful caution not to permit the burial of what yet has useful life.


Thanks to Laura Hartman, Jean Lave, Geoff Nunberg, and Shawn Parkhurst for patiently reading earlier drafts of this paper.

[1]The "coming of the book" was famously mapped in L. Febvre & H-J. Martin, The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing, 1450-1800 trans. D. Gerard (London: Verso, 1984, first published 1958). Its elegy was read just four years later by H.M. McLuhan The Gutenberg Galaxy: Making of Typographic Man (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1962). McLuhan, less a technological determinist than some allow, did not make the "going" as brief as more contemporary accounts, for he backdates the beginning of the "going" some 150 years (see p. 3). Nonetheless, the transition from coming to going remains brief, for this dates the "going" barely a decade after Febvre and Martin close the "coming".

[2]For a recent example of the gloomy, see S. Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (Boston, MA: Faber & Faber, 1994); for the triumphant, see R. Lanham, The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts (Chicago IL: University of Chicago, 1994).

[3]Butler's Erewhonians destroyed all machines; books then became the only way future generations knew about these malign objects (S. Butler, Erewhon (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1970), chch. 23 & 24).

[4]The problem with predictions about the demise of older artefacts such as the book, I suspect, is that they actually harm the old less than the new. Underestimating what replacement really involves and overselling what technology can currently achieve too easily combine to give new technologies an unfortunately bathetic launch into the world. In the case of the book, for some of the elaborate social-material processes that Jerome McGann has suitably embraced with the term "textual intercourse", we have been proudly offered technologies with all the clinical charm and less of the physical versatility of a three-by-five index card or a seamless roll of paper (Jerome McGann, The Textual Condition (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991) p. 3). Faced with these, the book's polymorphous appeal remains relatively undisturbed. (Indeed, many who proclaim its end most loudly choose the book itself to make their case, which has much of the logic of making yourself executor of your own will.) On the other hand, vaunting predictions coupled with limited utility have already diminished enthusiasm for potential hypertext and multimedia alternatives.

[5]H. Petrosky, The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 331.

[6]Of course, the hinge also survives because it is technologically simple.

[7]Williams, Television (New York: Shocken Books, 1974).

[8]It's unwise to be too complacent about the resilience of the book. It may well survive, but librarians who have had their acquisitions budgets cut and colleges that have had whole libraries cut in the name of alternatives that still don't exist are unlikely to have those funds restored. The proclamation that the "library without walls" exists strikes me as an opportunistic move by budget cutters rather than a reasonable, if mistaken prediction.

[9]W. Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History", Illuminations: Essays and reflections, ed. H. Arendt. (New York: Schocken Books, 1969) p. 257. Erewhonians lived by a similar image: "Man is drawn through life with his face to the past instead of the future." Erewhon, p. 181.

[10]See, for example, Lanham, who talks of "this remarkable convergence of social, technological, and theoretical pressures" (Electronic Word, p. 23) or G.P. Landow's Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992). F. Jameson, Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994) p. xi. McLuhan, Gutenberg Galaxy.

[11]V. Hugo, Notre Dame of Paris trans. J. Sturrock (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1978), pp. 188-189. W. Mitchell, City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995). Landow (this volume) rightly points out that bibliophiles will fetishise the book and argue as though all books were incunabula if it helps their argument. This image of Mitchell's makes it clear that technophiles do the very same thing when it suits them. This convergence endorses my central point that in many ways the bibliophiles and the technophiles are more alike than different.

[12]Toffler, Future Shock, p. 21. N. Negroponte, Being Digital (New York: Basic Books, 1995), p. 4 (Negroponte's idea of a "new culture" looks modest beside his dominant assumption of the new ontology of "digital being"); Lanham, Electronic Word, p. 23, E. Feigenbaum & P. McCorduck, Fifth Generation: Artificial Intelligence and Japan's Computer Challenge to the World (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1983); A. Toffler, Future Shock (London: Pan Books, 1971).

[13]See, for example, E. Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983) and The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe 2 vols. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979). The degree of determinism embraced by Eisenstein's argument has been much debated (see P. McNally, ed., The Advent of Printing: Historians of Science Respond to Elizabeth Eisenstein's The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. Occasional paper 10 (Montreal, CA: Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, McGill University, 1987)).

[14]Landow, Hypertext, p. 2.

