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The Glass Box And The Commonplace Book
The following is a transcript of the Hearst New Media lecture I gave last night at Columbia University, subtitled "Two Paths For The Future of Text." Thanks to everyone who came out, and to the Journalism school for the invitation. I want to start with a page out of history—the handwriting of Thomas Jefferson, taken from one of his notebooks on religion. The words on this page belongs to a long and fruitful tradition that peaked in Enlightenment-era Europe and America, particularly in England: the practice of maintaining a “commonplace” book. Scholars, amateur scientists, aspiring men of letters—just about anyone with intellectual ambition in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was likely to keep a commonplace book. In its most customary form, “commonplacing,” as it was called, involved transcribing interesting or inspirational passages from one’s reading, assembling a personalized encyclopedia of quotations. It was a kind of solitary version of the original web logs: an archive of interesting tidbits that one encountered during one’s textual browsing. The great minds of the period—Milton, Bacon, Locke—were zealous believers in the memory-enhancing powers of the commonplace book. There is a distinct self-help quality to the early descriptions of commonplacing’s virtues: in the words of one advocate, maintaining the books enabled one to “lay up a fund of knowledge, from which we may at all times select what is useful in the several pursuits of life.” The philosopher John Locke first began maintaining a commonplace book in 1652, during his first year at Oxford. Over the next decade he developed and refined an elaborate system for indexing the book’s content. Locke thought his method important enough that he appended it to a printing of his canonical work, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Here’s an excerpt from his “instructions for use”: When I meet with any thing, that I think fit to put into my common-place-book, I first find a proper head. Suppose for example that the head be EPISTOLA, I look unto the index for the first letter and the following vowel which in this instance are E. i. if in the space marked E. i. there is any number that directs me to the page designed for words that begin with an E and whose first vowel after the initial letter is I, I must then write under the word Epistola in that page what I have to remark. Locke’s approach seems almost comical in its intricacy, but it was a response to a specific set of design constraints: creating a functional index in only two pages that could be expanded as the commonplace book accumulated more quotes and observations. In a certain sense, this is a search algorithm, a defined series of steps that allows the user to index the text in a way that makes it easier to query. Locke’s method proved so popular that a century later, an enterprising publisher named John Bell printed a notebook entitled: “Bell’s Common-Place Book, Formed generally upon the Principles Recommended and Practised by Mr Locke.” Put another way, Bell created a commonplace book by commonplacing someone else’s technique for maintaining a commonplace book. The book included eight pages of instructions on Locke’s indexing method, a system which not only made it easier to find passages, but also served the higher purpose of “facilitat[ing] reflexive thought.” The tradition of the commonplace book contains a central tension between order and chaos, between the

By stitching together passages written by multiple authors. I could talk about the open text and deconstruction and the death of the author with the best of them. I was here to study literary theory. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things. one stamped with your personality. The beauty of Locke’s scheme was that it provided just enough order to find snippets when you were looking for them. who follow the flow of a narrative from beginning to end. Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. the ones that turned out to be too obvious to write. Reality Hunger.” What I want to suggest to you is that. These were all the defining beliefs of postmodern theory. or “Arcades Project. unplanned meanderings. early modern Englishmen read in fits and starts and jumped from book to book. They broke texts into fragments and assembled them into new patterns by transcribing them in different sections of their notebooks. you made a book of your own. built out of quotes from a wide variety of sources. BEFORE I TAKE the next step in the argument. white-haired dude in the corner who didn’t introduce himself until the professor arrived. and the desire for surprising new links of association. into a standalone work of collage. for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it. though I choose to say them slightly differently. I tell you this story because I think 22-year-old Morningside Heights Steven would have listened to those opening remarks and nodded enthusiastically at where I was going. and Derrida actually showed up in person for the first class. and architecture that are constructed out of “quotes” lifted from original sources and remixed in imaginative ways. There’s also Walter Benjamin’s unfinished. painting. quotes. Exactly twenty years ago I arrived here at Columbia as a grad student. re-arranged. The most famous is probably Jefferson’s bible. in some . much to the bafflement of my parents. there are parallel works in music. but even that was misleading. I still think all of these things are true. holding an undergraduate degree in Semiotics. to work with giants like Edward Said and Giyatri Spivak. the silent. but at the same time it allowed the main body of the commonplace book to have its own unruly. without their explicit permission or consultation. readers stitch together meanings in much more complex ways than we have traditionally imagined. and by keeping an account of your readings. Just this year. *** NOW. David Shields published a book. and ultimately unpublishable Passagenwerk. Then