In Guy Patrick Cunningham’s article, Fragmentary: Writing in a Digital Age, he argues that fragmented reading is our reality; it is simply part of modern reading, and it is not necessarily a good or bad thing.
He claims that we are most likely to retain linear text and forget fragmented ones. This is because fragmented texts often incorporate many links, which force us to make a value judgment in order to decide whether or not to click it. In this way, not only the text, but also the reading itself becomes fragmented. I might argue that although a physical book is linear and free of distracting links, its structure or “interface” has distracting components.
We mentioned a book’s index a few weeks ago. The index breaks up a book into topics/chapters and readers will make a kind of value judgment for each. A reader might ask himself or herself something like, “Should I bother with this chapter?” and decide whether to actually read, skim, or maybe skip the section entirely. Sometimes I find myself referencing the index in the middle of reading for the purpose of deciding if I need to revisit a section before continuing on in the text. Another example, and this one seems more similar to the idea of fragmentation, would be footnotes. Every time I encounter a footnote in an academic article I must read it. It’s just like a hyperlink for me—I cannot not go there. Although footnotes are useful and often necessary to understanding the text, there is a real sense of fragmentation. After the flow of reading is interrupted, I won’t be able to carry on reading the sentence from where the footnote occurred, since by that time I have forgotten what was being said.
The final thoughts of the article are positive; fragmentary writing, Cunningham claims, “accumulates fragments of text and presents them in a way that encourages introspection and contemplation”. In class we have assessed the thoughtful process that goes into reading and writing a fragmented text, especially in the case of e-literature. My question: Do you have any other personal examples of fragmented writing? Was the experience introspective and contemplative?