Donald Moran

In Janet Murray’s introduction to her book, Hamlet on the Holodeck, she expresses both her fears and excitements about how computers are growing in popularity and altering how people do things.  Murray is a professor at MIT and used to work at IBM.  Through her experience at IBM where she was exposed to computers long before the average person, she split people in the company into two categories.  One was “suits” and the other was “hackers”.  The suits were the managers and people who helped to run the company and the hackers were the people who worked within the world of the computers.  With this division, Murray viewed herself more as a hacker; someone who wanted to use technology for fun and to help people express themselves in new ways instead of just count the number of words in books.  As a professor in the Experimental Study Group at MIT, Murray was once again exposed to the world of computers.  At this point, the students created artificial worlds and did things with computers that had not even been considered by Murray back when she worked at IBM. 

            The part of the introduction that really caught my attention was when Murray described a woman’s reaction to her presentation about computers.  The woman expressed her devout love of books and threatened Murray if Murray talked badly about books.  At this point Murray remarked, “Her reaction was a sign that the new technologies are extending our powers faster than we can assimilate the change.”  In the next paragraph she goes on to say that, “The computer is not the enemy of the book. It is the child of print culture.”  These two ideas reflect very well the cataclysmic situation in time that we are caught in with the emergence of the computer as a possible replacement of the book.  It seems that people like Sven Birkerts becomes extremely narrow minded when they feel that the world as they know it might be on the verge of a shift.  This was true of the woman who threatened Murray at a presentation.  She let her passion for the book and physical pages cloud her perception of good research and intellectual work.  This was because the information was portrayed in a way that she was not accustomed to.  Instead of rejecting something for the sole reason that it is not what we normally use, people should look at the resources that are available to them and see how they can be of use and not harm.

            I completely agree with Murray’s view on computers and the world of technology shifting the way that people write.  Murray is a more credible source in my opinion than someone like Birkerts because Murray has been exposed to both sides of the argument.  She has worked at IBM, the pioneer company in computer technology, and she has been a professor at a prestigious university.  Birkerts is solely a professor and has not had as much contact with technology as Murray.  Her view that both the computer and the book have value is very true.  I agree with this not because I cannot make up my mind on the subject.  Just because one can read text on a computer does not mean the book is worthless.  Although the two mediums are different in nature that does not mean one should be condemned and the other praised.  Shifts in expression and culture are things that take time and will always face opposition.  With any significant change, one cannot help but be skeptical as to its repercussions.  The computer no doubt will alter the way people write and do various other things in their lives.  In response to this, people should embrace the aspects of technology that are useful for them instead of attack the aspects that are not.

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