Inklings & inclinations re: final paper

As I discussed in an earlier blog entry, I am interested in exploring cultural shifts in reading practices through an ecological lens. This includes the materiality of reading platforms as well as cultural practices surrounding their creation, consumption, use, and eventual disposal.

I would like to use the example of field guides as a way into this conversation. iPhone apps such as PlantNet are able to identify plant species using the device’s camera. I am interested in how using an app like PlantNet instead of a traditional print field guide changes the experience of The Nature Walk. How is the process of photographing a plant (and having the name of the species supplied to you) different from locating a species in the traditional field guide format of a printed book? How does this change the way we “read” the plants we may encounter? How does it challenge the very concept of the Field Guide?

I want to somehow tie these thoughts into emerging academic conversations surrounding media and the ecological crisis. The work of poet-thinker Robert Bringhurst, and other scholars interested in the ways humans read the land will be relevant to this inquiry.

Week 9: Initial idea for the final essay

As Stephanie mentioned, we will be working together on continuing the encoding challenge. However, in case we were not able to go on with this idea, I thought of a back-up plan.

I was playing around with the idea of looking further into my post about “Star Touch”, the new app by the Toronto Star. I was really interested in the idea of the page, and how the page has changed with new developments in technology. I wanted to continue my exploration of the app, comparing the way in which content is presented in the app vs the physical newspaper. I also wanted to consider how the app made use of the digital space, the pros and cons of presenting the content in the app format, and the additional features that were included in the app, such as videos. I would possibly look at other apps, such as the National Geographic apps, and compare the idea of the page in these apps to the traditional idea of the page.

Although I will not be developing this idea into a full essay for this course, I may return to this idea at another time as I am very interested with the concept of the page and the representation of content.

Final Project Ideas

For my final project like Aneta and Stephanie am going to continue with XML coding. I am looking at a Japanese card game called Karuta. The game contains 2 decks of cards: one for reading, and one for collecting. The cards contain 100 poems that are memorized by the participants.

Collecting Card on Left. Reading Card on the Right.

The collecting deck is laid out in front of the participants and another person reads out key phrases from the poems. Those collecting try to locate the corresponding card as quickly as possible usually by swiping it out of the deck. In Japan there is even a competitive league for Karuta.

Competitive Karuta – Image Copyright All Japan Karuta Association

My final project will consist of XML coding one of the children’s games that teaches the basics of the Japanese alphabet, Hiragana. I would like to look at the complexities of trying to code a physical card game from another language using XML and a short paper on some issues with digitization. With the rush of attempting to digitize materials, we forget that books are not the only forms of knowledge. I will examine how non-linear narratives are encoded when using TEI Guidelines and whether this is suited for this task. In addition, I will discuss what is lost in the process of digitization. For example, the socialization aspect of the game is lost if you digitize it and make a game interface where there is little to no interaction.

What do you guys think about this? Any suggestions on directions I can go or that I haven’t thought of?

If this topic does not work out, my backup plan is to do a paper on the future of creativity and innovation in a world where we have increasingly stricter copyright laws and digital rights management.

Week 9: Experimental E-texts

Since I looked at the experimental text The Truth About Cats and Dogs in my blog post from week 6, I have been curious about revisiting this text and others like it in my final paper. My interest in experimental e-books looks specifically at the idiosyncrasies of the touch screen technology of a smartphone in conjunction with the architecture of the page. The smartphone as a platform interests me since it is a unique tool whose screen has unique properties that change depending on the text, operating somewhere along the spectrum between e-book and tablet, or even more closely resembling the screen of a video game app. I would also like to examine the ways that these texts utilize the page in ways which render, as the publisher put it, “unprintable” fiction (Lea). This is a concept that fascinates me and I am contemplating how to use the final paper as an opportunity to explore the implications of this. In what ways does the text really defy print and in what ways might we still see traces of a deeply embedded print culture still at work beneath the layers of the materiality of the text?

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 11.17.50 PM


One way I see this manifesting is through a comparative analysis of a RPG type video game app versus one of these experimental texts available from Editions at Play. You can view them on this page, and even play free trials. I am really drawn to working with the book (pictured above) Entrances & Exits (link) by Reif Larson, which is described as a:

“Borgesian love story told through Google Street View, in which the narrator discovers a mysterious key in an abandoned bookshop and gradually learns of its power to open and close doors around the world. The story is a beautiful dance between fictional narrative real locations that seamlessly spans the globe” (Larsen).

