Amy's Whimsical Musings

Ode to the Gutenberg Parenthesis


I’m a big fan of the Gutenberg Parenthesis Theory, which I was introduced to by media philosopher Alejandro Piscitelli. On a recent plane ride I decided to exercise my mind and write a little poem. It’s actually potentially part of a larger project I’m dabbling in. You can also listen to the audio clip below. For more resources, check out my Diigo folder on the subject. Or you can view a relatively old (2012) Prezi keynote I created. Another book I’m reading at the moment, Clive Thompson’s Smarter Than You Think, discusses the shift to public thinking to a greater extent. And of course I’m heavily influenced by the great work on New / Digital Literacies by Doug Belshaw.

G is for Gutenberg Parenthesis which gives us perspective;

Now privileging print is purely elective.

We’re moving forward to the past

Ong’s Second Orality is here at last

Just a blip in History

Now text can finally be free

Re-contextualize, remix and play

Like they did in Shakespeare’s Day

It’s a theory but clear to see

We’re changed by our technology

Is Twitter writing or is it speech –

Or some whacky hybrid beast?

Socrates might be amused

With writing, he feared our memory we’d lose.

With the advent of the printing press

Democracy of knowledge – easy access

But ideas were crystallized,

Ossified and petrified

Bound in leather, stagnant, “owned”

Difficult to amend, impossible to loan

The printed word was dominated

By so-called “experts”, elevated

The Internet ushered in a new paradigm

Where authors will give their readers time

We must embrace the post-parenthetical

Even if it’s hypothetical

Writing is living – it morphs and it breathes

A conversation between the cover sleeves

From printing press to press release

Our public thinking has increased

What does the word “literacy” mean

In an age of viral videos,

Blogs, Wikis, and Memes?



2 comments on “Ode to the Gutenberg Parenthesis

  1. Phil Simon
    September 12, 2014

    Well done. I did some research on the theory this morning. Heady stuff, for sure… I liked what I read, though.

  2. Angela M Stockman
    August 6, 2017

    Oh. Wow. This is timely. I’m researching print resistance as I’m drafting a new book that hopes to inspire writing workshop teachers to let kids write without confining them to print. You are… inspiration. Thanks for this.

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