they reread the copies and rearranged the patterns while adding more excerpts. and aphoristic musings. Each rereading of the commonplace book becomes a new kind of revelation. Since the heyday of the commonplace book.” his rumination on the early shopping malls of Paris built out of photos. there have been a few isolated attempts to turn these textual remixes into a finished product. You see the evolutionary paths of all your past hunches: the ones that turned out to be red herrings. But each encounter holds the promise that some long-forgotten hunch will connect in a new way with some emerging obsession.desire for methodical arrangement. The idea of a purely linear text is a myth. All of my writing read like it had been translated from the French. The historian Robert Darnton describes this tangled mix of writing and reading: Unlike modern readers. But all of this magic was predicated on one thing: that the words could be copied. I took a seminar on Jacques Derrida my second year here. I want to pause for a brief autobiographical confession. But I think 22-year-old Steven would have had a more difficult time wrapping his head around this next image. Technically I was enrolled in the English Department. his controversial “remix” of the New Testament. even the ones that turned into entire books. some new awareness could take shape. And of course. fixed document. the true text is more of a network than a single. This is what happens when you search Google for the ostensible topic of our discussion tonight: “journalism. put to surprising new uses in surprising new contexts.

improbable way. you’re helping the Journalism school in promoting this venue. In the center column. You find an article about a Columbia journalism lecture and you link to it on your page. you’re helping Google organize the web. which summons this entire network of text together in a fraction of a second. we increase the textual productivity of the system. and you check-in at Foursquare for this lecture tonight. and transformed into something categorically different and genuinely valuable. The geo-data embedded in the link alerts local businesses who can offer your promotions through foursquare. by creating those digital-age commonplaces. value for content creators who want an audience.” but as Jarvis has himself observed. we have short snippets of text written by five advertisers. which is a measure of how effectively the ecosystem converts the energy and nutrients coming into the system into biological growth. Think about it this way: let’s say it’s 1995. new forms of value are created. though of course. and into Google’s index. you’re helping people searching google for information about journalism. Call it. which then attracts advertisers interested in your location or the topic of journalism itself. new forms of value are created. sometimes by humans and sometimes by machines. and you are cultivating a page of “hot links” to interesting discoveries on the Web. we have short snippets of text written by ten individuals or groups. though they are in a silent competition with other snippets of text created by other advertisers bidding to be on this page. textual play: the recombining of words into new forms and associations that their original creators never dreamed of. Fast forward to 2010. It has been constructed. Not bad for 140 characters. The information value you have created is useful exclusively to two groups: people interested in journalism who happen to visit your page. A productive ecosystem. surprising ways. and the people maintaining the Columbia page. What you see on this page is. and the overall productivity of the . a measure of a system’s ability to extract value from a given unit of information. you’re helping journalism schools advertising on Google to attract new students. value for advertisers trying to share their messages with consumers searching for related topics. by remixing small snippets of text from diverse sources. But what separates it from the textual play that I was earnestly studying twenty years ago is the fact that it has engendered a two hundred billion dollar business. in all likelihood. And then we have the text in the search field. you’re helping the bar across Broadway attract more customers. Who is the “author” of this page? There are. who benefit from the increased traffic. in this example: textual productivity. like a desert. algorithmically. sustains more life per unit of energy than an unproductive ecosystem. Because that tiny little snippet of information is free to make new connections. and tweet a link to a description of the talk. this page is as much of an heir to the structure of a commonplace book as the most avant-garde textual collage. What is crucial to this system is that text can be easily moved and re-contextualized and analyzed. the link to the talk helps Google build its index of the web. mostly journalism schools as it happens. *** WHEN TEXT IS free to combine in new. value to the entity that serves as the middleman between all those different groups. Along the right side of the page. by checking in here you are helping your friends figure out what to do tonight. and into your twitter feed. We need a comparable yardstick for information systems. with diverse goals. Google reports that it has 32 million more snippets to survey if we want to keep clicking. Ecologists talk about the “productivity” of an ecosystem. The overall increase in textual productivity may be the single most important fact about the Web’s growth over the past fifteen years. What happens to that information? For starters. This is in part what Jeff Jarvis has called the “link economy. And of course. it goes out to friends of yours. Value for consumers searching for information. The selection of these initial ten links is itself dependant on millions of other snippets of text that link to these and other journalism-related pages on the Web. it is not just a matter of links. created by me. By creating fluid networks of words. in a very real sense. like a rainforest. thousands of them. When text is free to flow and combine.

