A sort of appendix to my three-part review of Technological Ecologies & Sustainability (Eds. Danielle Nicole DeVoss, Heidi A. McKee, and Richard (Dickie) Selfe; CCDP, 2009). Click here for the first installment. The second. The third.
(Digest: Initially print-based. Multimedia quotability. Uneven Hyperlinks. Attributes of the next collection?)
I don’t want the following points to sound unfair. The editors themselves are the first to admit (in their introduction) that the book was originally conceptualized and edited as a print-based text. And only through a few fortuitous circumstances did it become a digital text. Please keep this in mind as I work through these last few comments.
Quotability. I was a little disappointed that the text itself didn’t include more multimedia elements. There are plenty of links to websites and videos, but none of them are portable to the text. As a co-editor of an in-progress collection of digital texts, I’ve become increasingly preoccupied with issues of citation and quotation. I’m a firm believer that if digital scholarship is ever really going to rival print-centric scholarship in our discipline, we need to find better ways to cite and quote other digital texts. For the most part, this collection doesn’t pose any problems. However, the multimedia elements are included only as links, and then the video elements are provided as Flash movies. Easy to access, but difficult to quote. It is very, very difficult to include a portion of someone else’s Flash video in a text that I myself am writing. I’m left only with description and links as an option. Not idea. If the text could have included the video elements as .flv or .mov files actually portable to the text, it would make quotation (and possibly remix) much more possible.
Hyperlinks. The use of hyperlinks in the collection is a little uneven. For instance, the citations throughout the text don’t actually link to the bibliography. That would have been nice. My guess is that it’s difficult (if not impossible) to link to an text anchor in a PDF document. It’s simple in HTML, but web pages and PDFs are not the same technologies. This short-coming won’t last long, though. I’m sure someone will include that functionality in the near future, as we see more and more book-length PDF’s and e-books.
On the other hand, there are plenty of hyperlinks throughout the text as callouts, figures, and charts. Having such ready access to videos and other media linked in the text was nice. Also the live-links in the bibliography were handy.
Unfortunately, several of the links are already orphaned. You click, but the site’s already moved or disappeared completely. It’s one of the most common criticisms of web-resources, and it’s complicating the scholarly efficacy of this text to a small, but significant extent.
So, in the grand scheme of things, I hope you’ll understand these comments not as identifications of failures. Instead, I hope you’ll read them as one scholar interested in digital scholarship who’s trying to think through ways to keep improving my own practices. If you have comments about these same issues or want to take me to task on something, I’d be happy to engage you. Teach me something. Send me back to take another look at this great collection from CCDP.