Information

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Not that long ago, we were said to be living in the “information age.” This was an age of dizzying transformation characterized by, among other things, a new awareness of what came to be called “information technologies,” or technologies for storing, retrieving, transmitting, and manipulating data. Of course, humans had been doing those things for quite some time, but what seemed new to the information age was both the means of doing so - using digital computers - and the relative speed and ease with which these things could now be done. During the information age, that is, the word “information” was bound up with digital technologies; what made the information age so thoroughly informatic was not information per se, but rather the development and use of digital information technologies. Today, however, “information” and “digital” appear to be disaggregating. Although many in the US interact with information technologies every day, it’s not clear that we still call them that - we seem more likely to say digital technologies - or that we still refer to ourselves as living in the information age. Something has shifted, even as, or perhaps because, these technologies have become more ubiquitous. We can glimpse this shift in novels from the first decade of the twenty-first century, including two that I examine in depth here: Ellen Ullman’s The Bug (2003) and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes (2010). These texts are indicative of larger questions about reading itself that many early-twenty-first-century novels pose. Through their formal engagements with digital technologies, such novels demonstrate that the movement “beyond” the information age involves more than a shift in terminology; it also involves changing attitudes about how to read novels in an era in which much of the reading we do takes place in digital, not print, form. Let’s begin by considering how literary scholars have read the relationship between literature and information technologies. The dominant understanding of this relationship has been as one of symbiosis. In this reading, literature reflects, refracts, and constructs itself as part of the information technologies of its day. To take some paradigmatic examples, N. Katherine Hayles and John Johnston have discussed how texts by mainstays of post-1945 American literature like Thomas Pynchon, William Gibson, and Don DeLillo enact new forms of subjectivity that reflect the rise of global digital communication networks in the second half of the twentieth century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAmerican Literature in Transition, 2000-2010
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages181-192
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781316569290
ISBN (Print)9781107149298
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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    Thomas, L. (2017). Information. In American Literature in Transition, 2000-2010 (pp. 181-192). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316569290.013