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Writing in the digital age

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An article by Stéphane

Published on 27 February 2012

Short URL: http://nota-bene.org/527

1 comment

My comment on Deploy, an article by Mandy Brown: all of us, writers?

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.

She writes:

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.

Better writers

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.

And yet

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.


Comments

    • 27 February 2012

    "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."

    Or the Thorah, which is a long commentary in itself annotated by generation of readers/writers.

    What authors do not realize is that their books are massively commented and more, rewritten in real time. Each time, we tell to someone about something we read, we are rewriting the story, we are publishing by the way of our voices. The mix is happening through ideas and voices. The internet and its written form just reveals a bit more that and come challenge some assumptions we had about text.

    A text is the beginning of another one.

    Reply to karl

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