[15]Jameson, Postmodernism, p. ix; Olsen quoted in M. Ford, "Without a City Wall", TLS, 4798, March 17, 1995. F. Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. G. Bennington and Br. Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1979), p 3. For Baudrillard, see for example J. Baudrillard, Simulacres et Simulations (Paris: Editions Galilé, 1981), e.g., pp. 2ff, where the count is particularly high. Baudrillard has perhaps amassed more cultural capital than Toffler and given postmodernism a grander status than futurology, but his views of simulacra often appear as little more than a frenzied extension Toffler's early assumption that "Simulated and non-simulated experiences will also become combined in ways that will sharply challenge man's grasp of reality" Future Shock, p. 213. Baudrillard's trick has been to say this state is here, now, where Toffler, no doubt as a wise professional speculation, set it off in the future.

[16]H. James, The American Scene (London: Granville, 1987) p. 66. For the close link between development and marketing, see J.S. Brown, "Changing the Game", in preparation.

[17]Jameson, Postmodernism, p. xiv.

[18]See, for example, L. Niethammer, Posthistoire: Has History Come to an End? trans. P. Camiller (London: Verso, 1992); P. Anderson, "The Ends of History" in A Zone of Engagement (London: Verso, 1992), pp. 279-376.

[19]See, for example, W.J. Bate, The Burden of the Past, 1970; H. Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence, 1973; R. Williams, The Country and the City, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973); S. Toulmin, The Collective Use and Evolution of Concepts (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972); J. Roberts, ed., Art Has no History: The Making and Unmaking of Modern Art (London: Verso, 1994).

[20]Bate, Burden of the Past, p. 4 passim.

[21]F.T. Marinetti, "Premier Manifeste du Futurisme", in Guido Ballo, Françoise Cachin-Nora, Jean Leymarie, and Franco Russoli, Le Futurisme (Paris: Editions des Musés Nationaux, 1973). R. Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. Second edition. (New York: Praegar Publishing, 1967), p. 100. While much of Marinetti's manifesto sounds quite familiar to postmodern ears, there is one noticeable difference. Where the Manifeste set goals to pursue, more recent supersessive claims often replace iron resolve with digital determinism. Certainly, The Postmodern Condition presents not an option but a fait accompli.

[22]R. Williams, The Country and the City, pp. 13-33. As Williams makes clear, a focus on the differences between generations tends to obscure differences of class. So in Digital Being, Negroponte claims there's no need to worry about social divisions between "information rich" and "information poor"; the only significant division, as he sees it, is between the generation of analogue adults and digital kids. This, his extrapolative mind tells him in an argument common among the digerati, time will erase. Yet Reginald Stuart points out that in 1989 nearly half of households with an income of $75,000 or more owned computers while under 5% of households with an income of under $15,000 had them. R. Stuart, "High-Tech Redlining", Utne Reader, 68, 1995, p.73.

[23]The strategy of pastoralisation is extremely complex. It plays with both time and space, calling to mind L.P. Hartley's resonant phrase, "The past is another country". The postmodern condition, according to Lyotard, is a property of the "highly developed" alone. So like the past, other countries take on the primitive, pastoral mantle and are subject to similar dismissive judgments. Edward Said's concept of "orientalism" elaborates the effects of this elision between the past and the primitive (E. Said, Orientalism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978)).

[24]Baudrillard, Simulacres, p. 5.

[25]Quotations from Lanham, Electronic Word, p. 9 and p. 4, and Landow, Hypertext, p. 11.

[26]R. Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution trans. L. Cochrane (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991), p. 90. The period of "coming of the book" involved almost from the start books that made fun of naive and gullible readers.

[27]J. Rothenberg, "Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Documents", Scientific American, 272 (1) 1995: 42-47; Terry Cook, "It's 10 O'Clock: Do you know where your data are", Technology Review, January 1995 [Online] Available WWW:

[28]I discuss some of these issues in section IV, below.

[29]M. Foucault, "Neitzsche, Genealogy, History" in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Interviews and Essays trans. D. Bouchard and S. Simon (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977); idem, The Archaeology of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language, trans. A. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon, 1972). L. Althusser, For Marx trans. B. Brewster (London: Verso, 1990). Ozenfant, Foundations of Modern Art trans. J. Rodker (New York: Dover Publications, 1952), pp. 43-83.

[30]See, for example, R. Williams, The Long Revolution: An Analysis of the Democratic, Industrial, and Cultural Changes Transforming our Society. (London: Chatto & Windus, 1961).

