Adriaan van der Weel is Bohn Professor of Modern Dutch Book History at Leiden University and lecturer inBook and Digital Media Studies. He made the closing remarks at the Unbound Book conference.
Adriaan van der Weel @ the unbound book conference – photo cc by-sa Sebastiaan ter Burg
Van der Weel began his closing remarks by asking the question: “Why do we have books?” There are many valid reasons stated in his answer: first, humanity used language and then subsequently writing was used to externalize our memory. He continued his closing remarks by pointing out some final conclusions of the conference. Van der Weel affirmed that technology changes us whether we like it or not. He ponders how much control we actually have? He repeated the statement mentioned earlier in the conference in regard to the effect of the internet, stating that it makes people less individualized and more social. To this statement Adriaan added the conclusion that we now cease to be apes and become ants. According to Van Der Weel, it still remains to be seen whether this will stimulate collaboration instead of solo-reading practices.
Van Der Weel admits that he now feels more puzzled about these questions than before this conference. His brain was jolted both ways and he remains unsure as to where he stands. This has lead to confusion which is positive because it stimulates people to think about the changes taking place. Changes such as whether electronic books still have symbolic value or not or whether they stimulate individuality or collectivity. There is not only electronic opposed to physical books but also both, as well as the possibility of PoD. You can make something public immediately or write it down after long periods of thought. Van der Weel was intrigued by the question of materiality, specifically, if another material is used other than paper, would it have the same cognitive effect? More research must be done to find out whether we are using the best materials for optimal learning. He also wondered whether it would be possible to empower both the reader and author rather than focus on the devices. It is a matter of cultural revolution, eventually time develops something new. Adriaan concluded with the question: What will come next as a result of cultural evolution?