Reading Response—Hacking the word

This article is an excellent corollary to Liu’s “From reading to social computing.” James Bridle says that, the internet is yet to feel like a “literary plot device” because we still hold on to notions of the “single-authored work.” Liu’s hint at “democratization and decentralization of knowledge” emphasizes the same.

Bridle’s idea of “the first native literary form of the network” is fan fiction. He says “It seems native to the network because it embodies the network’s inherent disposition towards hacking and world-building, overlapping fictions which take from anywhere to generate new stories.”

However, this is Web 2.0 we are talking about. Every form of literature that exists digitally could be called native to the Web because the very medium of expression, compared to print media, is different. For example, reading a review in the newspaper is a vastly different experience to reading a review on online. Reading the review online opens up the possibility of simultaneous comments. Readers post comments, “like” them, insert links to other similar, useful, or relevant comments as well as other web sites. It is a wholly alive, walking, talking dynamic community experience. It is a wholesome celebration of literature—and one that only the web makes possible.

Of note here is Liu’s example of using social computing in literary study. He explains how his students used Facebook to enact the Shakespearean play Romeo and Juliet. They created profile pages of all the characters, created “friend” relations between them, created the Facebook group called “The Streets of Verona” whose message-board forum staged a large fight between the Capulets and the Montagues and so on. In essence, according to Liu, “Facebook became a platform for character or role-playing. It allowed the students to study the play as if they were directors staging it in an alternative medium.” This is an excellent example of creating literature native to the Web. Using Facebook to enact a Shakespearean play is a whole novel form of literary expression and one that only the Web, specifically Web 2.0, could have allowed. In fact this could be taken, in Bridle’s own words, as an example of “fiction, which takes from anywhere to generate new stories.”

Bridle in his own words seems to echo Liu’s ideas of “co-authorship”. He says, “But the true literatures of the network will emerge when we abandon notions of the single-authored work, when we abandon authority entirely, … when we truly begin to understand, and describe, the technologically-saturated culture we are already living in.”

But while he feels we are yet to get there, I think we have already made leaps and bounds. Every form of expression on the Web is native to the Web, and by extension—true literature of the Web.

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