[31]V. Bush, "As We May Think", Atlantic Monthly, 176 (July), 1945: 101-108; M. de Landa, "Virtual Environments and the Emergence of Synthetic Reasoning" in M. Derby, ed., Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberspace -- special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly 92 (4) 1993: 793-815. M. Schrage, "Revolutionary Evolutionist", Wired, July 1995: 120-124; Jameson, Postmodern Condition, p. 39.

[32]Toulmin, who analyses claims of supersession in science and history, in particular in the works of Kuhn and Collingwood, is strong in his condemnation of extreme versions of this strategy: "the absolutist reaction . . . emancipates itself from the complexities of history and anthropology only at the price of irrelevance", p. 65.

[33]Althusser, For Marx, pp. 76-79.

[34]Williams, The Country and the City, p. 21.

[35]M. Foucault, "What is an Author" in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, trans. D. Bouchard and S. Simon. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), pp. 121 & 118.

[36] L. Marx, "The Ideology of Technology and 'Postmodern' pessimism" in M. Smith & L. Marx, eds., Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism (Boston, MA: MIT Press, 1994), pp. 237-258. Even the dystopic cyberfiction of Gibson and others presents both sides. On one are the corporate empires, and on the other the hacker resistance. This conveniently allows all programmers, however large the corporation they work for, to identify with the forces of liberation.

[37]The aphorism "information wants to be free", often quoted, is attributed to Brand in J. Barlow, "Selling Wine Without Bottles: The Economy of Mind on the Global Net" [Available FTP (or Telnet): Directory: \Pub\Publications: John_Perry_Barlow: idea_economy.article]; Bolter, Writing Space p.21; Barlow, "Selling Wine"; T. Nelson quoted in E. Davis, "Techgnosis, Magic, Memory, and the Angels of Information" in M. Derby, ed., Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberspace -- special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly 92 (4) 1993: 585-616, p. 613. B. Sterling, "Free as Air, Free as Water, Free as Knowledge" [Available FTP (or Telnet): Directory: \Pub\Publications: Bruce_Sterling: Free_As_Air.speech].

[38]The influential Vannevar Bush spotted the ideological potential in such rhetoric when he wrote the promotional report Science--The Endless Frontier at the request of the president in 1945, about the time he was pondering the possibilities of his influential memex. Bush, Science--The Endless Frontier: A Report to the President for Postwar Scientific Research (Washington D.C.: National Science Foundation, 1945). The report was requested by Roosevelt. See R. White & P. Limerick, The Frontier in American Culture (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994).

[39]Futurologists, particularly when they take a flight from simple technological extrapolation, often show dualistic leanings. Thus, for example, Kahn and Weiner break from sensible projections about automatic teller machines and on-line libraries to more exotic ideas about personal flying platforms, changeable sex, and controllable diets and body shapes. All reflect a spiritual yearning to escape the material inertia of the human body. See H. Kahn & A. Weiner "One Hundred Technical Innovations Likely in the Next 33 Years" in American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Toward the Year 2000: Work in Progress (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968).

[40] J. Milton, Paradise Lost and Selected Poetry and Prose, ed. Northrop Frye (New York: Reinhart and Co, 1951), p. 464; J. Barlow, "Selling Wine". Barlow's image is more apt for his central issue, the relationship between music and discs and tapes. The relationship between a song and a disc is not the same as that between text and book. The latter relation is more akin to the relation of music to instrument or song to voice. Barlow perhaps also overlooks the point that while good wine can be poured out of bottles, it attains its maturity in them. The quality of wine in the glass is not indifferent to its career in the bottle.

[41]Lanham, Electronic Word, pp. 21, 105, & 219; Landow, Hypertext, p. 10-11; Morgan in Landow, Hypertext, p. 10; Bolter, Writing Space, p. 143.

[42]Roland Barthes, S/Z: An Essay trans. R. Miller (New York: Hill & Wang, 1974), p. 13ff; idem, "From Work to Text" in J. Harari, ed., Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979), p. 74.

[43]Barthes, S/Z, p. 13 passim.

[44]Lyotard, Postmodern Condition, esp. p. 37ff.

