Marginalia

… one of the brilliant inventions of the paper bureaucracy was the idea of the margin. The margin is a place on a paper form, which is designed for writing things down that are outside, both physically and conceptually, the form that “the system” expects. The thing about the margin is that it is connected to the form in such a way that the form carries the stuff that goes beyond the form along with the form.

Austin Henderson, quoted in chapter 4 of Software Design & Usability (Klaus Kaasgaard): ‘Beyond Formalisms: The Art and Science of Designing Pliant Systems’.

Link via David Smith

Literary historians get excited about the margins from writers’ own book collections – and rightly so. Geoff Dyer is surely right that the most interesting critics are writers themselves:

On the other hand, it’s really, really exciting reading what other writers have said about Lawrence. It seems to me as well, that is the kind of thing which would encourage people when they have left university to go on to be writers as opposed to going on to be academics.

It’s part of GD’s wider criticisms of academia, which reach a frothy rant in Out of Sheer Rage:

Walk around a university campus and there is an almost palpable smell of death about the place because academics are busy killing everything they touch.


Some of the most poignant (and famous) marginalia are Sylvia Plath‘s on her copy of The Great Gatsby. They range from the banal (‘good’) to the majestic. When Nick leaves the Buchanan house, passing Gatsby in the driveway, Plath underlined the final sentence in the chapter (“So I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight watching over nothing”), and wrote in the margin:

knight waiting outside dragon goes to bed with princess

A melancholy comment.


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Smart guy

David Miliband grows and grows in my estimation. First there was the interview with the FT; now, I’ve just come across this speech thanks to David Smith’s blog:

To quote David Smith’s post in full:

In two recent speeches, UK politicians are beginning to show they understand the web. First, George Osborne. And now, David Miliband:

When we think of education, we tend to think of formal teaching in classrooms by teachers. This remains important. But the range of resources to support learning is far wider than that – from workplaces and museums to individuals with skills to contribute, and passions to share. They lie beyond the school gates and they are 24/7. And the key to genuine educational transformation is inspiring children and adults to learn more for themselves – what Yeats called ‘lighting a fire’ as opposed to ‘filling a pail’. So the challenge is to connect people with skills and time to give, from university students, part-time employees and people in retirement, to others with similar passions and interests. ‘Every citizen a teacher’ may be a bit of a stretch, but it is not impossible to imagine an educational world where a large minority of citizens play an active role, either on a voluntary or paid basis in supporting learners as personal tutors, running after-school clubs, or integrated into the curriculum and the classroom. The web can create the potential to aggregate the dispersed supply of citizen-teachers and connect them to learners with particular interests. It can also help learners filter the good from the bad through peer to peer recommendations and make sense of a world where educational resources are much more diverse.

And much more besides: ‘I believe the businesses and government that succeed in the future will be those that give people greater power to shape the future of their individual lives and greater capacity to collaborate. A sense of I can and we can.’

Exciting stuff

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The awakening of my e-consciousness

I have just come across the phenomenal blog belonging to David Smith, a teacher at St. Paul’s. Found here. Just the notion of a Head of English at one school, re-launching himself as Director of ICT at another is a wicked one – especially in the English private school sector. But, more than that, he seems to have a real passion for pushing the – for want of a better word – Web 2.0 agenda into his kids’ line-of-sight.

He’s also ex-tutor to friend and all-round hero, Ed Cooke.

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