Marginalia on the Open Web

When we think about all things digital, we usually think about tools. Twitter comes to mind. Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat. We think about Google Docs, and WordPress; and if we’ve been at this awhile, we may think about the languages tools speak, like HTML or markdown or PHP. And if we’re aficionados, our minds might go to indie ed tech solutions, like Hypothes.is and Reclaim Hosting.

But the truth is that the digital isn’t about tools at all. The digital is about what happens when human minds meet with an interconnected network of information, resources, and other human minds. Continue reading “Marginalia on the Open Web”

Marginalia Central: Social Annotation as Discussion Forum

This post was co-written by Sean Michael Morris and Jeremy Dean.


Like page-bottom comments sections on online articles, discussion forums emerged in the Internet Age as a way for readers and students to engage with published authors and each other. Like page-bottom comments sections, discussion forums have largely failed to cultivate the kinds of meaningful conversations they promised.

Discussion forums are among the most difficult of all the digital spaces that teachers must organize and occupy. In the fifteen years that Sean has been working with teachers in online and hybrid classes, he has encountered more confusion and complaints about discussion forums than any other digital tool. The problem is that the discussion forum is, quite simply, not designed for discussion. Continue reading “Marginalia Central: Social Annotation as Discussion Forum”

Reading is Lonely, Reading is Social

Reading is Lonely

Reading can be an intensely lonely activity. Curled up on a couch, wrapped in a blanket, deep in a book, the world falls away. Sometimes we may look up from the pages as if waking from a dream, unsure of where we are, vividly disoriented.

This is as it should be. Reading as disconnection, a distinct kind of un-networkedness as we are in a sense hardwired only to the book itself. It’s an experience that is perhaps even more valuable in today’s hyper-networked world than ever before. We read best while on vacation where the connections are otherwise poor.

The solitary vision of reading is only the first stage of many in the literacy process. We have to do something with that loneliness, that alienation, of reading.

Continue reading “Reading is Lonely, Reading is Social”

To Read or Not to Read: Digital Texts and Finding Friends

I have never liked reading online. This means a lot, considering that I’ve taught online for many years, and was the managing editor for a successful online journal. As an instructional designer and an employee who works remotely, online text is not only a huge part of my job, but it is also the “classroom” through which I teach. Regardless, I find digital reading to be laborious, and have always preferred the turning of pages to the roll of a mouse wheel.

Anne Mangen, in her interview with Maria Konnikova says that “Reading ‘involves factors not usually acknowledged … The ergonomics, the haptics of the device itself. The tangibility of paper versus the intangibility of something digital.’” And I would agree. I am usually unable to engage the same way with digital text as I do with ink-on-paper text. For one, I think the Internet encourages skimming, and makes deep reading as hard on the soul as it is on the eyes.

Continue reading “To Read or Not to Read: Digital Texts and Finding Friends”