New Criticals, new journals

I know this post is long. But I promise it’s mainly pictures!

As I was thinking about a reinvented page this week, I immediately thought of journals. A lot of the research I’ve had to do recently has led me to open access journals. Most journals (open access or not) still look relatively similar: a bare-bones frame with browsing and search options and a view of the article in PDF or HTML. They are, in most cases, designed to be downloaded or printed.

As I was looking for articles one particular journal stood out: New Criticals

new crit main page pc
Source: New Criticals Main Web Page

New Criticals is not a peer-reviewed journal but it is scholarly in focus and features articles by academics, artists, and others on a variety of topics. The first thing that struck me about this page is how minimalist it looks. It took me a while to figure out what New Criticals was and I’m still not 100% sure since their “About” page only says: “New criticism of all that exists” and short biographies of the “Producers” (“About New Criticals”).

I was going to use the word modern instead of minimalist in the description. However, after reading Andrew Piper’s “Turning the Page (Roaming, Zooming, Streaming),” I couldn’t stop thinking about the “crowdedness of the digital page” (45) as the modern webpage. The sparsity of the New Criticals website creates a digital page where “marginalia don’t blink” (Piper 46).

In fact, the minimalist format emphasises the idea of “roaming” on the “plane” (Piper 56). Even the way that the content is organized encourages this digital roaming by steering clear of traditional categories and advanced search functions.

new crit features pc
PC view
new crit features iphone
Phone view

This is an example of the read_only section:

new crit read only pc
PC view

The minimal descriptions and the unconventional subject names force readers to look through the posts and various webpages to orient themselves.

I’ve included images of the website from my PC and my phone because the responsive design creates another way to decide on your experience of the pages. I’ve found it a lot easier to navigate the site on my phone.

The flexibility of the design also allows readers to choose whether they wish to read pages or scrolls.

jackdaws pc
Adrienne L. Massanari’s “A Feast of Jackdaws” (PC view)
jackdaws iphone
Phone view

This experience is quite different from a journal such as First Monday (an open access peer-reviewed journal), which does not have responsive design and follows a more traditional layout.

first monday massanari
Adrienne L. Massanari’s “DIY Design: How Crowdsourcing Sites are Challenging Traditional Graphic Design Practice” (PC view)
first monday iphone
Phone view

Of course, New Criticals and First Monday have different mandates and purposes, so it makes sense that the functionalities would be different. It was interesting encountering Massanari’s articles (both scholarly) on the two websites.

What really struck me about New Criticals is that even on the smaller phone screen, where the images take much more room, there is still a sense of an uncrowded page, very different from the usual crowdedness of the web. It also made me thing about design and the sense of rigor in academia, but that’s a whole other discussion.

“About New Criticals.” New Criticals. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

First Monday: Peer-Reviewed Journal on the Internet. Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

New Criticals. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

Piper, Andrew. “Turning the Page (Roaming, Zooming, Streaming).” Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. 60-76.

Week 6: The Reinvented Page – The Dreamlife of Letters

After hearing Professor Galey talk about the digital experiments over at Coach House Books, I decided to poke around on their website to see if any digital versions were open to the public. There are a great number of digital titles which can be accessed free of charge (, but the one I will discuss here is an animated poem called The Dreamlife of Letters, by Brian Stefan Kims (

Based on the author’s introduction to the poem, he wanted to write something that was different from the “antique “concrete” mode” and he explains that it is not interactive, rather “much more like a short film than an interactive piece, and there didn’t seem any natural place to let the viewer in that way.” It runs about 11 minutes in total, and is composed using the words from another version of the poem, rearranged to be listed in alphabetical order.

It’s difficult to explain how the animation plays out, as it is so different from page to page. (My use of the word page here could be contested, as the poem plays out on a single window screen, but I am counting each time the screen is shown blank and filled up again as a separate “page” for the purposes of this discussion.) Sometimes the words come in from left to right, sometimes from top to bottom or vice versa. Other times words start in the middle of the page and work outwards, and still others words are pushed off to one side or appear diagonally. In any case, the conventional text block of a page which reads from left to right and top to bottom is challenged. So too is the concept of the margin, as evidenced by the page in which “me” is repeated, column-style, down the far right side.

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While there is a good amount of white space (or orange space, in this case) in each “page” or frame, the whole page is used over the course of the poem. No holds are barred in terms of where letters can appear, or how they can appear. Because of this, I think Brian Stefan Kims succeeded in innovating the page, and indeed innovating our notions of how a digital text can be presented to a reader or “viewer.” Since the poem plays out as a video, there is no allowance for different reading paces, or breaks, as a matter of fact, since there is no speed option or “pause” button. The reader is left at the mercy of the author, as opposed to the other way around.