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Archive for January, 2010

On Web Typography

If I understood correctly, this week’s readings can be divided into two categories: one category is dealing with the theoretical problems, while another is more into the practicum. Taking into consideration that in my current state of “tabula rasa”, I am absorbing every practical hints without any discrimination, I would focus my attention on the theoretical aspects of the web typography.

According to my intuition, there are two texts which are dealing with purely theoretical issues. These are: Himmelfarb’s attempt to answer the question “Where have all the Footnotes Gone?” and Bader’s rather  normative answer: “Forget Footnotes. Hyperlink”

Himmefarb laments the transition from footnotes to endnotes, because, in his opinion, this fact is another step to increasing the ignorance of reading masses. Thus, he duly argues, that most readers do not pay attention to the footnotes and with the migration of the footnotes to the end of the book, they will continue  to be in love with their ignorance. In addition, he adds:

But scholars, who love footnotes (some are known to read only the footnotes), and who continue to make up the bulk of the readers, are sorely inconvenienced.

Scholarly speaking, I find this division of readers into scholars and non-scholars as overemphasized and non-scholarly. There are countless readings of different books. Each person has his own style of reading books. Moreover, the fact that disparate footnotes have migrated to several pages of organized endnotes might be helpful for those scholars, who “are known to read only footnotes.” Wouldn’t it make the reading smoother and quicker to have all the endnotes in one place?

Another sensitive issue, which bothers Himmefarb, is that the disappearance of footnotes has made the scholarly evidence more difficult to verify. I cannot refer to other disciplines, but in the case of history, the fact that the footnote is there and that its reference is correct, does not determine the validity of the argument. Let’s not forget that a source can be read in different ways. The same is valid for the citations.

The fact that some author cites correctly is not the only proof of his academic integrity. This author has to express not only the syntax of the phrase, but also the context of the argument. So, if a sentence is correctly cited in a footnote or endnote do not preclude us from misinterpreting the original message of the cited author. Thus, the most powerful tools for testing academic integrity are still the value of trust and the analysis of the entire career of a certain author.

In the case of Bader’s article, the message is that with the Internet the footnote is back in the form of numerous links, but this return of the footnote does not mean the end of plagiarism. On the contrary, Bader argues that with the abundance of references, the Web and the scholarly community is trapped into a carnival of continuous academic Dadaism. As Bader argues: “The decline of originality may not be illegal, but it is upsetting.”

On the other hand, in a recent post, Nick Bilton argues that it is precisely the value of numerous cross-references that makes the task of reading on the Web more or less bearable. The fact that each of us has been transformed into a filter of information has added an additional value to purposeful web surfing. This being said, I am going back to my CSS page, hoping to keep my academic record equally distributed across the Web and theoretically prepared to tackle the inevitable disappointments of the first failures of creation.

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straight to the project

As time is cruel and does not support too much reflection, I will bring forward the behavioral and the visceral components of my brain hoping that with your active support, we will be able to create a pleasant environment for our creative skills and  to drown into the necessary level of stress in order to keep our focus strong. On the final project, my behavioral layer suggests to rely on the experience of Clio 1 and to provide some links, from my previous blog, which will shape the necessary context. So, here are my thoughts on the basic features of the project, and here is a very embryonic mock-up.

Referring to the nature of the project, I have to say that with every class in digital history, my initial excitement with overambitious project fades away, and instead it favors a minimalistic approach. The smaller the project, the better. In this sense, I am aware that the taming of Omeka and GIS  might be premature for my project. Instead, I will rely on the elements, which are available to me at the moment. These elements are digital photographs of several hundreds of archival documents and newspapers from the region of my interest. So, basically I will have to find an improved interface for the presentation of my documents. At this moment, I can think of a map of the region with a timeline. On this timeline, I will assemble collections of documents, according to the year of their creation. Finally, the mock-up should not be perceived as a solid structure, but rather as a starting point for my portfolio.

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