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Of Note

There is a really nice cluster of contributions over at Media Commons on, “Notes, Lists and Everyday Inscriptions,” for which I also provided a piece.  The list of contributors is fantastic and I was really grateful for the initiative on the part of the cluster’s curator, Shannon Mattern (who has done some great work on the history of libraries).  It finally gave me the impetus to pull together my ideas on the relationship between notes and books (that started over a year ago) and whether one could write a history of the note or the notebook (or the notebook’s relationship to the “book” proper).  I began by thinking about the range of reasons of why handwritten notes have been thought of as valuable resources of creativity and then how taking notes on our computers might somehow be different today.  The piece is a first attempt at trying to come to terms with these differences (“difference” itself being one of the key identities of the handwritten note).  As I write in the opening of the essay:

“In thinking about the relationship between notes and books, and the various movements between them, I am interested in addressing the larger question of what happens today when our notes and our books increasingly belong to the same medium.  Of course we will continue to jot down our ideas on random slips of paper, as Goethe did on theater notices while drafting the last novella of his life. But I think it is fair to say that for many of us much of our note-taking is done on the same medium as our book writing – and here is where our current moment strikes me as crucially different – and our book reading.  As we gradually move to a bookish world that is no longer exclusively defined by the printed book (if it ever was), my question is what happens to this lost sense of metamorphosis surrounding composition – when ‘all is note’ we might say?”