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Posts Tagged ‘footnotes’

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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