What is this called
May 6, 2013 12:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm seeing a trend emerge, but I can't quite put my finger on how to identify it. Does it already have a name? If not, help me come up with one (for an article I'm writing). The article's jumping off point is RapGenius's foray into annotating everything not just lyrics, the NYTimes' Quips tool, Medium.com's paragraph-level commenting/annotation system, and Findings.com.

I go on to (attempt) to try to tie in the NYT's Snowfall piece, Grantland's recent Iditarod piece, David Foster Wallace's footnotes, the Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner, and marginalia in general at its best.

The idea is that moving commentary and discussion from below the fold of an article into the margins represents an evolution of commentary from annotation to a closer relationship to the target/main text, giving it more of an equal footing and moving it towards something more like elucidation and illumination rather than mere annotation.

Is there already some term or turn-of-phrase that describes what I'm talking about here? If not, can you help me come up with one? I am struggling with it. Thanks!
posted by AceRock to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I've seen this kind of treatment described as "hypertext" when something's on the web, and all those annotations are embedded links (sometimes to another site, sometimes to a footnote). Maybe that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on May 6, 2013

I’ve been thinking (and reading) about this one for a while, but haven’t come across a term that everyone uses. Largely because most people don’t think about it at all. However, the best term I’ve seen so far is “Networked texts” from the Institute for the Future of the Book’s CommentPress project.
posted by thebestsophist at 12:34 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here is a piece called Thinking outside the text, in case that helps any.

There have been a few really famous cases of marginalia. I want to say one involved a Gutenberg bible. If it were me, I might look up a famous case and use that somehow. Like "Everyone is Gutenbergizing everything." (Yeah, that's lame. I am sure you can do better. Just tossing out the priciple.)

I like the word "marginalia" but if I try to turn it into a verb, it becomes "marginalizing," which means something completely different. That's why I think I would pick a famous instance of it to base a new word or phrase upon.
posted by Michele in California at 12:46 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Annotated marginalia?
posted by barnone at 12:58 PM on May 6, 2013

I like the word "marginalia" but if I try to turn it into a verb, it becomes "marginalizing," which means something completely different. That's why I think I would pick a famous instance of it to base a new word or phrase upon.

posted by Etrigan at 1:15 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another early example: Flickr patrons using boxes to outline one aspect of a photo and comment on it. The rectangles and comments appear when users mouse over the pertinent area of the photo.
posted by carmicha at 1:19 PM on May 6, 2013

I believe the technical term is paratext, although that might be a bit more general than what you're looking for.
posted by PMdixon at 1:24 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

For historical precedent, Microsoft Word revamped its revision tools over a decade ago and added sidebar comments to the mix.

Further the old Usenet and email convention was to intersperse commentary with quotes of the original message.

The authors of the first book on the Django python web framework, which was published in 2007, posted an early draft online. People could comment on specific sections of the text, which would result in an indication in the margin nearby. Clicking on the indicator would reveal the comment inline. This covers DjangoBook's approach, and another, then contemporary example.

I'm working on my own online writing tool and one of the features I plan to add down the line was some sort of inline or marginal commenting functionality. As you have, I've been noticing more and more examples of other sites using similar techniques, but I'm not sure how much of that is confirmation bias.
posted by Good Brain at 5:03 PM on May 6, 2013

With Grantland at least, it seems to waver between useful footnotes and petty snark the writer knew had no place in the main article. It seems, to some extent, to be an outlet for juvenile urges that weren't so freely allowed out previously.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:10 AM on May 7, 2013

posted by Pomo at 5:19 PM on May 7, 2013

« Older Brittle fridge   |   Tips and advice for a trip to London and Paris Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.