Unit 3 Bards of the Internet. About the author. About This Author Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been covering Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com. a lyric poet Bard Standard; a degree or grade of excellence or worth; diameter of a tube or gun barrel
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About the author • About This Author • Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been covering Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.
a lyric poet • Bard • Standard; a degree or grade of excellence or worth; diameter of a tube or gun barrel • Caliber • consider or describe as similar, eq • Liken • write quickly • Dash off • a fluent and prolific writer • wordsmith
a momentary flash of light; stimulate, launch • Spark • place the organ of a donor into the body of a recipient • Graft • a malicious woman with a fierce temper • Vixen • roar, snarl • Rant
Terse (synonym) • brief, summary, compact, concise • an improbable (unusual or incredible or fanciful) story • Tall tale • the common people at a local level (as distinguished from the centers of political activity) • grass roots • thunderous verbal attack; scandal • Diatribe
be larger in number, quantity, power, status or importance • Prevail • a person with an unusual or odd personality; freak • Geek • go back to something earlier • Hack back • old; no longer in use or valid or fashionable • Obsolete
ordinary, stupid, dull and lacking excitement • Prosaic • grant voting rights; grant freedom to; as from slavery • Enfranchise • as if under the influence of alcohol; drunken • Intoxicated • close, brief; closely and firmly united or packed together • Compact
constituting a copy or imitation of something • Mock • noble, aristocratic • blue-blooded • lacking neatness or order • Sloppy • simple, tender, childish; displaying or suggesting a lack of maturity • Puerile
Disperse; dispel • Blow away • a very boastful and talkative person • Blowhard • roaming, rambling • Meandering • having a misleading appearance; unreal; fake • Phony • greatest in importance or degree or significance or achievement • Preeminent
using or containing too many words • Long-winded • elementary, basic, fundamental, essential, primary • Rudimentary • make faces, pull faces • Grimace • remove unwanted elements; get rid of • Weed out • reference, quote • Excerpt
a large quantity of written matter; a quantity of paper • Ream • a word formed from the initial letters of the several words in the name • Acronym • treasure, pearl • Gem • being on the point of death; breathing your last • Moribund
of or relating to or involved the practice of aiding the memory • mnemonic
◆ Contents: Text Explanations • In this essay the author describes the current fashion of net-writing, explores the causes of the poor quality of writing found on the internet, explains its merits and differences from published writing as well as justifications for its survival and prevalence.
Paragraphs 1—2Analysis • The first two paragraphs are an introductory lead that presents an analytical comparison between what happened to writing when the telephone was invented and what is happening on computer networks now. 1) "...and give their fingers--and sometimes their mind--a rest”(Paragraph 1) ---and prefer to use the telephone rather than the pen (in a humorous way)
2) Which makes what's happening on the computer networks all the more startling” (Paragraph2) • Here "which" is a relative pronoun referring to the situation mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The sentence would be grammatically acceptable if it were restructured as "All this makes what's happening on the computer networks all the more startling."
Question: 1. What is implied when the author says “… the media of McLuhan were supposed to render obsolete the medium of Shakespeare…”? • The phrase "the media of McLuhan" refers to the new media that became popular in the 20th century, such as radio and movies, while "the medium of Shakespeare” refers to the traditional way of “letter-writing” in the main clause of this sentence. The sentence implies that, instead of being rendered obsolete, letter writing is experiencing the fastest development since the 18th century, though it is in the “online” form.
Language Work 1. One of the unintended side effects of the invention of the telephone was that writing went out of style. • ---When telephone was invented, no one realized at that time that it would outdate writing. • an unintended slight • The group argues that many of the proposed reforms will have unintended consequences.
2. Just when the media of McLuhan were supposed to render obsolete the medium of Shakespeare, the online world is experiencing the greatest boom in letter writing since the 18th century • ---Contrary to what is expected, at a time when the media of McLuhan (e.g. television) were supposed to make the medium of Shakespeare (i.e. letter writing) out of date, letter writing on the Internet is enjoying the greatest development since the 18th century. • His rudeness rendered me speechless. • The singers rendered the song with enthusiasm.
Paragraph 3Analysis • In this paragraph a number of people's remarks are quoted. These quotations serve as evidence of the fact that deviations from the traditional medium of letter writing arc not rare in history. The implication is that we should not be surprised by the boom of net-writing.
1) “...the tall-tale folk tradition”一the tradition in which people tell a story or a tale in • a fanciful and exaggerated manner. A “tall-tale/a tall-story” is a story or a tale that is hard to believe, because it is so exaggerated or unlikely. Here the author refers to a unique kind of journalism in which people report news in much the same way as people tell tall-tales. 2) "...pamphleteers..."---Though most pamphleteers were not professional writers, • they were passionate advocators of North American independence.
Question: • What does the author mean when he says"...E-mail and computer conferencing is teaching an entire generation about the flexibility and utility of prose"? • The author means that E-mail and computer-conferencing demonstrate to a whole generation of people that the language we use does not have to be always so formal as in traditional letter-writing; it can be used in a casual manner while still serving its purpose effectively.