[45]Futurologists from the military include such highly influential figures as Herman Kahn, much admired by Daniel Bell, and Vannevar Bush, much admired by hypertext champions. The idea of the weapon to end all weapons is very old, and has probably helped to fund military procurement since procurement began. Such weapons appear in such futurological exemplars as Bulwer Lytton's Coming Race (New York: Hinton & Co, 1873) and Wells's film Things to Come (1940). A. Marvell, "Horation Ode", in The Complete Poems, ed. E. Story Donno (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1972). The more down-to-earth Caliban was perhaps wiser than Ariel when he acknowledged his only option would be to have "a new master, get a new man".

[46]In the end, then, liberationists tend not only to choose their allies incautiously, but to ensnare themselves in a supersessive claim that both relies on technology while claiming to escape it. In some cases, this has the curious effect (often signalled in requests for "transparency") of demanding of new technologies a self-effacement that insists on the indifference of what they carry to the carrier. In the nineteenth century, Leo Marx argues, American refused to see the machine in their ideologically pastoral garden. The trait seems to have reappeared in contemporary attempts to render the role of modern technology invisible (L. Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964)). The combination of supersession and liberation suggest that technology must simultaneously be present and wish itself absent. This view entails that the information to be self-sustaining and the technology self-consuming. For thoughts on looking "at" and "through" technology, see Lanham, Electronic Word.

[47]Bolter, Writing Space, p. 183.

[48]Here I draw not only on Empson's work, in particular Seven Types of Ambiguity, (London, Chatto & Windus, 1947) and Some Versions of Pastoral: A Study of the Pastoral Form in Literature (Norfolk, CN: New Directions, [1950]), but also Paul de Mann's discussion of Empson in Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), pp. 235-241.

[49]The influence of dualism on technological thought is not wholly surprising. Information technology in general and artificial intelligence in particular has a long and problematic history of trying to separate mind and matter. For some helpful insight into the pervasiveness of dualistic thinking or "Cartesianism", see H. Gumbrecht, "A Farewell to Interpretation" in H. Gumbrecht and K. Pfeiffer, Materialities of Communication trans. W. Whobrey (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995). Thanks to Shawn Parkhurst for this reference.

[50]Some of the ideas offered here are sketched more fully in J.S. Brown and P. Duguid, "Borderline Issues: Social and Material Aspects of Design" and idem, "Patrolling the Border: A Reply", both in Human Computer Interaction 9(1) 3-35; 137-149.

[51]I.A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1960, first published 1924), p. 1. See J.S. Brown and P. Duguid, "Borderline Issues, and Landow (this volume) for further reflections on the significance of thinking of books as machines.

[52]From this point on, for ease, I refer unashamedly to the content of books as "information", though my central point is that the two are only conceptually, not materially separable.

[53]See M.J. Reddy, "The Conduit Metaphor" in A. Ortney, ed., Metaphor and Thought (Boston, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp. 284-324.

[54]McGann, Textual Condition, p. 10.

[55]McGann, Textual Condition, D. McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of the Text, (London: British Library, 1986); G. Genette, Seuils (Paris: Editions du Seuils, 1987); R. Chartier, Order; idem, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution trans. L. Cochrane (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991), R. Darnton The Business of the Enlightenment: The Publishing History of the Encyclopédie (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979). Though these authors raise related issues, there are clear differences among them. See John Sutherland, "Publishing History: A Hole in the Centre of Literary Sociology" in P. Desan, et al., eds., Literature and Social Practice, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 267-282. For comments on the distinctive view of bibliographic criticism, see Chartier, Order, p. 25ff.

[56]M. de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. S. Randall (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984); R. Johnson, "The Story So Far: And Further Transformations" in D. Punter, ed. Introduction to Contemporary Cultural Studies (London: Longman, 1986) pp. 277-313.

[57]For Sterling's comments, see section III, above.

[58]This idea that journalists make news is a development of E.H. Carr's notion that it is historians who make history. See E.H. Carr, What is History: The G.M. Trevelyan Lectures, (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1964).

[59]The newspaper, Huizinga argues, "fulfills in America the cultural function of the drama of Aeschylus. I mean that it is the expression through which a people -- a people numbering many millions -- becomes aware of its spiritual unity. The millions, as they do their careless reading every day at breakfast, in the subway, on the train and the elevated, are performing a horrendous and formless ritual" (J. Huizinga, America: A Dutch Historian's Vision from Afar and Near trans. H. Rowen (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1972) p.243).

[60]Lyotard, Postmodern Condition, p. 8.

