An interesting project started yesterday at the Institute for the Future of the Book: a close reading of Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook by seven women, who will conduct a conversation in the margins.
This was very intriguing for someone who spends her life writing in margins of books (but only in pencil, only as a murmured comment, which can be retracted easily should the book pass on to another reader). The comments on the Golden Notebook are in a way similar to comments on a blog post, except that they belong to the text because of their position in the same screen:
The question they are trying to answer is the following:
What do you hope to learn?
We don’t yet understand how to model a complex conversation in the web’s two-dimensional environment and we’re hoping this experiment will help us learn some of what we need to do to make this sort of collaboration as successful as possible.
They also note that
Good conversations are messy, non-linear and complicated. The comment area, a chronological scrolling field just isn’t robust enough to follow a conversation among an infinite number of participants. Seven may even be too many.
Real conversations are not very common in comments sections of blogs, and they usually include the blog post as conversation starter, and the blogger as an integral part of the conversation. Their conversations will be about the text, but without the input and guidance of the author of the text, and as such will be very interesting to watch.
Interesting too that they should choose Doris Lessing, who famously warned against the ïnanities"of the Internet in her Nobel prize acceptance speech:
we never thought to ask, How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by this internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc.