Does This Blog Make Me Look Fat?

Posted on April 24, 2012


One of the hardest things to do, it seems, is identify myself by someone else’s set of aesthetics.  I mean, how many stores do you have to walk through in a mall to realize they are all selling the same brands, sizes, styles, colors, etc.?  How many radio stations are playing different songs?  How many books are out there, and how many will I (and millions of other students) get to read? Today my challenge is making my blog into a unique reflection of myself using my choice of provided templates.

Not that I’m complaining.

 The difference electronica has made in self-expression is amazing.  We’ve never been able to be so diverse a population and so able to express ourselves so clearly as we can because of electronic influence.  Now if I want to wear fashion such as pop wheels & Brazilian jeans, I can find, buy, and wear them.  If I want to listen to dancehall reggae, I’ll turn on Pandora.  If I want the world to know what I’m thinking, I can publish myself in an attractive, shiny-as-candy blog room.  It’s very DiY.

I have very little patience for real-life shopping anymore.  It seems like a waste of time and resources.  I can just hop online and be done with it in 2 minutes.  I’ve become the hyperconsumer.  Come to think of it, I have very little patience for real-life reading, too.  I’m not limited to the one or two newspapers in the morning.  I eat my breakfast with one hand and check one or all of my 12 iPhone world news apps with the other.  Then I compare my 3 local news apps.  By the time breakfast is over, I’ve consumed the news, latest geological movements, hair trends, conspiracy theories, and cute pictures of kittehs.  I wonder if I’ll ever hold paper in my hand again?

My Hypertext professor, Jesse Stommel, suggested we look at not just the literature itself, but the vessel, and consider it capable of influencing both the literature and the reader.  I suggest that I’m one of millions of victims of jumping ship from paper print to eLit because the vessel is that much more appealing to us.  In our search to derive more meaning from the material, and applying it more to ourselves than ever before, we are embracing ergodic literature, eBooks and other forms of interactive literature.  Book authors and publishers alike are catching on to this.  Our hypertext class was assigned the “Illustrated Novella”  A Field Guide to the North American Family  by Garth Risk Hallberg.  This book is published for readers like me.

Hallberg’s book is a sequence of two-page spreads consisting of a field guide entry (chapter) title, a section of prose, a photograph, footnotes, and various design elements.  The spreads are arranged in alphabetical order by entry title, echoing the reference material aspect of the book.  The title is the theme which ties the elements of the two pages together.  The prose is a narrative, or observation of the action of the characters (American Family members), the photograph and its caption are mostly illustrative of the theme, as they serve to enhance the text, and the footnote references other entries in the book, whose titles lead this reader to believe they were the narrator’s reflections on the moments recalled in the Field Guide entries.  This text is perfect for me.

It’s perfect for me because I am encouraged to skip about the book, reading here and there these short blurbs which eventually relate a story to me in a voyeuristic manner.  I feel like I’m reading someone’s notebook, not a novella.  There are pictures that take me out of the story while driving me deeper into its meaning.  The concept itself – the vessel – enhances the meaning of its content.  I like that.  And ultimately that’s what’s most important to me: I like it.  It suits the compulsive immersion-style of modern readers.

Many modern literature readers are students.  The trend in education is toward online learning.  Again, where’s the paper?  The only paper I use in online classes is a text book.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  With resources dwindling and driving up the costs of text books, it’s a wonder I have paper texts at all.  Nearly everyone has an eReader of some sort, and eTexts would be just as effective (if not more readable) in electronic format.  Print books like Hallberg’s illustrated novella are keeping up the pace with modern student readers, but the print form is not the only vessel the message could be delivered in.  Hallberg’s book could easily be formatted as an eBook with hyperlinked Field Guide entries.  The quest to forge new forms to deliver a message seems highly relevant to today’s learning landscape.  Just as education tries on a new vessel, so does its assigned reading, and rightly so.  I like it that way.