The simulation of environment is one way that the experimental book seeks to use its digital environment to the fullest, and resembles a gaming experience as well, perhaps blurring the lines between both. Throughout this course we have looked at how the opportunity to create and relay meaning exists in so many aspects of a text. In this vein, in How the Page Matters Bonnie Mak draws our attention to how “words on the page are regularly understood to transmit information through language, but they can convey meaning in other ways” (15). By taking the architecture of the page together with some elements of media studies, I’m hoping to use analyze the way that meaning is created in this book, since its innovative use of its structure is central to the reason behind its creation as a piece of literature. It is a piece of digital literature whose content is inextricable from its container, making it bound to the page more than its designers may have thought.


Larson, Reif. Entrances & Exits. Visual Editions at Play, January 2016.

Lea, Richard. “What apps next? Publishers and developers embrace ‘unprintable’ fiction.” The Guardian (2016):

Mak, Bonnie. How the Page Matters. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011.

Week 9: Final Project – XML Continued…

For the final assignment, Professor Galey is allowing Aneta and I to continue our encoding assignment. The XML challenge was my first foray into coding, and I discovered that I really love it! Something about the nit-picky nature of coding really jived with me; I enjoy work in which very careful attention to detail is needed. I have always liked editing, and have an eye for small mistakes, which seem to jump off the page at me. Ever since the assignment, I have been trying to figure out how I can do more coding projects that will produce something meaningful and substantive. (If anyone is interested in joining, I’m hoping to attend a Ladies Learning Code session or two in the near future:

A friend of mine who took this course a couple of years ago told me that for the final assignment, he and his partner took their XML document and created an interface for it. This seemed like a perfect fit for Aneta and I, because while we were coding, we had a lot of questions about what the decisions we were making would really look like in a finished product. We felt like we left a lot of loose ends on this front, and we were curious to see how they would play out. We also wanted to know how to proceed with turning the XML into something more tangible, and we actually started playing around with the TEI header and thinking about things like cascading style sheets. The goals for this assignment, therefore, are twofold: to get some closure on our unanswered questions, and to learn how to turn raw XML into a finished product by way of CSS/HTML. We are eager to get started, and excited about the anticipated results.

Week 9: Rough Idea of a Vague Inkling of a Paper Topic

For my paper, I’m going to enlarge on a topic I looked at in week 3: reading manga in translation and scanlation. For those who didn’t read my scintillating post, scanlations are fan-made translations, written on top of scans of the Japanese originals.

Kali made a really interesting comment on that post, raising the question of fan interpretations coming out in the scanlations. This made me think about how authority works in this type of situation. All translations are essentially interpretations. So, whose interpretations are the “right” ones? Are there right ones?

Translations made by licensed publishers are authoritative in that they own the copyright to the works. But, manga fan communities have their own spheres of influence and authority, sometimes to the point of eclipsing the corporate. For instance, a Google search of “sailor moon manga” comes up with two free reading sites that host scanlations, a link to Miss Dream, the main source for Sailor Moon scanlations, and a Sailor Moon themed fan wiki. Only after that does the first Amazon listing appear.

Besides that, interpretations can be problematic. A number of years ago, the publisher Tokyopop did a controversial licensed translation of the series Wish by Clamp. Some characters in the manga were referred to by gender-neutral pronouns in Japanese. Tokyopop decided to change these to gender-specific pronouns in the translation. While they explained their reasonings in the introduction, it was still a questionable change. The application of gendered-pronouns was often inconsistent with what they stated in their introduction. As well, the use of these pronouns had a huge effect on the reading of the series and the characters. It could be argued that a fan translation of the manga might be more authoritative, or a more “correct” reading.

This tension between fan communities and companies, and the issue of translation and interpretation, is very interesting to me.

Pay no attention to the hand inside the book – digitization, labour, and the troubling implications of Google hands

The Wizard of Oz revealed. Found at:

In order to balance out the length of last week’s post, I’m going to keep this one fairly brief. I have very much enjoyed the serendipitous nature of how my paper topic has unfolded – informed and pushed along by my research into last week’s blog post as well as discussions around it. I have decided to use the appearance of Google book scanners’ hands in digitized copies of Google books as a jumping off point to consider the invisible labour of digitization work (the title of this post is my working title so far). I will also be considering the response to, in particular Google’s mistakes, in which the human effort of digitization is accidentally made visible; I will be looking into the sort of forensic work done by those who hunt down these mistakes, and then compile and display them (either on blogs, as artwork, or in printed publications). I am interested in what this means with regards to the relationship between the human and the digital, and how accidents in digitized books can reveal the manipulations of their creation.

