In Deploy, Mandy Brown thinks out loud about our relationship to the written word, and as can be expected she’s got many good points, mostly about the weight of changes and how all this terminology relates to a time when changes had to be physically made with fonts and stuff.
She postulates that we could try something else entirely, by deciding that works that we produce be changed in real time after they get publicised. Interestingly it echoes the experiment that Wired tried a few days ago on GitHub.
But where fixity enabled us to become better readers, can iteration make us better writers? If a text is never finished, does it demand our contribution? Fixity is important if you deem the text the end; but perhaps instead the text is now a means—to our own writing, our own thinking. Perhaps it is time for the margins to swell to the same size as the text.
I had just two tiny comments regarding this, and had no place to post them on her blog so here goes.
Margins and text
It would be fallacious to say that margins do not have the same importance as the text: look at the size of your average University library, and compare the number of books and the number of books about them. How many Cliff’s notes and all their equivalent for every Shakespeare play?
So in my humble opinion, text and metatext already share the same spaces in libraries, and I’m not sure the digital age would bring something new.
Let’s face it : most of what people produce can be summed up as me-tooism and a mixture of LOLs, cute-cat pictures, quoting other people’s quotes and linking to links to yet other links to original content.
Most people do not want to leave the reader’s seat, and come to think of it, all negativity aside despite my previous paragraph, it’s all very good that way. After all, each of us is not a Raymond Carver or a Paul Auster.
Yet Mandy hits a very good point. How many times, be it only in the last week, have you read something and have wanted to edit it to correct some misspelling, or some inaccuracy?
Me? A lot.
So what would be good (and according to Wired, GitHub is working on it) would be a way to enable us to contribute to anything we read by pushing our corrections easily. Crowdsourcing the living book, as it were.
These are fascinating times indeed.