Michiko Kakutani Surveys the Cut and Paste Culture

In the three years that we’ve been blogging we’ve urged you to read books and articles that we thought interesting, but we’ve never presumed to order you to read something.

There’s always a first time, and an article by Michiko Kakutani in the March 21, 2010 New York Times has inspired us to resort to the imperative case.  Ms. Kakutani is the Pulitzer Prizewinning reviewer for the Times, a job she has performed with distinction for almost three decades, and in her penetrating essay Texts without Context she has captured our zeitgeist in a way that few other brief examinations of contemporary culture that we’re aware of have done.

Our zeitgeist not a pretty sight. But if you want to understand who you are and where you fit into 21st century civilization, we herewith direct you to read and reflect on what Ms. Kakutani has to say.

Her ruminations take the form of an overview of books about the influence of the Web on art and entertainment. “These new books” she writes, “share a concern with how digital media are reshaping our political and social landscape, molding art and entertainment, even affecting the methodology of scholarship and research. They examine the consequences of the fragmentation of data that the Web produces, as news articles, novels and record albums are broken down into bits and bytes; the growing emphasis on immediacy and real-time responses; the rising tide of data and information that permeates our lives; and the emphasis that blogging and partisan political Web sites place on subjectivity.”

We find ourselves on the horns of a dilemma. Ms. Kakutani’s essay is about the transformation of our culture from an immersive one (like losing yourself in a good book) to a cut-and-paste one. If we extract some gems to tempt you to read her article, doesn’t that make us guilty of the very sin of cutting and pasting that is the essence of what’s gone wrong in our culture? But if we don’t paste some gems from her essay, can we trust you to thoroughly read her argument?

Okay, we trust you. Immerse yourself in Texts Without Context and have your report on our desk first thing in the morning.

Richard Curtis

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