The word “marginalia“ refers to what we used to do (in the old days) when we scribbled notes into the margins of the book we were reading. In the age of public education, it was something of a social crime to write in the margins, but through the millennia, that bonus narrative, scribbled across the page or parchment, provided valuable commentary for future readers — an archaic sort of hyperlink.
The “tradition of marginalia“ reinforces the pattern of “input-output“ in language, where a reader executes a natural, intellectual response to something they’ve seen on the page.
Given the topography of language — the way it works — I’ve always wondered why we haven’t seen a “marginalia tablet,” yet. On the input side, you could have a nice iPad/Samsung-styled tablet doing the narrative acquisition. This input device would be endowed with near-field connectivity to an output tablet, parked nearby. My marginalia tablet.
Videos, web pages, photos — whatever — would then be passed over to the marginalia tablet, where embedded editorial tools would assist in authoring: an Ebook, a web page, or maybe even a paper-based book.
Inevitably, tech-heads find great fault with this suggestion because you can do this now, with one machine, if you’re paying attention. Why two tablets when you can perform the same tasks with one?
There’s a solid rationale for two devices, and it has to do with “segregated“ function. A marginalia tablet could/should advance a clear, uncluttered view of the intellectual boundary. Set apart from the input device, an m-tablet would thus promote evaluation and assessment on a de-cluttered stage. Having migrated copy from the input side of the landscape, you’ve isolated the selection for evaluative comparison with the other assets assembled there. This is important.
What’s the bottom line? An input device navigates potential; a marginalia device organizes it.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s like what we used to do when we would read a book and take notes on a yellow tablet. That second landing zone, where captured narrative eventually ended up, became a place for contemplation and organization.
A “marginalia zone” makes perfect sense as a space for contemplation, isolated from apps, email and instant messaging.
Oh, and since we’re doing a fantasy specification for a fantasy device, it needs to cost under 50-bucks.
(Excepted from Breakaway Literacy, Chapter 7 — Scrolling Notes, by Floyd Wray)