But it gets worse. And of course there’s no way to link to it. and there are a number of clever schemes out there —including the metered usage model that the Times is apparently going to roll out — that allow publishers to charge for content while still allowing that content to be linked to. Interestingly. I don’t think erecting paywalls is some kind of magic cure that will instantly restore the newspaper business to the forty-percent margins they commanded back in the day when they had a virtual monopoly on local ads and classifieds. Take a look at this screen. but I can live with it. This. What I’ve done here is shown you what happens when you try to copy a paragraph of text. But of course. If people are willing to buy virtual tractors on Farmville. and remixed in new ways. probably deliberately so. or cough up two bucks for the Flight Control app on the iPhone. showing what happens when you try simply to select text from an article. to paste it into your own private commonplace book. But there are worse things than paywalls. So let me make one point clear: recognizing the value creation of open textual networks is not argument against paywalls. We have a right to them. What’s worse: the book in question is Penguin's edition of Darwin’s Descent of Man. as you all probably know. where you can post. and you get two options “Highlight” and “Bookmark. I happen to think it is perfectly reasonable for online publishers to ask people to pay for the privilege of reading their journalism. You are apparently limited to a certain percentage of the overall text of the book.system increases. Those are our words on that screen. You can't do it. . value is sometimes subtracted for the publishers who used to charge for that text. the Kindle – even the Kindle app for the iPad – does allow you to clip passages and automatically store them on a file that can be downloaded to your computer. which is perfectly reasonable in my mind. forward. a meaningful number of people are going to be willing to pay for a well reported and edited newspaper or magazine. or blog about it. is Apple’s new iBook application for the iPad. excerpted. This is a page from the NY Times Editor’s Choice iPad app. Search engines can still index the paywalled content. archive. which is in the public domain. You get the familiar iPhone-style clipping handles.” But you can’t actually copy the text. when text is free. or email it to a friend. But there is nothing in the idea of charging for content that is in conflict with the value of textual networks. Just so you know that I am an equal opportunity critic. The process of actually getting your hands on the text is a little complicated. tweet to your heart’s content.