[61]In a discussion of Russell, Frege, and the Vienna Circle, Toulmin makes a similar point: "They have not sufficiently faced the question how any abstraction can be self-validating, or can guarantee its own relevance" (Human Understanding, p 59). See also Chartier, Order of Books, pp. 28-29.

[62]For the idea of "poaching", see de Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life, ch. 12; for an insightful discussion of transgression, see P. Stallybrass & A. White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986).

[63]Chartier, Order, p. 3; Genette, p. 8; McGann, Textual Condition, p. 13. McGann assumes that materiality only has significance for literary works, but such a view is far too narrow. Ziman, for instance, has argued that science too is a product of similar social-material processes that create "public knowledge" and insert it into the system of consumption. Latour and Woolgar's sociology of science reaches similar conclusions. See J. Ziman, Public Knowledge: An Essay Concerning the Social Dimension of Science (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1968); B. Latour & S. Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986). More generally, the distinction McGann makes between "noise" and "information" assumes that constraints can always be distinguished from resources.

[64]This paradox is laid out more fully in J.S. Brown & P. Duguid, "Borderline Issues". As I read it, Derrida's distinction between speech and writing tends to suggest that all distal coordination is not merely problematic but impossible, because communicating artifacts introduce temporal deferral passing beyond immediate negotiation. I am suggesting that in fact social systems of negotiation have allowed coordination that this abstract philosophical scepticism cannot explain away. See J. Derrida, Writing and Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977).

[65]For the characteristics of modern hypertext, see Landow, Hypertext and Critical Theory, pp. 4-5; Bush, "As We May Think"; T. Nelson, Literary Machines (Sausalito, CA: Mindful Press, 1990). P. Delany & G. Landow, eds., Hypermedia and Literary Studies (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994). For an insightful and more moderate and practical approach, see J. McGann, "The Rational of Hypertext" [Online] Available WWW: Landow suggests that the electronic links of modern systems provide a certain ease that supersedes earlier forms. Ease certainly seems important, but not defining. Moreover, the importance of ease is often missing from assaults on the codex book.

[66]William Pinnock, Catechism of Trade and Commerce: Intended to Lay the Basis of Practical Commercial Knowledge in the Youthful Mind . . . (London: G. & W.B. Whittaker, 1828), p. 26.

[67]There were two main types of accounting, single and double entry. Usually only large firms (and not all those, the Dutch East India Company being a classic exception) used a full set of books and double-entry accounting. Many businesses and most individuals kept single-entry accounts, but even these usually involved some sort of journal and cash-book as well as the accounts themselves. Personal accounts are often an intriguing combination of all three.

[68]Weber saw "rational capital accounting" as the "most general presupposition for the existence of present-day capitalism" (M. Weber, General Economic History, quoted in A. Giddens & D. Held, eds., Classes, Power, and Conflict: Classical and Contemporary Debates (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1982), p. 81). According to Braudel, Sombart also saw it as the essence of the rationality of capitalist practice, arguing intriguingly that capitalism and bookkeeping were as close to one another as form and content. See F. Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism vol. 2 The Wheels of Commerce, trans. S. Reynolds (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992), p. 573 passim; B.S. Yamey, "Scientific Bookkeeping and the Rise of Capitalism" EHR (2d Series) 1 (2 &3) 1949, pp. 99-113. As with other supersessive arguers, both Sombart and Weber have problems with their periodising, for the technology of bookkeeping long predated the capitalist society they so closely linked to it.

[69]G. Anderson, Victorian Clerks (Manchester UK: Manchester University Press, 1976); P. Linebaugh, The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

[70]See, for example, G. Nunberg (this volume).

[71]J. Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society trans. T. Burger and F. Lawrence (Boston: MIT Press. 1989), ch. 1. D. Kronick, A History of Scientific and Technical Periodicals: The Origins and Development of the Scientific and Technological Press, 1665-1790 (New York: Scarecrow Press, 1962); A. Schaffner, "The Future of Scientific Journals". The relationship between bookkeeping and the novel's moral accounting (with Robinson Crusoe as an emblematic instance of the suspect practice of keeping two sets of books) deserves greater exploration. See some suggestive comments in R. Teichgraeber, "'A Yankee Diogenes': Thoreau and the Market" in T. Haskell and R. Teichgraeber, The Culture of the Market: Historical Essays (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 293-325.

Top Home About the book About the authors