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Jaron Lanier wrote an editorial for the NYT about the digital classroom. He points out that education may not be discretized into blocks and efficiently transferred to the students. He fears that reducing knowledge into blocks, and then having students shuffle them around, gives the impression that new knowledge is simply recombining old bits (i.e. Remix Culture). Lanier feels that this is a problem of computer-aided educational tools: designers can limit the  learning by the nature of the “building blocks” the students can use. Further, the binary referendum of multiple choice testing gives an incentive for factory processes rather than hoping kids will absorb and then generalize the concept of “5+7”  to apply it in new contexts (like, “15+ 17”).  Matthew Bernius responds (hat tip: Paul Biba from Tele-read).

Margaret Atwood weighs in on e-books.

Jeffrey Trachtenberg has a piece in the WSJ about the publishing side of e-books, with regards to literary authors (lower prices for e-books – compared to hardcovers lead to smaller profits, coupled with a down-trend in book buying, puts the squeeze on author advances.)

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Less Than ZeroLess Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

I can see that this book is the spiritual ancestor of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. Minus the man-whore scene. It differs from The Magicians in the way the character’s apathy is shown. Ellis literally shows us the things Clay does. He travels around LA in a stupor, home on Christmas break from college. He sees things and experiences. But the neat thing is that I still sensed his desperation, his need for contact and to feel, to break away from the decadence of his teenage life. Grossman took the opposite approach; the reader knows what Quentin feels. Regardless, both writers made successful portrayals of walking pieces of shit.

One other note: I have the same thought on reading this as I did Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Both writers used simple syntax and grammatical construction. So much so that the book just drones.

<satire>It is a lot of monotony without any break and without any spark to life and life is boring and then my friends show up in their new Mercedes and where is my coke dealer but I would rather go out with my girlfriend but instead we go home and sit on her bed smoking pot. </satire>

At the time, I had thought Atwood’s point was to make her character seem limited in terms of her intellect, enforced by the patriarchal society. But then I saw that it was actually Atwood’s writing style. I have not yet read Ellis’s other books (American Psycho and Imperial Bedrooms are next), so I will find out if this drone actually served to underscore Clay’s being inured to life or if that’s Ellis’s writing style.

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