trying to crawl back into the glass box. I’m totally fine with that. or we can embrace the idea that we are all better off when words are allowed to network with each other. even with the iPad’s beautiful display. many of them explicitly trying to imagine . when you can’t copy a paragraph and paste it into another application: when this happens your news feed is not flawed or backwards looking or frustrating. something they’ve deliberated chosen. and the Journal and Times apps. unlinkable. and use them both. And yet we are. They have a lot of elements that I like. remixing them. *** I SAID THERE were two potential futures—the glass box and the commonplace book—and the good news is that I think the commonplace book model has a number of trends on its side. though I would like to see it improved in a few key areas. I am not dogmatic about these things. They’re frozen there. In part because these are both extremely thoughtfully designed apps. rather than a flaw that they didn’t have time to correct. forging new links of association. But there are plenty of first generation iPad apps that facilitate new textual networks. encountering text on a screen that can’t be selected leaves you with a strange initial assumption: that the application has crashed. where digital text is concerned. I don’t think it’s incumbent upon the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal to allow all their content to flow freely through the infosphere with no restrictions. uncopyable. We have all the tools at our disposal to create commonplace books that would astound Locke and Jefferson. deliberately. because we’re so used to selecting and copying digital text. but that’s not the only promise of the technology. When your digital news feed doesn’t contain links. And so I get worried when I look at iBook.this is what happens when you try to copy text on the WSJ’s app. after all. and The Times. What’s the point of going to all this trouble to build machines capable of displaying digital text if we can’t exploit the basic interactivity of that text? People don’t want to read on a screen just for the thrill of it. It is broken. I think the Kindle has a workable compromise. it may well be true that Apple. The promise also lies in doing things with the words. and The Journal intend to add extensive tools that encourage the textual productivity of their apps. because that makes the frozen nature of the text seem more like a feature than a bug. reading on paper is still a higherresolution experience. You can’t do anything with the words. Yes. If that happens. Now. As I said. We can try to put a protective layer of glass of the words. Frozen is the right word. But I also don’t want to mince words. The web is bursting with organizations that recognize the importance of textual productivity. and the screen is frozen. when it can’t be indexed. like Twitterific or Evernote or Instapaper. As with paywalls. or that the future is going to involve a battle between two contradictory impulses. I happily purchased both of them. the iPad makes it easier to carry around a dozen books and magazines. and much easier on the eyes. Apple itself has made it incredibly easy for developers to build rich connections to the Web into their apps through their Webkit framework.” If publishers want to put reasonable limits on what their audience can do with their words. I do not pull out my crucifix when people use the phrase “Digital Rights Management. when it cannot be linked to. The iPad is only about two weeks old. The contrast here suggests to me that we have two potential futures ahead of us. I will be delighted. like some beautiful ice sculpture. and it famously took Apple two years to introduce copy-and-paste to the iPhone OS. It’s precisely the skill and care with which they have been built that scares me.

some of them new creatures indigenous to the web – that create information that can be freely recombined into private commonplace books or Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalism. if members of the religious right speak mostly to each other. download government statistics or transcripts from open. A single piece of information designed to flow through the entire ecosystem of news will create more value than a piece of information sealed up in a glass box. of course. is just the tip of the iceberg. As Brooks described it. This is Sunstein’s description of the phenomenon: If Republicans are talking only with Republicans. There is an additional civic value here. as long as they credit (and link to) ProPublica and include all links in the original story. an argument associated with the legal scholar and now Obama administration official Cass Sunstein. combat and arousal. One of the reasons Propublica can do this. some of the government-based. They’re cruising far and wide looking for adventure. There are thousands of organizations – some of the focused on journalism. there is a potential for the development of different forms of extremism. actually reduces the echo-chamber effect. But they have underestimated the textual productivity of organizations that are incentivized to connect. sprawling conversation about the future of journalism over the past year or so. compared to real-world civic space. of course. get background information from Wikipedia. where like-minded partisans reinforce their beliefs by filtering out dissenting views. at least according to this study. People who spend a lot of time on political sites are far more likely to encounter diverse perspectives than people who hang out with their friends and colleagues at the bar or the watercooler. and if radical feminists talk largely to radical feminists. one that goes beyond simply preserving professional journalism. Instead of putting their journalism under glass. is because they are a non-profit whose mission is to be influential and not to make money. It turns out that the web. if Democrats are talking primarily with Democrats. My argument has been that the connective power of the web is stronger than its filtering. The question is whether that loss is going to be offset by the tremendous increase in textual productivity we get from a connected web. Presuming. of course.gov or the Sunlight Foundation. “This study suggests that Internet users are a bunch of ideological Jack Kerouacs. There are undoubtedly going to be fewer of them. A journalist today can get the idea for an investigation from a document on Wikileaks. that we don’t replace that web with glass boxes. they’re effectively saying to their text: go forth and multiply. Some of you might have seen a David Brooks column this week that reported on a new study that actually looked an exposure to differing points of view in various forms of media. their words. A number of commentators have discussed the role of non-profits in filling the hole created by the decline of print newspapers. not protect. and in real-world encounters. And ProPublica. For about ten years now.” . a few of us have been waging a sometimes lonely battle against the premise that the internet leads to political echo chambers. information. You cannot measure the health of journalism simply by looking at the number of editors and reporters on the payroll of newspapers. I draw your attention to the bar that runs along the top of every page on the site. They’re not burrowing down into comforting nests. whereas in the old world of print magazines or face-to-face groups. the nonprofit news org which won a Pulitzer Prize last week for its collaboration with the NY Times. that even the most partisan blogs are usually only one click away from the political opposites. the opportunity to stumble across an opposing point of view was much rarer. and for profound mutual misunderstandings with individuals outside the group. Here’s one: ProPublica. It seems to me that this is one area that has been under-analyzed in the vast.what journalism is going to look like in this new world. “Steal Our Stories. so that anyone who wants to publish their articles can do so.” This is playful but important: Propublica has licensed its content under creative commons.