Language Work 3. David Sewell...likens net-writing to the literary scene Mark Twain discovered in San Francisco in the 1860s,"when people were reinventing journalism by grafting it onto the tall-tale folk tradition." • --- David Sewell compares net-writing to the literary scene Mark Twain discovered in San Francisco in the 1860s,"when journalists were fond of writing news reports in the traditional tall-tale style."
Paragraph 4Analysis • In this paragraph the author concedes the most serious problem of net-writing---its poor quality. • "I THINK METALLICA IZ REEL KOOL DOOD!1!!!"一This is an example of sloppy writing on the Internet. Presumably it should read "I think Metallica is really cool dude! Number one!!!"
Language Work 4. For it can be very bad indeed: sloppy, meandering, puerile ,ungrammatical, poorly • spelled, badly structured and at times virtually content free. --- For it can be very bad indeed: careless, pointless, childish, with many grammatical and spelling mistakes, and structural mistakes, and sometimes it has no real message or meaning. • Spelling mistakes always look sloppy in a formal letter. • Another sloppy pass like that might lose them the whole match. • a meandering river • a long meandering speech
Paragraphs 5--6Analysis • In these two paragraphs the author explores the reasons why the quality of net-writing is so poor. Once again the author quotes some remarks made by other people. 1) “They're not to have and hold; they are to fire and forget” (Paragraph 5)--They are of little literary value, so people write them, send them and forget them.
2) “Many online postings are composed” live “with the clock ticking.”(Paragraph 5)-- Many online postings arc written spontaneously, with no preparation within a very short time. (i.e. They are improvised under great time pressure.) 3) "... a hell of a lot of ..."(Paragraph 6) -- (used as an emphasizer) ... a great deal of ...
Question What are the reasons that could account for the poor quality of net-writing? • First, things (such as E-mail) written on the Internet have little literary value, so they're not meant to be permanent. They just come and go and no one will ever remember them, once they are read. Second, many online postings arc produced under great time pressure. Third, there is actually no threshold on the Internet, so that anyone can log on and send out what they have written.
Language Work 5. … Gerard Van der Leun ... has emerged as one of the preeminent stylists on the Net. • --- Gerard Van der Leun has become known as one of the most important stylists on the Internet. • The facts behind the scandal are sure to emerge eventually. • She's the most exciting British singer to emerge on the pop scene for a decade. • She is the preeminent authority in her subject. • His preeminence in his subject is internationally recognized.
6. It takes a hell of a lot of work to get published, which naturally weeds out a lot of the garbage. --- If you want to have your book published, you need to do a lot of work. In this way a lot of untalented writers are prevented from publishing bad works. • Oh ‘hell, I've forgotten my key! • What the hell was that noise?
Periods 3-4 ( 80 min ) Paragraphs 7 Analysis • In this paragraph the author begins to cite examples in defense of net-writing. He first points out that there are actually some really good writings (gems) on the Internet.
Question • What is implied in the sentence “... when I met Mark I was dressed as the Canterbury Tales. Rather difficult to do as you might suspect, but I wanted to make a certain impression”? • In the sentence “Mark” refers to the fellow network scribbler mentioned in the preceding sentence. “I was dressed as the Canterbury Tales” means “I was dressed in a very old-fashioned medieval style.” The whole sentence suggests that Green wanted to attract attention.
Language Work 7. But even among the reams of bad poetry, gems are to be found. --- Even though most of the poems are of bad quality, there arc still some really good ones. • I ordered three reams of the best typing paper. • She's written reams of poetry. • The boss reamed them out for sleeping on the job. • a little gem of a book • She inherited $20,000 in gold and gems.
8. He did, and blew them all away --- He did publish his poems, and overwhelmed them all. Here “to blow someone away” is an informal expression which means “to make someone feel very surprised, especially about something they like or admire.” It also means “to defeat someone completely.” • The ending will blow you away. • That concert blew me away.
Paragraphs 8--9Analysis • In these two paragraphs the author discusses two reasons why there are some “gems” on the Internet: one is that “the Darwinian survival principle has started to prevail,” which means that only good writing will survive; and the other is the “collaborative” work in computer conferences, at which ideas are knocked against one another “until they spark.”
1) “The ... discussion groups ... have become so crowded with writers crying for attention that a Darwinian survival principle has started to prevail, ” (Paragraph 8) --- There are so many writers in the ... discussion groups who are competing for attention that a kind of Darwinian survival principle (i.e. the survival of the fittest) has started to be widely accepted.
2) “The caliber ...” (Paragraph 9) (American English) --- The quality and taste … 3) “ the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal ” (Paragraph 9) --- a high-quality newspaper and a high-quality magazine respectively. Here the author is trying to emphasize that there are some gems on the Internet which major newspapers have printed excerpts from.
Question • What are the criteria for good writing favored by the Internet? • Good writing on the Net should be clear, witty and brief. Units of thought are to be found in short paragraphs, bulleted lists and one-liners.
Language Work 9. ... a Darwinian survival principle has started to prevail. --- Darwin's survival principle has started to come into effect/gain influence or control/be widely accepted. • I am sure that common sense will prevail in the end. • This attitude still prevails among the middle classes. • The town is kept cool by the prevailing westerly winds.
