Blog comment: At the End of the Anomaly

With regards to communication, the situation is a bit different. […] there is no such distinction to be made between written word on manuscript page and written word on computer screen. The distinctions are only in what you do with those words, which then amounts to syntactical hub-bub which could produce a shift but which in and of itself is not the shift.

via TeachPaperless: At the End of the Anomaly of the Age of Printed Books.

Teach Paperless has a GREAT post which you should should go and read now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  Really. I’ll wait.

Have you read it yet, or are you still hanging around here?

I love when the old becomes new again, as I demonstrated in this post about the value of gesture in teaching.  So this article at TeachPaperless tickled me pink.  To sum up (in case you really didn’t read the article… he’s suggesting that the modern experience of online text is much more similar to the ancient and medieval world’s way of copying, redacting, truncating, elaborating on, and otherwise messing with, illustrating, commenting on, glossing of, text.   It’s an absolutely brilliant notion, and maybe the average k-12 teacher doesn’t care, but my mind is absolutely swimming in a sea of novel ideas.

Consider: In the Middle Ages, if you had a copy of a book, you had the ability to make a copy of it. It would take you time to do so, but you could do it.  The medieval monastic, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux circulated several of his treatises of various points to get editorial advice.  But then his editors simply copied the text verbatim.  Bernard in fact complains bitterly in several of his letters that he’s forwarded his manuscript to people, who have then copied out his words and circulated them.   He argues that they weren’t ready for publication, that his words have been misconstrued, that … that…

He sounds exactly like a blogger whose words have been taken out of context.  I didn’t realize it until I read TeachPaperless’ article.

As always, there’s a wrinkle. The Middle Ages didn’t have copyright laws, and it was perfectly acceptable to take someone’s text — anyone’s text — and improve upon it.  The Bible’s text didn’t reach a state of complete agreement on its books, its verses, and its Latin text until (I think) the Council of Trent.  That’s a long time, well after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Württemberg.

But look — I’ve borrowed TeachPaperless’s text, and sooner or later I hope he’ll borrow mine.  You may borrow mine (with appropriate links and credit, of course), and I may wind up borrowing some of yours.  If he exercised copyright over the text, one of two things would happen: first, I might pay him a penny a quarter for the next five or six years until someone started reading this one post frequently enough to warrant attention.  More likely, I’d remove the offending text, delete the post, and huff and puff and get upset with him for asserting copyright.  He’d lose readership potential, and so would I.

But this post links to his, and I even encourage you to go read him.  Maybe one day one of his posts will link to mine, and he’ll encourage his readers to go read me.  We may get more readers for copying one another’s words to our own readers, rather than fewer.

Is it like a medieval Codex? No, not exactly.  But I leave myself open to comments, just as a codex does.  I welcome them, in fact.  Could you leave images or illustrations in the margins? No, not exactly, but you could send me links to images that you thought were relevant.  Can your references to illustrations and other relevant articles lead my readers on a merry chase of their own?  Why yes, yes they can.  The difference, though, is one of abundance. Medieval codices were scarce. If a particular manuscript were valuable, I might have to search for months for a copy of it, in the Middle Ages. If it were valuable enough, I might have to walk to its location myself.

Now codices — excuse me, blogs, photo-sites, wikis, nings, moodles, videos, and more — are abundant.  The thing missing are the links between them.  So remember this, and remember to put in links. Frequently.  If you don’t know how, learn.  It’s what will get you read in the vast abundance of material available online — access to your work, and connections to the work of others.  Indeed, it’s the only way to join the new cultural paradigm that’s forming.

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