I seem to recall predictions that TV would make it possible for diverse peoples to understand one another better. with a glass-text-future. by Harvard. is precisely the open. tagged: books writing journalism) • Digg This! (1 Digg) • outside. it eventually _was_ edited. as readers—to keep those connections alive. 2010 at 11:42 PM daniel schut makes a point that is to some extent covered in the post (in which Johnson notes that limits on percentage of . Posted by: daniel schut | April 23. I think it is fair to say that our pundits and social critics can no longer make the easy assumption that the web and the blogosphere are echo-chamber amplifiers. So when we choose to take our text out of that medium. relatively neutral. And of course. I believe the same prediction was made (unlikely as it sounds now) for telephones. At the risk of unseemly self-promotion. may all be canards. as educators. sometimes against our will. and I may be misunderstanding even the summary that Brooks and Berlin have provided. I can point out a diptych I made with one of those photos plus one of mine: http://www. Cass Sunstein's inversion of that prediction for the Internet. he couldn't 'clip and copy' the text with one click of a mouse. in 2002. bookstores are neutral. on the whole. combinatorial. linked. as publishers. which I might forget by the time I finish reading: Walter Benjamin's Passagenwerk may have been unpublishable in his lifetime. that’s a choice with real civic consequences that are not to be taken lightly. that it neither encourages nor discourages the echo chamber. and type over the words they like.e. because (as SBJ says) Benjamin never completed it. and a world wired with telephones is neutral. just as. 2010 at 08:00 AM Stimulating as usual.us (188 saves. and maybe most importantly. The reason the web works as wonderfully as it does is because the medium leads us. of course. as software developers. and books and magazines themselves are neutral. and these are complicated social realities. or even start up their text editor. when we keep our words from being copied. It costs more time than the easy copy-paste. That said. it still seems possible to me that the Internet is. indexed. not glass boxes. 2010 in Interface.in: geotag this story April 23. i. and published (in English). readers are still free to whip out their writing pads. into common places. Posted by: John Branch | April 23. John Locke had to copy the pieces he liked by hand. Email this • Save to del. the force that makes the web a space of serendipity and discovery.This is just one study. But I can see that this isn't SBJ's main point. one thing is certain. and TV is neutral. but that is exactly what Locke would have done. However. But whether or not this study proves to be accurate. on the whole.. connective nature of the medium. translated. Posted by: John Branch | April 23.flickr. It’s our job—as journalists.com/photos /photogrammaton/69870741/in/set-1491813/. Web | Permalink Comments One minor note. Berlin. with at least a handful of photos. 2010 at 10:07 AM The analogy with the commonplance book of John Locke fails. as well as the Internet-optimist predictions by SBJ and others.icio. Thanks to Mr. I still haven't read the Booth School of Business study that David Brooks cited. The force that enables these unlikely encounters between people of different persuasions.

