keynote reviews | February 24, 2011

"The Regime of Analog Culture Has Already Ended." Virginia Heffernan Speaks at Northwestern University

In a keynote speech delivered to Northwestern University’s Center for the Writing Arts, Virginia Heffernan, of The New York Times, talked about the dominance of digital culture, the loss of analog culture, and a subgroup of people — call them analog “hoarders” — who refuse to let go of physical objects. “There’s certainly a place and culture for a love of objects, like antique books and rare books and collecting books,” Heffernan said. “But that’s separate from a love of reading.”

Though books may be on the way out, she continued, the good news is that a golden digital era where people return to deep reading and writing is on the way in. eReaders are much better at conveying ideas than traditional books. Over the years, paper books have tended to bury ideas under a barrage of distractions, such as fancy book cover design, marketing goals, first week sales; publishing flourished, but the reader suffered. eReaders bring us back — finally — to just the text. They are perfect for people who simply love to read, said Heffernan, who speaks often and eloquently on the massive impact of the Internet and other digital devices.

Reactions to Virginia Heffernan’s keynote, from The Daily Northwestern:
“Her public lecture today did a wonderful job laying out many of the issues raised by the advent of digital culture that face journalism in the years ahead,” said Prof. David Abrahamson. […]

Medill junior Alexandra Sifferlin said Heffernan’s speech gave her a lot of hope about the future of the media industry.