10. ...writers compose in a kind of collaborative heat, knocking ideas against one another until they spark. --- ...writers work in a kind of cooperation by engaging themselves in heated discussions and arguments about different ideas until they come up with really bril1iant ones. • Two writers collaborated on the script for the film. • A German company collaborated with a Swiss firm to develop the product. • The two playwrights worked in close collaboration on the script.
Paragraphs 10Analysis • In this paragraph the author explains one of the distinguishing features of net-writing (i.e. Net-writers freely lace their prose with strange acronyms and “smileys”, which, however, does not detract from its quality. 1) “...can come across as self-important blowhards” --- ...can leave an impression as a conceited person who loves to show off 2) “...their blue-blooded peers …” --- blue-blooded people are usually members of royal or noble families. Here the author refers to well-educated kids.
Question • What are the differences between the work of net-writers and that of professional writers? • Net-writing is usually terser than professional writing, filled with short paragraphs, bulleted lists and one-liners. Net-writers can freely lace their writings with strange acronyms and “smileys,” the key stroke combinations used to convey various facial expressions; the polished prose by professional writers often seems long-winded and phony when it is copied onto bulletin boards from books and magazines.
Language Work 11. Unless they adjust to the new medium, professional writers can come across as self-important blowhards in debates with more nimble networkers --- If they do not adjust themselves to the medium of netwriting, they can make themselves look conceited and self-important in online debates with more quick-witted and flexible networkers. • What comes across in his later poetry is a great sense of sadness. • Stop being such a blowhard! Do you have to talk about yourself the whole time?
Paragraphs 11Analysis • In this paragraph the author mentions another merit of the Internet, that is, it allows thousands of common people to take up the craft of writing. 1) “...inherently democratizing” --- Here the author suggests that writing online (the technology) provides equal opportunities for everyone who wishes to write. 2) “… senior citizens” --- a euphemistic term for “old people” 3) “… computer geeks …” (American slang) --- Here the phrase refers to computer wizards.
Language Work 12. Not only has it enfranchised thousands of would-be writers who otherwise might never have taken up the craft ,but it has also thrown together classes of people who hadn't had much direct contact before ... • --- It has not only encouraged thousands of potential writers who, without the introduction of the Net, might never become writers, but has also brought together people of different social backgrounds who hadn't had much communication before.
Paragraphs 12--13Analysis • The last two paragraphs present a counter-argument to one of the criticisms against net-writing, that is, “It is easy to make this stuff look foolish and trivial.” According to Nielsen Hayden, “a lot of everyone's daily life is foolish and trivial,” and besides, net-writing represents “for millions of people, a living, breathing life of letters.” • 1) “I mean, really, smileys?”(Paragraph 12) --- I mean, smileys are really foolish and trivial. • 2) “Housewives in Des Moines who log on as VIXEN?” (Paragraph 12) --- Is the writing of housewives who live in a less-known place such as Des Moines and use VIXEN as their user name foolish and trivial?
3) “it would be a mistake ... to underestimate the effect a lifetime of dashing off E-mail will have on a generation of young writers.” (Paragraph 13) --- a generation of young writers who will spend their whole life time dashing off E-mail is bound to be affected by it, and it would be a mistake to underestimate this effect. 4) “...the Bard himself...might have dived right in and never logged off.” (Paragraph 13) --- Shakespeare himself ... might have joined in net-writing at once and never logged off. Here “the Bard” refers to William Shakespeare.
Questions 1) How does the author justify the legitimacy of net-writng? • The author contends that net-writing may seem foolish and trivial, but most people's lives are foolish and trivial. For millions of people those networks represent a living breathing life of letters. 2) Who does “the Bard” refer to in the last sentence? And how does it differ from the “Bards” in the title? • In the last sentence “the Bard” (with capital B) refers to William Shakespeare, while “Bards” in the title refers to the people who write on the Internet. It appears that the author suggests by the title that the medium of net-writing, like that of Shakespeare, is perfectly justifiable. The medium changes with the time, so does the “bard.”
Language Work 13. After all, a lot of everyone's daily life is foolish and trivial. --- In spite of everything, our daily life consists mostly of foolish and insignificant things. • Getting computers to understand human language is not a trivial problem. • I'm a busy man --- don't bother me with trivialities. • I'm fascinated by the trivia of everyday life.
14. One suspects that the Bard himself, confronted with the Internet, might have dived right in and never logged off.--- We suspect that if Shakespeare had had access to the Internet, he might have stayed online all the time and never logged off. • As she left the court, she was confronted by angry crowds who tried to block her way. • It's an issue we’ll have to confront at some point, no matter how unpleasant it is. • She actually enjoys confrontation, whereas I prefer a quiet life.
Periods 5-6 ( 80 min ):◆ Comprehension Questions: 1. Why does the author relate what happened to the telephone with what is happening to the computer? • By relating the invention of the telephone with the use of the computer networks, the author seems to suggest that writing, which went out of style with the invention of the telephone, is experiencing an unexpected come-back with online letter-writing.