A number of recent posts and articles I’ve read discuss the concept of linking – Will Deep Links Ever Truly Be Deep?, Beyond Conversation, Follow-up: Reader as Link Author, How we might link and The Web We Have to Save.
Each in their own way has resurfaced an idea that I had a number of years ago. The year was 2011 and I’d spent about 3 weeks in the US as part of professional experience program. I’d spent a lot of time in the company of some great thinkers and innovators. At at some point there was a discussion about books – the supposed death of print, the inadequacy of ebooks but the potential that digital technology has for rethinking what makes a “book”.
Out of those discussions and over some long days driving I started to flesh out some ideas about what could be, where could the concept of the book go once it had been made digital? I wrote it down, drew it up on paper and left it there. Knowing the idea wasn’t ready. I couldn’t see how it could be done. Not yet anyway. But I pulled that paper out over the summer and read through it. Rethought it and started to rework it. And the big idea?
The Quiet Page.
At that original point in time most discussion was around what digital could add to the reading experience. Media, interaction, social media, video, analytics, data metrics, the list was endless. I was actually draw to the simplified, the unadulterated text. To be able to experience words and language without distraction. Without embellishments. Without blue underlines, embedded video, high definition graphics, interactive elements or embedded social media – the quiet page.
Text delivered to my liking. My font, my size in my colour or screen setup. Quiet. Relaxed. Readable.
And from the quiet page we can add the ability to turn on functions. To add to the quiet page layers of functionality. To view the text in different ways. To move beyond the navigation of our magic ink, and to embed the text with additional contextual information.
- To see it linked to other resources to show its research and context. The internal and external connections of the text itself. (Author)
- To add richness by adding media, visual and auditory elements that help enhance the message. (Publisher)
- To annotate it myself. To highlight underline and note. To visualise and add my experience with the text. (Personal)
- To view others experiences of the text. To see their notes and discussions. To see their highlights and to experience the text in a social and shared way. (Social)
- To create trails. To connect the text to other content, ideas and resources myself. To place the text in my context, my experience and my knowledge. (Synthesis)
- And then to share those trails. To let others see how I’ve contextualised the text. To see my experience but to then be able to add to it and expand it. (Connected)
From the Quiet Page you can do all these things – because the page doesn’t change. Each layer is an enhancemennt, an addition to the text rather that part of it. The Quiet Page allows the text to be adopted for other functions and purposes. To become non-linear, lived, felt, experienced and shared. To map and chart the interactions with the text. To go far beyond the “book”.
The point was to link the text. Not just in one way, but many. Internally and externally. Personal and social. Private and shared. And to cross between those states. To make the external internal, the personal social and the private shared. To link the text to life.
This discussion around linking – in particular Mike’s contribution – has made that importance of linking clear. That it is one of the key differentiators of the digital – not just the linking itself, but what the linking enables. It allows connections to be formed – not just between data, ideas or information, but people too. They provide a way to express, to visualise and map connections. To share, create ad communicate with humanity beyond our physical and temporal constraints.
The link is unique and powerful. It drives the potentially of the digital medium and needs to be enhanced rather than killed off or replaced.
Otherwise all that’s left is the Quiet Page.
3 replies on “The Quiet Page & Linking the Web”
What I really like here is how you’re visualizing (had visualized?) these multiple layers. There’s “solutions” to the quiet page like the Readability plugin, but they are fixing the broken nature of the web, which tries to enforce a single, author-centric view of a document. Your diagram gets at where we need to go, which is to think of documents as data with a number of overlays and views available to use, suggested by the author, perhaps, but controlled by the READER. Thanks so much for this post, I love this term, because I love the quiet feel of fedwiki, and this gets at why.
Thanks Mike. Breaking functionality into separate layers just makes sense and you’re right, it’s probably an attempt to fix the web and the way it evolved where content, presentation and functionality were all lumped together. Separating content from presentation is a first step – CSS has helped a lot there – but I think it needs to go further. One thought is that if we can break media out of a document then local storage and federation of the web are actually possible. Storage these days is not much of an issue – especially for basic text files. The memex as a store of federated content could become a reality – and I can see how fedwiki emulates that. By stripping things to their bare essentials and layering the extra functions on top we can create far more powerful and functional tools.
I made the jump to writing everything in Markdown about two years ago – and you get that sense of the quiet page from that. In fact many writing apps market that as a feature – simple text, no frills, no distractions – just quiet and concentrated text.
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