While I think there is. The real concern that "content owners" have is the wholesale replication and near-infinite reproduction of entire works. ink. the words remain external. I have no doubt that 21st century Locke would quite happily use cut-and-paste to construct his commonplace blog if his iPad allowed it. of profound engagement with text. we are already seeing them getting into the information censorship business (e.g. (Rewriting a passage was often the first step in a process of memorization. This is an even greater concern for music and movie distributors because there is no (theoretical) degradation of quality across even a million digital copies.g. because he'd won the Pulitzer). content owners have drawn a line in the sand at zero reproduction. 2010 at 08:33 AM Since you cannot copy the text would you consider bookmarking pages a type of commonplace book? I know lots of people who bookmark every interesting page they come across and kinda of sort them via folders etc in the bookmarks of their respective browser. or mashing up. like Daniel Schut in the comment above.text copied. Chip Bayers may be right that. etc. if so. rather than making them our own. he would be doing something very different from commonplacing. we borrow them. The cutting and pasting. Because "fair use" reproduction has proven impossible (or undesirable) to define. Posted by: Nick Carr | April 26. as Fiore noted. and I'd suggest it should also have noted that as hardware makers (e. 2010 at 06:23 AM This is. Posted by: Chip Bayers | April 26. And what's cut-and-pasted is rarely kept in the way that the passages in commonplace books were kept." it's what Lock would do today. 2010 at 04:17 AM You'll be happy to know I copied and pasted a few chunks of your writing in an email to my best friend. Locke would cut-and-paste (or merely link to) interesting passages rather than copy them in longhand. Apple) battle to win the [content delivery] hardware war. Amazing article btw! Posted by: GregW | April 26. that we do online today tends to be much more cursory and superficial . It was a sign of attentiveness. Excellent analysis. 2010 at 03:16 PM . I think this piece is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of information or the media.) With cutting-and-pasting. later approved. The technology of our time includes cut-and-paste. Which it is doing. with today's technology. a thoughtful and well-turned speech. But. and have repeatedly demonstrated that their main interest is to wring every last egg from the golden goose before it drops dead of exhaustion. as one would expect. Commonplacing was a means of more deeply internalizing an author's words. I bridle a bit at the analogy between commonplacing and cutting-and-pasting. if alive today. Posted by: Paula | April 24. as its early practitioners often pointed out. and paper. at a mechanical level. briefly. a clear parallel between the two practices. Apple's rejection of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore's iPad app. but. are understandable). 2010 at 12:46 PM The question isn't what Locke "would have done. Posted by: Roberto De Vido | April 24. at an intellectual level they could hardly be more different. The technology of John Locke's time was pen. but only.it's done with a couple of mouse clicks rather than with the painstaking retracing of a passage in longhand.

perhaps. but valuable in a different way. And yes. Posted by: Brett Boessen | May 01. evolution favors the possible? . we are limiting all those potentially valuable new uses.google. I'm hoping the conditions of the iPad I bought will be challenged by similar devices to come: AndroidSlate. http://books. Not only are digital technologies changing the way we archive and filter texts.com/books?q=commonplace+book&btnG=Search+Books Posted by: Jim Takchess | April 30. Posted by: Steven Johnson | April 26. That is to say. or even that blogging is a direct reproduction. but they are changing the ways we make new ones as well. Rather. But then there's what the iPad itself moots. whereas the blogger can now circulate his discoveries through the minds of thousands. the creator(s) become much more familiar with their sources than if they are simply archived. *produced* explicitly as something new. UbuntuPad. Not the same thing. The possibility of using the new communication tools to spread thought around is one of the things that keeps me from despairing in the face of so much that is dispiriting in our public life. Thanks. Nick. rather than conforming to the past as something de facto. Ask my digital media production students how familiar they become with their source materials when they produce a video mashup or digital story: it is surely at a level approaching Locke's "more deeply internalizing an author's words" if not. And so when we introduce artificial blocks that make it harder to copy or link to digital text. from different authors. 