Spatial Memory

posted Jan 18, 2012, 4:56 PM by jj pionke
I am in my "Dead Media" class (yes, I know and yes, it's so freaking awesome I can't even tell you) and we are talking about the book and asking the question of what is the book and are we in a post book era.  On the one hand, this is a discussion that has been playing out in academic and in the popular media for decades as new technology comes into fruition, but this conundrum has gotten even more attention with the advent of e-readers.  The professor, Finn Brunton, who is funny and brilliant, has been leading us in discussion that kind of wanders all over the place, but trust me, it works.  He brings in fascinating things that I had never known before and cool quirky examples like which talks about how we read (Finn believes it's really boring and dry).  Anyway, in regards to the book, for me at least, the book is about a physical experience and it's also about spatial memory.  I can remember where a quote is in a physical book but I can't remember where it is in an e-text, which is why, even though almost all of the texts for all of my classes are pdfs and available online, I print them out so I can mark them up and hold them.  Maybe it is my age, but I need the spatial memory to help remember the contents of the text. 
I buy physical books because I love the topic or the author or I know that I will love the book and will want to read it again.  I buy e-books because I just want to read the text and the text has no special meaning to me.  People who say that the paper book is dead don't understand readers and they don't understand people who didn't grow up with the level of the technology that we have today.  I need the tactile sensation of reading a paper book, especially if I really want to remember it, even though I know that I can annotate an e-text just as easily as I can annotate a paper text.
Ultimately, we are a society that works with both the paper and the electronic text and I can't see that changing anytime soon.