Writing in the Margins (Episode 20)

In today’s show, we explore the promise of digital marginalia. Remember when you were a kid and teachers told you not to mark up your textbooks? And then you got to college, and teachers told you you had to mark up your books? There’s something about writing in the margins of a book that either scares readers away or excites them. If you’re a regular Critical Margins reader, you know I love marking up books and see a lot of promise in digital margin notes, but we have a long way to go.

We’d love to hear from you! If you enjoy our show, rate us on iTunes or Stitcher and get the word out. Leave a comment or contact us on Twitter: Kevin (@criticalmargins) or Jason (@jasonanthebeast).

Page 72 of the Aemilianensis 60 codex. The glo...
Page 72 of the Aemilianensis 60 codex. The gloss in the bottom right-hand margin of the page is the most extensive one in the codex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Review: “Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age” by Alice E. Marwick

Status Update

The status update is a major part of our daily lives. But how did Silicon Valley’s “Web 2.0” subculture make its way into the mainstream so quickly? Alice Marwick’s latest, Status Update, gives us a clue.

Discussed in this review: Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age by Alice E. Marwick. Yale University Press, 2013, 368 pages. Buy at Yale UP and Amazon.

Let’s look back to the second half of the 2000s: a time period that, on the one hand, feels so recent, but on the other, seems like eons ago. In terms of technology, a lot has changed since then. In 2006, for example, most Americans owned flip phones, but not smartphones; the iPhone was just a rumor. The first generation iPad wasn’t on the market in early 2010, and the tablet market (that is, what little of it existed) consisted of a small subset of early adopters. Twitter was not yet mainstream, and Facebook was only starting to make waves among college students and teens.

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How to Find That Perfect Social Network

The Perfect Social Network

What makes the perfect social network?

For a while now, I’ve been trying to figure out what makes the perfect social networking platform. Is it ease of use? The largesse of the network? The design of the site itself?

After reviewing Tom Standage’s upcoming book, Writing on the Wall: Social Media — The First 2,000 Years, I started re-assessing the way I use social media. I wanted to know what made the perfect social network to fit my needs.

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Friday Reads: Social Media’s Past and Future


Yesterday, we reviewed two books that deal with social media history. The first book, Romantic Feuds by Kim Wheatley, discusses how Romantic-era poets established themselves with readers through long-form debates and reviews in literary magazines. The second book is Tom Standage‘s Writing on the Wall: Social Media — The First 2,000 Years, an exploration of how social media has influenced culture and society since before the Roman Empire.

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Review: Writing on the Wall by Tom Standage

Writing on the Wall
Writing on the Wall
“Social Reading” (Source: flickr)

Writing on the Wall: Social Media — The First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage, 2013 — Bloomsbury, 288 pages. Pre-order at Bloomsbury or Amazon.

A new essay trend has started in both print and online publications: a complaint (usually from an older white man) about how social media erodes the mind, perpetuates shallow dialogue, and debases smart discussion. In these articles, platforms like Facebook and Twitter — even the blog itself — get blamed for everything from the death of print to heightened levels of anxiety in teens. Todd Oppenheimer calls the effects of technology overload “the flickering mind” — that pavlovian response to our chiming phones notifying us of more +1s or RTs.

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Review: Romantic Feuds by Kim Wheatley

Coleridge Marginalia
Coleridge Marginalia
Coleridge marginalia (Source: flickr, Penn Provenance Project

Romantic Feuds: Transcending the “Age of Personality”, by Kim Wheatley, 2013 — 204 pages; buy at Ashgate Press and Amazon, or get it from a library.

Writers don’t feud as well as they used to. Book reviews are often banal and political correctness has made cowards of us all. Think of the many phrases used to shut down argument: “Check your privilege;” “Don’t even go there.”

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