Can a Coin Have Three Sides?

Rita Raley's thesis of using the scenes of public writing to analyze "the dynamics of ephemerality and vernacularity that are at the heart of the way we read and write now" is intriguing to me. I may feel like a technological 'granny' now, but even when I wasn't, I never gave into the trend of "text speak" no matter how much faster it would be to type with my thumbs. (Okay not strictly true, as I have sparingly given in to 'LOL' a few times, but only ever uppercase; 'lol' as a reply to everything that is funny {and not} just grates on me to no end). Her descriptions of using public text installations to "construct a new public space...situated in between the actual...and the virtual" (p15) as "ephemeral graffiti" (p17) almost seems redundant. One of my favorite concepts is the idea that these public installations of a normally semi-private activity mean that "monologic advertisements instead become bulletin boards and chat spaces" (p18). We, as a public, repurpose spaces in new ways that are far more enjoyable than intended.

Matt Kirschenbaum writing about the discovery of Walt Whitman records at the National Archives highlights basically the opposite of Raley's thesis. Created more than a century ago and packed away in an archive just waiting to be found contrasts nicely with temporary installations of public participation. But because they both deal with the mundane, they're not strictly antithetical, even if it seems like they should be.

Kirschenbaum also wrote that "to archive in the realm of computation originally meant to take something offline" (p58) which is kind of funny because I once thought of archiving as creating digital copies of my physical photos and papers was the best way to achieve LOCKSS. This idea also counters McGann's need to move beyond the codex format when analyzing other codices. Yes, we can keep using them, but we're far more limited by the format and far more likely to miss the connections that digital analysis provides. As he points out, "The elecotronic OEX is a metabook, that is, it has consumed everything that the codex OED provides and reorganized it at a higher level." (p55) 


These ideas are all circling around the same broad concept. We need to create ephemeral graffitti together, we need to archive materials offline AND online, and we need the flexibility of digital analysis of bookish materials. Even though it feels like these concepts should be contradictory, they're more of a 3-D coin than diametrically opposed ends of a continuum.