Authorship & Fitzpatrick: A Note on Form

On a side note I wanted to talk about Fitzpatrick’s choice of medium. I think the set up of text online is really nice, I particularly liked how the paragraphs were numbered and each had the option to be commented on.

This stands in difference to blogging or other digital mediums. Whether its reblogs or comments, it all tends to go at the bottom of the text and in a  long form essay, the comment being so physically and temporally “far” from the exact sentences it is a response to, the comments become divorced from the text–this separation of response and text seems to be a trademark of print texts, and this separation also tends to mark digital texts that mimic print.

What I mean by that is the “liveliness”* of the text. This goes back to the beginning of the semester to Michael Ong’s piece in which print text is briefly described as being “dead”, as compared to speech*. Print text is dead in the sense that you can’t argue with it–the author cannot connect to any scrawl you angrily write in the margins of your copy, and it is static, saying the same thing every time you open the cover. The discussion then of the text takes place outside of the text in say, written correspondence between the author and readers and critics. Online, the discussion of say a facebook post, or a youtube video, takes place below the text itself.

But with even those, if the text in questions is long, those comments begin to take place outside of the text. The distance from the reply and the section divorces the two and makes the comment seem foreign–the author must then search through the essay ( “where did I say that?”) and the reader must withhold comment till the end of the essay and may forget the detail they wished to comment on, or no longer hold a particular reaction as sharply (i.e how you feel about a piece at this point versus later). This is not necessarily a bad thing BUT you may become confused about the order of something, in the sense that something that needed to explained sooner was explained later, but all you can recall is that it was eventually explained.

Now I’m not saying Fitzpatrick’s set up is the best and all content needs to adapt something similar right away but it’s useful for that kind of text, and I think it definitely signals the kind of responses she wants. It’s built for a different kind of feedback than say a Word doc. review/comment set up which allows the reader to determine where and specifically what they wish to comment on. Word doc. seems then to better for very early editing or very precise editing, and Planned Obsolescence‘s for a more content oriented feedback. Actually that’s rather the difference in of itself: editing versus feedback.  Although we often call the processes by which academic papers are reviewed, “peer editing” these processes are usually, at least at the academic level, more about feedback. The process by which we edit grammar and syntax is not the same as content editing.

***I have been holding onto this one forever and I think I’ve posted about it elsewhere. Anywho, not all oral text (i.e. radio, recordings) is really “live” in the sense Ong uses. Liveness refers to the ability to have the author/speaker interact with the audience/reader. However, I think “liveliness” and “dead” can be misleading terms and some other word may be better used to describe this aspect of texts’ authors and readers: any ideas?


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