Monday, March 21, 2005

POSTS ON THE NET AS LITERATURE

I've only been using a computer for about four years. Before using the computer I used to be an avid reader of physical books and I wrote a good deal too.

Coming from the pre-computer age, I always thought of books as the most "respectable" form of literature. Anyone who was really serious, reasonably gifted in writing and had something worthwhile to say wrote a book, or wanted so. So I thought.

For quite a while I thought that it is a "pity" that so many people, me most definitely included, are doing so much posting on the net. I felt as though we are dilettantes who, if we were serious and reasonably talented writers, would be writing books. Some people have thousands of posts on the net. I always thought that it is a shame that they do not invest that same time writing books.

It suddenly hit me just the other day (wake up and smell the coffee, Doreen) that the writing that is going on on the net is every bit as "legitimate" and "respectable" as writing books - and it's often just as high-quality as the material that is published in physical form as well. Peoples' personal archives comprise books.

To be sure, there are still physical books, and many of them have been put into PDF format, but we, those of us who post on the net and have extensive personal archives, have invented a new form of literature that deserves to be called literature in every sense of the word.

As any editor knows, few writers have impeccable spelling and grammatical skills. I, for sure, do not, not by an editor's standards. That is what editors are for. In fact, an editor once told me that editors like work handed to them that is not perfect. It makes them feel necessary - keeps the bread and butter coming in. I agree that the quality of the English is not what it could or should be on the net; but just as there are editors in the physical printing business, there can be editors or work mostly on the net. Spell checkers and even the grammar checkers on Word are not nearly enough to produce good, clean writing, for that we need the unerring eye of skilled editors.

In general people today do not write as well as they did a generation ago. I wouldn't presume to dare to compare my English to the rigorous standards that my mother was taught to write with in the States in her time.

Yes, there are certainly bugs to work out, as with all new developments. We are learning how to interact in new ways by trial and error. We are developing a whole new form of society and mode of communication on the net. A vast new vocabulary is developing. It's exciting!

There are those who would argue with my contention that posts on the net constitute literature in every sense of the word. I think they are holding on to an idea of what constitutes literature that is dated, and therefore not appreciating the fact that new genres are developing with the advent of the computer age. I too was caught up in the old way of thinking of literature, and that is precisely why I could not see the new developing before my eyes. Literature need not be scholarly, ponderous or printed. A literary work need not be a continuum. It can be written in installments or in diary form or even in dribs and drabs of free-flowing association. A given post of two or three lines is probably not literature in and of itself, granted, but when taken together with many other posts a given author has made on the net it becomes part of a work.

There are people who have hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of posts on the board. We would see those posts forming pieces of literature if we were to collate and edit them, pick out the salient points in them and cull the extraneous. Of course, the "spellos" and grammatical errors would need to be cleaned up as well.

Think of individual posts as pieces in a mosaic. The beauty is that the individual posts can be inlaid in the mosaic in various ways, thus creating many works, or a kaleidoscopic work. Literature on the net is far more dynamic than literature in print.

Often that which was culled from given posts on a decided-upon topic would constitute a separate work, or more than one.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

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