Too Fragile: Understanding Digital Texts

READ Research English At Durham

Lauren Owen explains the rationale behind the Too Fragile project, which is investigating how digital texts, and other forms of digital reading, writing, and research exchange, are affecting scholarship. PhD students are invited to participate in the project’s survey on how researchers gather, store and share information.

In ‘Mars University,’ an episode of the cartoon series Futurama (The Simpsons’ prematurely-cancelled sibling), the characters encounter a library which apparently contains the ‘largest collection of literature in the Western universe.’ The library building is revealed to be grand, spacious – and empty, except for two computer discs, one labelled ‘FICTION,’ the other ‘NON-FICTION.’

It’s a comic moment that emphasizes both the expansiveness and diminutiveness of the digital library – large enough to contain previously unimaginable quantities of data, but so small that it no longer requires a specialized building to house it. Instead of being unimpressed at the library’s…

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