Those who read with pen in hand form a species nearly extinct. Those who read the marginal notes of readers past form a group even smaller. Yet when we write in antiphonal chorus to what we’re reading, we engage in that conversation time and distance otherwise make impossible. ❧
Kicking off OLC Innovate 2020, Hypothesis held two free workshop sessions on collaborative annotation with members of AnnotatED. The sessions each started with a "Getting on the same page" introduction from Jeremy Dean of Hypotheses, followed by "Notes from the field", where a variety of AnnotatED community members talked about what's happening with collaborative annotation at their schools and participants had the chance to discuss ideas and questions with these experienced practitioners.
In this clip Christine Moskell, Instructional Designer at Colgate University, shares examples of how instructors used Hypothesis during the Covid pivot. ❧
Christine Moskell talks about a professor’s final exam design prompting students to go back to annotations and add new commentary (or links to other related knowledge) that they’ve gained during the length of a course.
This is very similar to the sort of sensemaking and interlinking of information that Sönke Ahrens outlines in his book How to Take Smart Notes though his broader note taking thesis goes a few additional steps for more broadly synthesizing ideas into longer papers, articles, theses, and books.
She puts the ideas together and tries to broker a deal for the conglomerate to acquire a radio network. At the end, she’s challenged to describe how she came up with the plan for the acquisition. It’s a telling scene. She has just been fired. On her way out of the building, with all her files and personal items packed in a box (a box just like mine!), she gets a chance to explain her thought process to the mogul:
See? This is Forbes. It’s just your basic article about how you were looking to expand into broadcasting. Right? Okay now. The same day—I’ll never forget this—I’m reading Page Six of the New York Post and there’s this item on Bobby Stein, the radio talk show guy who does all those gross jokes about Ethiopia and the Betty Ford Center. Well, anyway, he’s hosting this charity auction that night. Real bluebloods and won’t that be funny? Now I turn the page to Suzy who does the society stuff and there’s this picture of your daughter—see, nice picture—and she’s helping to organize the charity ball. So I started to think: Trask, Radio, Trask, Radio.... So now here we are.
He’s impressed and hires her on the spot. Forget the fairy-tale plot; as a demonstration of how to link A to B and come up with C, Working Girl is a primer in the art of scratching. ❧
The plot twist at the end of Working Girl (Twentieth Century Fox, 1988) turns on Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) explaining her stroke of combinatorial creativity in coming up with a business pitch. Because she had juxtaposed several disparate ideas from the New York Post several pages from each other in a creative way, she got the job and Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) is left embarrassed because she can’t explain how she came up with a complicated combination of ideas.
Tess McGill has slips of newspaper with ideas on them and a physical box to put them in.
Marshall’s method for connecting which he calls Triangle Thinking (26:41) ❧
Marshall Kirkpatrick describes a method of taking three ostensibly random ideas and attempting to view each from the others’ perspectives as a way to create new ideas by linking them together.
This method is quite similar to that of Raymond Llull as described in Frances Yates’ The Art of Memory (UChicago Press, 1966), though there Llull was memorizing and combinatorially permuting 20 or more ideas at a time. It’s also quite similar to the sort of meditative practice found in the lectio divina, though there ideas are generally limited to religious ones for contemplation.
...when I browse from someone’s blog over to their Substack it feels like going from a sweet little neighborhood into a staid corporate park. A little piece of joy dies in me when that happens because it’s another reminder of the corporatization of the web. ❧
For academics, annotation is also essential to scholarly communication and knowledge production. With Annotation, we eagerly accepted a social and scholarly responsibility to spark, curate, and facilitate discussion about annotation. ❧
The tools for thought crowd should all be reading Kalir and Garcia’s book Annotation.
In the name of God, I ask the technology giants to stop exploiting human weakness, people’s vulnerability, for the sake of profits without caring about the spread of hate speech, grooming, fake news, conspiracy theories, and political manipulation.
Eminem shows Anderson Cooper his form of commonplace book in a 60 Minutes interview. It’s a large box with stiff sides containing a menagerie of papers including several yellow legal pads, loose sheets of paper, scrap papers, stationery from hotels, etc. upon which he’s written words, phrases, songs, poetry, etc.
Instead of using the historic word “commonplacing”, Eminem uses the fantastic euphemism “stacking ammo”. Given his use of his words and lyrics collection in battle rap, this seems very apropos.
Cooper analogizes the collection as the scrawlings of a crazy person. In some sense, this may be because there is no traditional order, head words, or indexing system with what otherwise looks like a box of random pages and ideas. One might argue that the multitude of notebooks, papers, colors, sizes, etc. provides a sort of context which Eminem could use as a method of loci for remembering where to find particular ideas, thus making the need for an indexing system feel superfluous to him. This is even more likely if he’s regularly using, maintaining, and mining his material for daily work.
Müller-Wille and Scharf ‘Indexing Nature’, also points out that Linnaeus interleaved blanksheets into his texts so that he could take notes. Cooper points out that this had been a common practice in natural historysince at least the late seventeenth century (Cooper, Inventing the Indigenous, 74–5). ❧
Apparently interleaving blank sheets into texts was a more common practice than I had known! I’ve seen it in the context of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) using the practice to take notes in his Bible, but not in others.
Jonathan Edwards’s so-called “Blank Bible.” JE received as a gift from Benjamin Pierpoint, his brother in law, a unique book. Structurally, it is a strange animal. It is a small, double-column King James, unstitched and then spliced back together again inside a large blank journal. The result is a one-of-a-kind Bible that has an empty sheet between every page of Scripture text.❧
If one is serious about annotating a text, then consider making a “blank Bible” version of it.
Interleaving a copy of your favorite text can leave massive amounts of space for marginalia!
Copies of print and digital editions of Jonathan Edwards’ blank Bible are available.