Leonardo Reviews: Digital Shift

By Jan Baetens
Leonardo Reviews

Digital Shift by Jeff ScheibleIn the history of writing, punctuation has not always been present. One might say it is a typical, although not exclusive feature of print culture, and as such it is not unthinkable that it will disappear again in the always newer forms of machine reading and writing that are currently taking over the role and function of traditional print. This linear, historical analysis of punctuation is however not the primary scope of this fascinating new study, which approaches punctuation from a cultural, quasi-philosophical point of view. The idea behind the book is very simple, but far-reaching, while offering a completely new take on this vital dimension of text: the way we punctuate (or not) reveals a hidden cultural logic that exceeds the mere domain of writing and printing, and touches upon long-term shifts in the relationships between sign, communication, and meaning. Typographical marks, of which punctuation signs are one of the most interesting categories, can therefore be seen as short cuts to cultural changes that are so general that they escape ordinary attention.

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