2010 at 11:31 AM A nice post with interesting thoughts. the current technology should moot what was once not possible. by any means.Great comments/observations everyone.. it's true that the way blogs and tweets work is far less studious and attentive than John Locke was with his commonplace book. I certainly don't mean to imply that a Google search results page is in any way a reproduction of 18th-century commonplacing. exceeding it. This is because there are specific goals in mind when working with the pieces of the originals that drives the depth of their encounter with those originals.. in all the sense that Steven notes. Posted by: Roger Evans | April 28. copy/paste is and should be something to be decided evolutionarily. who point out in different ways an ambiguity that should have been clearer in the piece. or just crowdwise. What I was trying to say is that commonplacing shows that re-arranging bits of text out of context. Ease or difficulty shouldn't be the litmus on the quality of the results. 2010 at 04:29 AM I think the question of longhand vs. 2010 at 05:17 PM Fair enough. Wanted to reply specifically to Daniel Schut and Nick Carr. Posted by: Nick Carr | April 27. creates a new kind of value that is different from the original value of the text. but it's just as important to point out that Locke's book was exclusively a private affair: whatever he captured went into his mind alone. 2010 at 06:43 AM It seems to me that this talk represents some of the most important thinking going on in intellectual life today. which is up to the benign hack-o-sphere. 2010 at 03:42 AM It should also be noted that when texts are remixed deliberately into a new text.

2010 at 05:59 PM Writing or typing is a memory aid.BTW: I was able to copy/paste out of my iBooks copy of James Joyce Ulysses and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. or blog. 2010 at 04:58 PM Great post--I wish I could've been at the lecture! While I certainly agree with your assessment of the flaws (whether deliberate or not) of the iBook/NYT/WSJ apps for the iPad. as commentors above have noted. 2010 at 11:59 PM I was able to copy-paste from your article just fine on my iPad : NOW. since they'll come of age in an economy that places a premium on computer literacy. The remix/reuse is a conceptual but not memory aid. not a creative tool like the MacBook is. the iPad: the iPad seems deliberately designed for more passive readers. to ensure that students are learning the basic. not less. not less. Several months ago. I spend at least four hours a day typing highlighted quotes into Microsoft word from the stock of books/articles I have read over the past few months. Posted by: Kenny Mann | May 01. even as our dependence as a society and economy on computers grows. Posted by: The man with the computer screen tan | May 10. I think the issues to which you call attention with the iPad demonstrate why competence and comfort with old-fashioned skills like handwriting are more important than ever. a column on the Newsweek site argued that we should stop teaching old-fashioned cursive writing to elementary school students. but also automatically provides an accurate citation in accordance with whatever referencing method my supervisor feels is best that week. I am still undecided whether it would be quicker to sit on a beach for the next two years until some future hero of mine actually makes a ipad/kindle product that I can highlight in and which automatically transfers it into Microsoft word or some equivalent.wordpress. nothing but a pen and paper. that its textual functionality is significantly pared down from that of a MacBook or even a cheap netbook is the *point* for most people who will use it. . I am doing my literature review. facebook post. not long-hand writing. as well as the kind of active reading. At the moment. copy/pasting is not. But nothing other than mental inflexibility or functional illiteracy prevents anyone from "remixing" or commonplace book-ing that content even from an iPad app. 2010 at 11:08 AM I am a phd student. It's a media viewer and player. Much as I agree that the design of the apps in question is backwards and silly. I think they serve to highlight the major contrast between the intended functions of the commonplace book vs. I want to pause for a brief autobiographical confession See?? Posted by: VictoriaJZ | May 03.* Nothing prevents anyone from copying a passage down and retyping it into a tweet. Posted by: Chavisory. The commonplace book. with. well then there would be me. in the technological idiom of its time. and reflection that Jefferson and Locke practiced in their commonplace books. was a tool for the active refinement and incubation of content. It's for this reason that I believe it's ever more important. BEFORE I TAKE the next step in the argument. writing. a deck chair and a daquiri waiting for them on a beach in Fiji. it's not a big actual hindrance to anyone actually motivated to use it to create derivative content as long as they can still *write. in any case. Haven't had a chance to download my fill of Darwin yet. And if they could include a function that automatically copies not only the text. Looking forward to doing the same reading there as on the Newton my iPad is superseding. low-tech mechanics of writing.com | May 08. It is *for* passive consumption.

