Posted by: pilgrimtraveler | March 3, 2011

The “Engelbart” App

Last week I promised my peers I would write about the two supplemental readings we used in our New Media seminar here at USC Upstate.  Seminar leader Cindy Jennings sent us this blog post by Jon Udell, Fear not, book lovers. The future of marginalia is bright!  After reading his post I also read the instigating NY Times article, Book Lovers Fear Dim Future for Notes in the Margins.

The NY Times article is about marginalia and how useful margin notes have been for researchers handling the actual texts owned by authors, scholars, and others.  Margin notes can be seen as a conversation between author and reader that the modern scholar gets to overhear.  They are a useful scholarly resource.  The article bemoans the difficulty of making and saving “marginal” notes on electornic texts.  As we increasingly move away from printed on paper texts we may be losing a valuable resource for future scholars.

Jon Udell responds to this article by recommending a “network of cloud-based personal data stores.”  Jon comments on the problems of old style marginalia, i.e., only accesible to person holding the book.  if you lose the book, then you lose the comment, etc. He notes the “long” tradition of intra-work citation available through the web.  He notes some of the earlier tools used and also describes their drawbacks.

As we discussed this in our seminar we noted how Doug Engelbart’s dreams included ways for this accessibility and intra-work and multiple work linking to take place.  My idea, and I am not a coder, is for someone to create an “Engelbart” App.  A web-based app that would work on any OS that would always be on that could be instantly used to link an article or post with current comments and citations and immediately save it to one or more locations.  One location would be cloud based and another could be the readers/commenters computer, and another might be an institutional server (if a university or corporation).  This would be good Knowkedge Management practice and a way of logging the creative process and output in at least a skeletal format.

Interested coders take note!  This idea is available and the market for an app like this should be huge!

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