Touching from a Distance further all the time


I don’t know if I have a real relationship with John Oliver Hobbes. I haven’t really read her work here in a proper way. I’ve only read it in these fragments and these isolated chapters. I’m annotating A Study in Temptations, but I don’t really know what A Study in Temptations is about besides terrible rich people and that’s a high majority of 19th century fiction. And I’m not really reading these chapters. I’m not pacing my reading in a way where I’m imagining the scene and imagining the characters in a full way. I’m scanning to see where the Paradise Lost reference is. I’m taking this text and filtering it through this half-working algorithm that is my brain.

I’m not necessarily looking at it like a math problem either because it isn’t just this problem or equation. It is still a text but I feel a greater distance to it. I feel less involved with it. I’m not engaged with it like a book but I’m focusing a lot on what the text is referring to outside of the text. I’m looking at the data of the text more than the words of the text. I’m looking into it’s subtext and focusing on what is underneath these words/data more than the words as they were when they were on paper. I’m reading and I’m not reading. I’m scanning.

This is an interesting thing to take away from this project because there is this distance in a wikisourced text. I don’t have the same concentration or focus if the text is just screeched out on a screen. I lose focus and scroll down to see how long it goes til it hits the bottom. I don’t have that same relationship or same focus that I do with a physical book and that’s the hurdle the digital atmosphere of this project and projects like it have to jump over. The digital edition has to maintain this focus first and foremost if it wants to replicate and improve the book. The digital edition can provide this large volume of extra content and information, but if it doesn’t provide this focus to the word and focus on the actual material as material, it just creates this distance to the material because it doesn’t provide this same relationship a book does with a reader. The book creates this pleasant isolation that a machine connected to every distraction cannot necessarily maintain.

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One Response to Touching from a Distance further all the time

  1. olivia.harris says:

    I too find myself reading the Wikisource John Oliver Hobbes text in a very distanced way. Its hard to achieve a similar level of focus with the digital edition than it is to read an actual book. I’m not sure if this is because we as readers have more of a sense of how much we’ve read and how much we have left to go when reading a physical copy versus an online edition. Personally, when I read a book I have a tendency to pace myself according to how many pages are left – if I have 50 pages or less and the plot is interesting, I’ll read right through. But with an online edition, its more difficult to gauge how much you have left to read. Our annotated version of JOH puts a large amount of text on one page, creating a separation between how much is on a printed page and how much is on a digital page. Without this same level of gauging how much is left, I often find my mind wandering while reading an online text (this is something we discussed in greater detail during the posts from Week 5: What does ‘the digital’ do to ‘the text’?).

    But the task of annotating troubles this type of reading even more! Not only are we supposed to read the digital version (with its inclusion of more text and longer pages), but we’re supposed to contribute annotations that offer relevant information for future readers. As beneficial as annotations are to strengthening one’s understanding of a work, they too tend to cause distracted reading. Its difficult to remain fully invested in the plot of a story when constant annotations suggest further reading and other relevant, but not necessarily vital, information. Your eyes are constantly being directed to the footnotes and then forced to find their former spot on the page. This is why I prefer shorter annotations – they don’t require as much distracted reading and they allow a quick return to what I’m really interested in: the story.

    It really seems that we are “touching from a distance, further all the time”. I wonder what Ian Curtis would think about the relevance of his lyrics to a digital age of reading.

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