and post. I think. serves as a way for us to interact with others directly and indirectly. We tend. Overall. commonplace.com" HTML+CSS version is more flexible than the "value added" app. clippings and media. I believe many of us long for some form of interaction when we read through a screen. 2010 at 11:31 AM I have a solution for the man with the computer screen tan: http://mendeley. we are indirectly interacting with the writer. Not all personal learning need be intellectual either. I've been trying the New York Times and USA Today apps on a Droid phone and noticed the same limitation. This is because we are using their ideas for our own purposes without communicating with the writers themselves.processing of text. Gunn | May 14. When we blog. automatically construct properly formatted citations (in Word) from any text you can get in digital form. Posted by: Dr. the "mobile. annotate. there is direct interaction.nytimes. alas. The process is very organic and it's flexible enough to allow deeper.that is the same for writing or typing and copy/pasting. Perhaps copying and pasting are features being saved for future "pay" versions? Hmm. more purposeful reflection of the contents. The software I'm using (which I designed) has always been mindful of both pre. I have come to a conclusion that I will experience some form of interaction. the essence of online reading should be about the ability to experience interaction . On the larger. As someone who keeps a daily electronic version of a commonplace book. Plain open-standards CSS and HTML allow me to link news sites. It is "my" notebook.ly/bkPTP8 Posted by: Bobstep | May 23. when we "copy and paste". Lapin | May 11. I typically "annotate" and/or comment the clipping in the same action so it is definitely not a housekeeping function of "copy and paste" either. Technology. 2010 at 06:14 PM Similar "read only" features are becoming. rather than keeping data in active (biological) memory. Posted by: RS Love | May 22. from the sublime to religious consciousness. and yes. With this. At the same time this expands our access to data even as it degrades our ability to access data that exists (or not) in our minds. We are technically given "untouchable" text. On the other hand. instead of just one wikipedia. When should I expect the plane ticket? Posted by: Mr. organize. I feel. Humor and satire also populate my notebooks. in media companies' apps for Android.com Store. I think. more philosophical plane. which is what a book alone consists of. to use our computers as memory aids: we archive and search. anyone can construct their version of a personal encyclopedia galactica of "what" matters. We are voicing our opinions. 2010 at 01:34 PM I am a student.) In the meantime.which I'd consider a hypertextual commonplace book in its own hypothetical 1945 way. which is why many of us become disappointed when we read through a "glass box". Would people pay for the "freedom to quote?" (To quote without retyping. 2010 at 10:32 AM Kudos to SBJ for a most fascinating subject. Great article. http://bit. After researching online for papers and reading articles or blogs. blogs and Delicious bookmarks in a personal hypertext Web reminiscent of Vannevar Bush's Memex -. that is.

(Conrad Joseph. Posted by: K. Posted by: Steve Hoge | July 20. 2010 at 08:27 PM The comments to this entry are closed. | May 24. The lexical analyzers of all modern computer languages employ just this method for storing and subsequently retrieving text items. 2010 at 09:15 PM I do not like work ---no man does --but I like what is in the work -----the chance to find your self.and connection with both readers and writers at a global level. If the key for the item turns out not to be unique .then a simple linear search is performed through the list of items sharing that key to find the desired match.A.for instance. British novelist) Posted by: Ajf 4 | August 02. if Locke found another item already on that page in his common-place book . 2010 at 01:54 AM Locke's technique that you describe above is literally an example of a hashing algorithm: the generation of a key to a storage location for an item based on a computation involving the item's values (in this case the concatenation of the first letter with the first vowel). 2010 at 11:25 PM Step back and brighter! Posted by: Jordan Flipsyde | July 08. .

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