A Transliterate Truth?

Al Gore at his deskVia Ubernoggin comes this interesting annotated photo of Al Gore's desk. The author grounds the discussion in Bolter's concept of the Hypermediated work environment.

In hypermediated environments (such as MSNBC's split screen with scrolling stock ticker, headlines, weather updates, and talking head all on one screen) the medium itself is an integral part of understand[sic] the information being presented. For example, the same headlines from the MSNBC screen, when printed in a newspaper, don’t function the same way as they would as headlines on an RSS feed. The method in which the information is delivered changes the way we understand it. This is critical to understand as we choose the methods in which we consume and deliver information.

This is, of course, crucial to our understanding of transliteracy. Bolter approaches the phenomenon from the perspective of medium; transliteracy also considers the modalities involved. I suggest that Gore takes advantages of the different modalities – whether associated with a specific medium or across multiple media – to manage the "information glut". For example, possibly the modality of movement (as in the scrolling ticker) enables him to treat certain kinds of information as recurrent. I also strongly suspect that the seemingly chaotic state of his desk actually breaks down into piles of books used for specific purposes.
From simply inspecting the photo, it is hard to say a lot but I suspect that (assuming the photo isn't staged) what we have here is an example of a transliterate working space. Calling it hypermediated might be to imply that the digital technology defines this working space. I suspect that what defines it is the interplay of literacies and that the digital media are just a part of that.


2 thoughts on “A Transliterate Truth?

  1. This picture points out that the computer is not actually integrated that well into work spaces. At least, the computer as it is requires work space to be oriented around it. Its difficult to move around, even harder to put away. Compare to a book – you can store and use it where you like, annotate it however you like. You have to read how the book structures its content, but other than that, it conforms to your desires, not the other way around. Could digital media be that flexible?

  2. Interesting thoughts about the way the computer isn’t that well integrated. Can’t say that had occurred to me but I see where you’re coming from.
    I wonder though; the problem for a computer is your interactional environment with it. Al has 3 screens, can’t have more than 500cm2 of screen space to work with. The room – where the books are – has many cubic cm of space. My point here is that it is not so much the books that are flexible (it’s very hard to see content from more than one page of a book at any given moment) but that the space they are involved in is flexible. I notice that Microsoft have just announced that they’re producing “table” computers (multi-touchscreen PCs) – http://www.microsoft.com/surface/. An environment that allows you to interact with computers in more ways than keyboards and screens will, presumably, allow them to become more flexible. In the meantime, as you note, when you interact with the computer you somewhat turn your back on the room around you. I wonder if that’s patr of the reason why the online/offline divide is such a strong trope.

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