The antithesis of close reading
Although the Web did not give us the hypertext novel or essay, it does now offer us unprecedented access to texts (and images and videos) of all sorts. Ted Nelson was on the right track when he asserted that global hypertext would give rise to a sense of liberation. Infinite fields of texts are available to be downloaded, appropriated, taken apart, added to, or ignored—whatever the reader, now also a writer, wishes. The problem is to find the desired text in the plenitude; once found, the text is open for any use. This combination of reading and rewriting is the antithesis of close reading, above all, because it does not respect the sanctity of the original text nor care about its place in a traditional canon. These new practices can lead to casual appropriation without any concern for copyright or authorship. Yet what is happening to intellectual property in books and all other media forms illustrates the contradictions of our media culture—radically changing and yet unwilling to let go of the assumptions of an earlier age.