Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Authors of the Future

Eminent futurist and science fiction author Bruce Sterling recently wrote a very interesting article for, entitled Eighteen Challenges to Contemporary Literature. In 18 bullet points, Sterling encompasses every aspect of contemporary literature. The general gist of his assertions seem to center around the rising irrelevance of printed media; it is costly, unwieldy and archaic on a number of linguistic to the cultural levels.

Digital information is not a new concept, and neither is digital literature; what Sterling is really emphasizing (in true cyberpunk tradition) is culture shift. As usual, his language is encoded in hyper-modern syntax, but the points he make are highly relevant to the relationship between libraries and technology.

Libraries are in the crux of this cultural shift - for a large portion of the public, we are the primary access point for information and literature both print and (increasingly) digital. As the information changes, so must we, and where the culture goes we follow, lest the public be left behind. Many times, I've heard the phrase "library 2.0" cropping up in conversation. In this futurist/modernist model, the library becomes entrenched in the new media, completely accessible to the media and as relevant to it as we ever were with print.

Sterling summarizes this philosophy pretty succinctly in my favorite line of the article:

15. Scholars steeped within the disciplines becoming cross-linked jack-of-all-trades virtual intelligentsia.

What better way to describe the place we need to go if we're going to keep up, stay meaningful, and make sure everyone has an opportunity to come along for the ride?

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