Functional Continuities Across Print and Digital Scholarly Books

In a desperate effort to get back on the blogging horse, I’ve decided to post my Computers and Writing Conference Proposal for this summer:

Functional Continuities Across Print and Digital Scholarly Books

This presentation will explore how traditional tables of contents operate as active systems of navigation. Specifically, TOCs and indexes are direct results of historical developments in the physical form of the book. For instance, the codex supplanted the scroll as the dominant form of the book, and codexes began to be sewn together into much larger volumes. These developments fostered numerical systems of textual notation and navigation such as page and paragraph numbers, which are central to the operation of traditionally structured TOCs and indexes. The codex is now being supplanted by emerging digital forms which lack the inherent linearity of numerical navigation systems. However, scholars must have tools at their disposal to find and navigate to relevant content.

Through a demonstration and analysis of the TOC and index of a forthcoming collection of born-digital scholarship, this presentation will demonstrate the importance of an historical understanding of the contexts and technologies out of which these conventions developed. That is, I plan on demonstrating the design impacts of understanding these textual conventions as functional responses to the practices of scholarly production. In this sense scholars can effectively recognize the affordances of current technologies for academic work. Furthermore, without these sorts of understandings, it will be difficult for scholars to shape these technologies for their own purposes, or to work together to develop their own. The presentation will conclude with an audience invitation to ask questions or offer input regarding alternative solutions to the design challenges addressed in the presentation.

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