Murray, Janet H. “Inventing the Medium.” New Media Reader. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2003. 3-11. Print.
Manovich, Lev. “New Media from Borges to HTML.” New Media Reader. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2003. 13-24. Print.
I read a few selections from this book last semester, but I never actually stopped to read the introductions. I was a little surprised to find that I actually really enjoyed Janet H. Murray’s breakdown of the Borges and Bush pieces to follow. I’d read both Borges and Bush pieces before, but I hadn’t really considered them in comparison with each other as Murray does. She calls Borges a “storyteller-librarian” (p. 3) and Bush a “soldier-scientist” (p. 3), which both seem like accurate descriptions, and goes on to draw a parallel between their stories about shifts in the way we store, access, and communicate information. Borges still stands as an inspiration in the world of hyperlinks and digital culture.
Though neither Borges nor Bush was describing a computer, the content of the stories was representative of a change in the human thought process. Some people realized that the way we communicate and store information has evolved over the years, and these authors translated that realization into an allegory that’s still relevant today.
A great quote from Murray’s piece is in the concluding paragraph, “We need not imagine ourselves stranded somewhere over the evolutionary horizon, separated from our species by the power of our own thinking. The machine like the book and the painting and the symphony and the photograph is made in our own image, and reflects it back again. The task is the same now as it ever has been, familiar, thrilling, unavoidable: we work with all our myriad talents to expand our media of expression of the full measure of our humanity” (p.11). She calls to attention our place in the universe, alongside our various technologies. We’re not special for living in the age of computers; we’re creating a medium of expression just as our forefathers did.