Creative Commons licensed photograph, "Underwood," by Flickr user Canned Muffins

thinking about books as media

Romancing the Book

I’ve just handed out some books that I suspect you’ve never read before—though if you have read the book I handed to you, then let me know and we’ll switch it out! Even though you’ve never read this book, however, I suspect you can learn a lot about it and its readers.

To do that, I want you to spend some time studying your book, though I don’t want you to read it (not the main body of the text at least). Instead, pay attention to things like:

  1. What is the book made of and how is it put together? Can you discern anything about its intended purpose(s) from its materials and construction?
  2. Who is the audience for this book, and how do you know? What elements of the book teach you about its (expected) readers?
  3. How does this book fit into larger social, economic, or political structures? How are these structures encoded in the physical object you’re examining?
  4. Finally, what aspects of the object do you notice that are cool, strange, baffling, or otherwise worth discussing?