Reblog: Plato, the invention of writing, and the e-book

I have one final re-blogged post from the past that I parked last year on my library’s blog site. Take a look at “Plato, the invention of writing, and the e-book” from January 2009. As in my previous re-blogged post, the topic isn’t open access per se but musings over how long-standing scholarly communications traditions in the Humanities can successfully negotiate a fuller embrace of online technologies, which are essential if open access is ultimately to succeed.

This post originally appeared on my now inactive blog, Voyage of the Paradigm Ship, January 19, 2009.

The following is a two-part email I sent to my good friend and colleague (he is chair of the faculty Library Committee) on March 27 and 29, 2006, after he sent me an editorial written by Edward Tenner in The New York Times, entitled “Searching for Dummies” (March 26, 2006). My friend is a history professor and an avid bibliophile. Though he has largely “come around” to my way of thinking regarding the benefits of electronic delivery of journal literature, he is far more resistive when it comes to surrendering the marvelous technology expressed as the printed book. He knows he has been socialized into this preference, but insists that a full embrace of computer and electronic information resource technology is damaging his students’ capacity to think through complex ideas in a sustained and deep way. I retort that our task should not be rejection of the technology but the instruction into its proper use, and building an awareness (understanding) both of its advantages/limitations and its impact (both good and ill) on human culture and knowledge. In my argument I drew an analogy from another ancient technology—writing itself.

Greetings. Further to our on-going conversation (print vs. electronic information resources), here is an interesting excerpt from Plato’s Phaedrus, where Socrates tells a story of the Egyptian god Theuth, the inventor of, among other things, writing. I have not read the full piece, but it is interesting here to see Plato’s critique of the losses sustained by writing (and reading) as a new technology over oral culture and true memory…

Posted in "The Hat Tip", Open Access
One comment on “Reblog: Plato, the invention of writing, and the e-book
  1. […] be excited? Both at once? With a propensity for drawing historical analogies for guidance (e.g., here and here), I was attracted, in a decidedly non-satirical way, to the last part of this excerpt in […]

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