Reading and Writing and Everything…Complicated in a Digital Environment

In our first discussion of Kathleen Fitzgerald’s Planned Obsolescence, Janel and I chatted briefly about its length – with me remarking that it’s just under two hundred pages, and Janel lamenting that her Kindle version gives her no page numbers. Also having the Kindle text, I was surprised (and relieved) that the version I had on my PC did indeed have page numbers – “Hallelujah” just might have rung out in my mind. Funnily enough, Kindle’s “locations” do little to locate me in a text. Even with the percentages and progress bars, clicking the next page icon (as indebted to codex construction as it is) is just not the same as the physical feel of a book when you reach the halfway point and when there are more pages in your left hand than right.

That being said, most of my reading is digital. I’m either scrolling or, if I’m on my Tumblr dash, hitting “J” to move down my infinite scrolling dash post by post. Some posts are simply too long to scroll all the way through – and I can always hit “K” if I want to move up to the start of a post that I decide I do want to read after all.

In the same fashion, as I compose this post (in Word), I have changed the font to Times New Roman and the font size to 12, even though I know this will change the instant I move the writing to WordPress. I am simultaneously both mentally chained to more traditional understandings of text and all too willing to abandon them once I open a browser. I’m also desperately trying to figure out how to work this into the zombie metaphor and struggling. (…Something about how each survivor base tries desperately to recreate pre-zombie life within those walls, only to instantly adapt to new realities when unlocking a chained up fence and blasting a way through a zombie horde…like you do).

Fitzgerald writes, “Developers of new textual technologies and publishing systems must recognize that, on the one hand, simply publishing texts online, finding ways to reproduce the structures of the book in digital form, is insufficient, because the network cannot, and should not, replicate the codex; and that on the other hand, simply moving toward a more internally networked form of publishing will likewise not revolutionize the circulation of texts, as the emphasis remains on the individual text, the individual author, the individual mind” (107).

Quick aside here, I cannot begin to express my frustration that I can’t copy/paste from a Kindle text and instead had to handwrite this quotation (it’s just one sentence that’s length only makes itself truly known when writing down each word), and then retype it into Word. I feel like technology has failed me.

Talk about older writing technologies...
Talk about older writing technologies…

But to return to the quotation. The questions of how the digital context could, and should, change the construction of reading and writing (and publishing) are of interest to me mainly as I continue to consider how I will compose a digital essay on Tumblr. It’s a public site, and I will reblog from other users invested (hopefully) in what I have to say. There will be some element of response in the piece (but I wonder how soon I will start posting what I already will, to a certain extent, have planned and written in Word). It’s a blog, so it has a reverse chronology. To what extent will I move around posts before the final deadline? And, as a blog, it is unfinished to the vast majority of my audience (again, presuming the audience ends up extending beyond everyone here – not to say you all aren’t the best audience a gal could wish for). There is some level of obligation (real or imagined) an author has to a blog’s readership that is unlike a printed text, or even an online text like Prezi, where the product is what appears.

Yet, when looking at all of these questions, even if I’m moving beyond a piece limited to codex form, I am still tethered to individualism. Everything is hooked to what “I” want to do, or what I think is best to do, in the context of this course and my scholarly project. I (there it is again) am unsure at this point to what degree I should move beyond this, admittedly imagined, construction of individual authorship, and experiment more broadly with Tumblr‘s system of reblogging, submission, and general intertextuality across mediums. But who knows – perhaps I say this safely from my base camp, and once I’m loose among the hordes on Tumblr I will fully embrace this collaborative digital environment.*


*I don’t think bloggers are zombies…but I had to call back the metaphor. Zombies are cool. The asterisk and italics on Janel’s post are also cool. 

2 thoughts on “Reading and Writing and Everything…Complicated in a Digital Environment”

  1. Caitlin
    Do you believe in the “I” that exists behind our face and writes our blog post?
    ( I’m joking about the play,On Ego, that Caitlin,Chris, Callie and I have read for today’s British Drama class. I think Caitlin is deeply influenced by it in this post!)
    I also had the same experience reading a Kindle edition that included page numbers in a remote part of Table of Contents rather than the text itself. While reading I did not feel moving forward as I could not observe the pleasurable countdown of page numbers. And I felt something was wrong with the whole process of my reading. It seems that we are used to having control , or feeling that we have control, over published texts, at least by having a mental image of its length.

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