Thursday 30 July 2015

Kindle highlights and Bachelard

I am relatively new to the kindle and the first book I am reading on it is The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, which was probably not the best choice as it is the kind of book you want to underline and scribble your thoughts all over. The kindle has this feature that shows you when a passage has been highlighted by many readers and tell you, while underlining a section, how many highlighters have selected it.

I initially felt troubled by this: is amazon trying to tell me what I should find important because others have deemed it important? Is this an intrusion of my capacity and freedom for independent thought? Is this also a serious intrusion of my privacy, collecting data on what has touched my soul and sharing it with others? My highlight is information collected and I am a participant of statistics. But perhaps I am being to cynical. What if amazon is just trying to establish a sort of book club virtual community? What if amazon is just facilitating a kind of togetherness and connectedness with like-minded strangers?

As I was reading the book on the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow, the following passage inspired my troubled thoughts, a passage which received 15 highlighters:

"For our house is our corner of the world. As has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word.'

Is reading not a similar experience? When we read, do we not enter a space that is ours, a home that belongs to us only even if others have read the same words time and time again? And each book we read is like entering into a new universe, and it is our first time entering it. So what happens when we become aware that someone else is in our universe, in our home? I think when you see how many people have highlighted a passage that you either fall in love with or wouldn't think twice about, you begin to feel self-consious, self-aware and you lose that lostness that you seek when you read. Your home has foreigners in it and you did not let them in. They are telling you what to think. And you are telling them what to think. You are in their home and you are a foreigner.

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