Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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A Prediction Worth Taking Note Of: Marginal Revolution, Indeed

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Jonathan Taylor writes:

Tyler Cowen writes:

In the longer run I expect "annotated" books will be available for full public review, though Kindle-like technologies. You'll be reading Rousseau's Social Contract and be able to call up the five most popular sets of annotations, the three most popular condensations, J.K. Rowling's nomination for "favorite page," a YouTube of Harold Bloom gushing about it, and so on.


How depressing: the electronic equivalent of reading a used textbook by a very confused person who’s unclear on the concept that underlining and highlighting are of no use whatsoever if they’re used all the time, while a bunch of carnival barkers try to tell us what we’re missing.

Don’t we have enough barriers to engaging with books?

P.S. And on further reflection (in my deepening gloom), I imagine that such annotations would be a ripe field for product placement, as well.

Benjamin ChambersApril 21, 2010

Maybe at least there will be an ‘annotations on/off’ button?

It’s funny — this pessimistic view had not occurred to me at all. I saw it as rather a positive thing — the five most popular glosses would probably provide excellent context, interpretation, etc. Maybe I’m too Wikipedia-influenced. But I certainly concede the point that it would be a barrier to the simple process of a person encountering a text.

There will be upsides, I’m sure - unexpected amusements and benefits, probably.

But Facebook’s latest move is sure to open the web — and, indeed, all electronic media — to annotations and product placements of this kind. Our view of the web will be further shaped and guided by the electronic company we keep (i.e., that difficult person from work whom we friended on Facebook because we didn’t want to risk offending him/her (our boss?); or even that person we know from high school whose frequent FB posts mean they score well on FB’s algorithm and so their taste in post-Rapture video heavily influences the videos Amazon chooses to show us …). It’s not a pleasing prospect — though I’m sure that same former friend from high school would be appalled by the un-Christian, society-destroying fare I prefer — like The New Yorker.

I’ve wandered from the original topic, but sadly, not that far. Isn’t that, after all, the beauty of online life? “Only connect,” as E.M. Forster said. We’ve figured out how to do that — and look where it’s taking us.

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