To be supporting my exploration, I will look into firsthand examples of images including book scanners’ hands, blogs, books, and art projects that recapture and disseminate them, as well as responses to the issue in the popular media (you can see most of these sources in my reference list for last week’s post). I will be using theoretical readings from this course to comment on the implications of these digitizing mistakes (such as Trettien’s exploration of print on demand books and Mak’s investigation of Early English Books Online (EEBO)).

I have also taken out some fascinating books from the Inforum including Digital Labour and Karl Marx by Christian Fuchs, Digitize this Book!: The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now by Gary Hall – and relating to Google specifically, From Gutenberg to Google: Electronic Representations of Literary Texts by Peter L. Shillingsburg, Planet Google: One Company’s Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know by Randall Stross, and The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) by Siva Vaidhyanathan.

If you guys have any thoughts/comments/sources you would like to direct my way, I would be glad to hear them!

Week 9: Potential Paper Topic- Future of Children’s Books and ebooks

For my final paper I am thinking of examining the future of children’s books and ebooks. When I was a preschool teacher we had paper and board books, audiobooks (some of which had follow along picture books) and two iPads within the classroom. The students interacted with each object differently. They would sit and read or look at the pictures in the picture and board books, listen to the audio books and look at the accompanying picture books and play games on the iPad. In an ever digitizing world full of busy parents, young children are being continuously exposed to and becoming increasingly proficient in using smart phones and iPads. Many of the students in the class were more experienced in using iPads then both teachers. At one point a student downloaded angry birds and neither teacher could figure out how to fix it and had to ask the student to do so.

Children as young as two and a half using advanced technology is becoming common place. As children’s books have often been an area full of creativity and  experimenting with formats it makes sense that we will see new and innovative ebooks being created for children. In my paper I will try to uncover the possibilities available to creating ebooks for children and the manner in which they will help to develop children cognitively. Take The Hungry Caterpillar for example what was available originally as a paper book and board book can be found online in a pdf slideshow, youtube of people reading the book and audiobooks. Though it is not yet available as an ebook, with questions and challenges for counting, identifying color and fruits and vegetables and sorting this ebook has the potential to do a lot for the cognitive development of children.


Links to the very hungry caterpillar:

The Future of… Reading Motivation

The more I think about it, the more I realize the concept of “the future of the book” is limiting, if not downright problematic. At first glance, it implies that books are artifacts akin to smartphones, which annually undergo upgrades that largely (though not always) are the product of technological advances and “upgrades.” In other words, “the future of the book” gives the implication that books are mere artifacts that evolve in a vacuum with some Steve Jobs-like figure (maybe Jeff Brezos?) deciding on new features for books – even though we know the field encompasses much more than its moniker may initially suggest.

For my research paper, I’m considering examining readers of books. Books have no future if there are no readers. Along these lines, I plan on looking at reading motivation of books. This kind of motivation – especially in the form of library programs and personal practices – has a role in determining how much prominence the reading of the books has in society.

A prime example of personal practices that seem to have gained popularity in recent years are reading challenges, which encourage readers to read more and read more widely.

Also, there are many, many examples of libraries that try to encourage reading through general and specific means. Below is a picture of a small passive program to motivate patrons to read at Hart House Library:

Mary - Final Picture
Taken by author. Hart House Library, Toronto. March 3, 2016.

I hope to examine how and why reading motivation programs and practices have changed over time – and to attempt to determine where they might go in the future.

Week 8: Content and Containers

I was inspired by David’s post about movie mistakes that were not caught during editing when considering my example for this weeks blog post. I chose to look movies presented in the form of VHS vs DVD. Although we can move through a movie on VHS using the rewind and fast forward options, it is very difficult to pinpoint the exact moment where we want to stop. I can remember countless times trying to fast forward through movie trailers at the beginning of a movie but going too far, then having to rewind to find the start of the featured film. In this way, the seamless content is constantly being disrupted by the viewers desire to move through the VHS, skipping movie trailers, to access the featured film. But by moving through the VHS, the chances that the viewer will stop at the correct moment before the feature starts are very slim, so the viewer is caught in a rewind and fast forward battle.

With the DVD, the container has adapted more efficiently to the desire of the viewer and created an easier way to move through the content. We now have the option to move directly to the featured film with the press of one button that takes the viewer to the main menu of the DVD. We also have scene selections which makes it easier to move through the film to find exact scenes the viewer is interested in without having to spend a long time fast forwarding through the entire feature.

Prior to the DVD, the content of held in a VHS was constantly being disrupted in an in efficient way as the viewer tried to move through the different sections of the VHS to reach the featured film. The DVD has minimized the disruption of content, allowing the viewer to more easily move throughout the content.