Square and Round

square and round I was idly surfing around my English translation of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil on one of my reader apps on my iPod [happened to be Stanza] – when I came across an interesting snippet – and I think the translation is accurate as English and German do translate reasonably well both ways – here it is parsed:

The Germans … made things square – they invented printing  [from the Preface, page 16/272 of my Stanza edition – probably initially from the Gutenberg project.]

Well, the web….. and now the coming of multimedia eBooks has begun to make things round again.

I do not know exactly what Nietzsche meant here [but who really knows what Nietzsche meant anywhere!], but what I take from it is the same thing I harp on a lot – that printing introduced the habit and the domination of linear thinking over all other forms.  The other half of that thought is the new technologies for reading – which allow the incorporation of links, videos, music, photographs, drawings, a multitude of fonts and colours and sounds not so musical, and podcasts [don’t forget podcasts Ted!] – and which disrupt and perhaps shatter linear thought.

I have been reading over the past year since this topic began to interest me, Chicken Little, the Sky is Falling  articles on this very thing – much hand-wringing over how the web and all the new mobile devices, etc. etc. are warping our children’s abilities to think [defined as think in a linear fashion] – that is, what I call three dimensional reading and writing is replacing two dimensional.  To put it crudely:  tough shit.  Or to put it more elegantly, and historically [my being an historian], Canute learned one cannot stop the tide coming and going out.  That is, for me this particular paradigm shift is welcomed with what I can say without exaggeration is joy.  A world of three dimensional, non-linear reading, writing and most importantly thinking, is a world many degrees richer and more exciting and fascinating and……. true  [what a word!] than the world of linear thought that has encased humanity in a prison for 500 years now.


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