Cognitive Surplus, Lolcats, and Derrida (not really…)

In Jonah Lehrer’s most recent post on Cognitive Surplus, he discusses Lolcats, Derrida, and Nietzsche. He examines the tradeoff that we make when we read one media (the internet, blogs, articles) versus another (novel, comic book, whatever else). He argues that there are certain benefits that only come from reading difficult texts that contain ambiguity.

Reading difficult texts is not a passive enterprise. Rather, it is an act of creativity. Lehrer explains, “One doesn’t need to invoke Derrida to know that reading a text is often a creative act, that we must constantly impose meaning onto the ambiguity of words.”

When texts are difficult, we must place the writing into our own terms. This act of internal translation is a creative process that only occurs when the text contains ambiguity.

“The larger point, I guess, is that before we can produce anything meaningful, we need to consume and absorb, and think about what we’ve consumed and absorbed. That’s why Nietzsche, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, said we must become a camel (drinking up everything) before we can become a lion, and properly rebel against the strictures of society. Of course, after we turn into a lion, Nietzsche said we must return to the “innocence and forgetting” of childhood, which is the last and wisest stage of being. That is presumably when we make all those lolcats.”


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