Tag Archives: Digital Communities

The Digital Potential of Bookmarks in Further Discussions

Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of Read by Jason Merkoski is one of the primary resources of my digital essay. Merkoski introduces himself as “Amazon’s first technology evangelist [who] helped invent technology used in today’s ebooks and […] lunched the first three kindle devices.” As a big fan of books in both non-digital and digital form, and as a technician of the field,  Merkoski re-tells the story of ebook evolution, or revolution, while considering and analyzing human confusions, resentments and disbeliefs in that process. At the end of each chapter, Merkoski brings up a related topic discussion, in the form of an online survey, and invites his readers to share their ideas, memories or critical views on twitter or Facebook with other readers of the same chapter. He calls these textual interludes as “bookmarks” and introduces them as bellow:

The “bookmark” at the end of each chapter takes a look at an element of print books we have come to love or loathe and how it will be affected, transformed, or eliminated by the move or ebooks. As used here, the term “bookmark” is a kind of  visual pun. Not only does it refer to an artifact from traditional print books, but  each “bookmark” also is a small interlude that describes the ways books have indelibly marked our lives and our culture of reading.(xvii)

He uses the book’s website as the basic reference:  http://www.jasonmerkoski.com/ and for each Bookmark there is a link like http://www.jasonmerkoski.com/eb/1.html (this is the first bookmark where you can choose Facebook or Twitter to carry the online conversation through.) There are 22 bookmarks in the book and 22 topics for online discussion. Interestingly enough, there is no chapter numbering in this book, and chapters are separated just by Bookmarks. As I read the printed version of Burning the Book rather than the Kindle edition, I was entertained by seeing the possibility of following what I was reading on a page, by joining an instant online community focused on the same topic, knowing where to stop by for each specific chapter. Although online discussions seem to be fragmented and not as categorized as the Bookmarks, I think the author has designed an experimental activity through which he might gather feedback, chapter by chapter, for further enquiries on the same subject. Moreover, I find the direction and pattern of these bookmarks appropriate for various undergraduate activities in our writing classes. We can ask our students to read one specific chapter of this book and then take part in its online activity. Students can also use their experience of an online conversation with other readers and also the author to compose an essay. As an example, look at the last paragraph of Bookmark 11:

Each family has its own story, often partly inscribed in the pages of its books. Does your family have a book with an important inscription? A family bible? Is a chapter of your own history preserved between the brittle pages of an old book?  Care to share your story?


Bookmark 12 and Bookmark 17 call for sharing personal reflections upon bookstores and book covers. There are also predictive activities which challenge the reader’s imagination; for example bookmark 19 ends with questions about the future of “three major digital media retailers Apple, Amazon and Google […]”  with a “fast-forward a hundred years” assumption. Although these bookmarks do not lead the reader to any new digital space, as they end in either Facebook or Twitter, the experience could be different specifically for an undergraduate student who enjoys posting on Facebook better than taking part in class discussions. However, I find Merkoski’s readers more engaged with Twitter option than Facebook. He also sends a digital autograph to his joined readers, which could be a new topic in digital versus non-digital debates in a writing session. We can even ask our students to read specific number of other readers’ comments and respond to them or analyze them. The digital generation gap, about which I’m writing my digital essay, might come up as a new topic for further discussions, after getting into these bookmarks.




New Dimensions of Dialogue

I had a difficult time following Digital Griots central argument. I think Adam Banks devotes a great portion of his book to his own academic complaints, authorial doubts and personal stories which are not that much connected with African American Rhetoric in a Multimedia Age. I can see how he has been trying to play the role of one Griot himself, stimulating the obstacles that one digital Griot would face, by explaining his own pre-writing predicaments when the first voices he heard were not his own (41); Still, the sudden appearance of literature reviews in middle of his personal stories, or the sudden appearance of personal stories in middle of literature reviews, undermines the general narrative and makes it hard for the reader, or for me as the reader, to explore new dimensions of African American narratives in the multimedia age. However, what I like the most in his writing is the basic idea of building “two-way relationships between universities and communities [which] requires something far more than the traditional one-way service model” (67).

Two-way relationships between academia and popular culture could result in ideal moments when neither universities nor communities play the role of mere generators or mere consumers of intellectual debates specifically the racial ones. Banks criticizes the existing gaps between academic theories and people. He desires to “take intellectual work to the people themselves” in a new space “where the vernacular and the theoretical came together and where would be taken seriously” (57). Symbolically enough, although not really intended to be symbolic, this statement challenges any kind of discrimination that prioritizes one community over the other one in having the ability of narrating, analyzing or even preserving the history of a particular culture. Creating new Dimensions of Dialogue (I take this phrase from an astonishing short animation made in 1982) between two potential authorities, academia and communities who not in direct relation with each other, could definitely be a great challenge in the world of established hierarchies.

Dimensions of Dialogue by Jan Švankmajer
Dimensions of Dialogue by Jan Švankmajer

UD’s online community the Colored Conventions is a good example of a new digital space aiming to gather scattered database from different resources on a specific subject, that is “Black Americans and political organizing during the nineteenth century”, in order to “brings buried history to digital life”. The introduction page of this website tells us that “the Colored Conventions team comprises a diverse group of dedicated and energetic scholars, graduate and undergraduate students and librarians at the University of Delaware”. That means there are new dimensions of dialogue and cooperation going on between different levels of academic positions in various disciplines. I talked to Jim Casey, an executive committee member, to ask about the possibility of non-academic communities’ direct participation in this project, and I learned that the process of proving the authenticity of the gathered data would be really complicated. However, it’s interesting to see how this digital resource is going to offer classified pedagogic materials to instructors who are interested in integrating African American debates with other courses, even Eng110 (those of you who had ENGL688 last semester would remember Sarah Patterson’s introduction to this section.) The introductory page asserts that “you  will  find  all  of  the  resources  necessary  for  your  class  unit  on a convention, including sample assignments for lower and upper division undergraduate classes  as well as for graduate seminars.” I think practicing such assignments might generate new materials to be submitted to the same resource. That means having an online community designed not only to collect related materials but also to expand its territory to new spaces by generously sending out its collected, proved and categorized materials to other sections of academia, and even beyond that in the future, hoping to get back new generative responses. Of course not all attempts would receive an instant response; what really matters is to keep the dialogue going on without facing a huge definitive full stop.

Dimensions of Dialogue by Jan Švankmajer