The Fault in Our Cultural Infrastructure

Is the act of reading a text less valuable when the medium is not textual? In “Pixel Dust: Illusions of Innovation in Scholarly Publishing” Johanna Drucker assigns a higher value to an understanding of information in traditionally published scholarship, as though encountering other forms of media are automatically reductive to a text’s message. She draws the conclusion that ways of knowing are determined through critical thought- that “Novelty and insight are effects of reading, not byproducts or packaging”. Although Drucker develops the idea of the importance of continued scholarship in the humanities, she leaves out the glass half full idea that new forms of scholarship have the potential to perform more than supplemental or decorative tasks. I think it is valid to be wary of innovation in one sense, as we are often taught to consider and engage with visual and graphic material differently (these forms are in our minds first as forms of entertainment or advertising that are not ‘serious’.) The article addresses the idea that a new form of rhetoric is being produced, and by the same token a new form of reading should be also. Forms that once existed only in the domains of visual art and design are now being used in fields that traditionally developed an academic discourse through text. Innovation in these fields might add to rather than become a roadblock to development within the humanities, providing wider access to and a wider understanding of new forms of knowledge. A screen is flattening, but the open boundaries of publishing digitally can be seen as a way for academic writers to broaden what is considered ‘publication’. I don’t suppose it is a question of medium, but rather a question of assigning value to the ways in which we learn. If this is the case, the ideas discussed in the article might also address the valuation of the arts in systems of education as supplemental or decorative areas of study.