Ancient Marginalia: Theseus and the Dramaturge

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

The future is hiring:

Digiturge Wanted
Publisher seeking experienced digiturge to craft relevant and creative in-line links for backlog titles and new digital-fist works of fiction, nonfiction, and ludic narratives.  Applicants must have an advanced degree in either Library Science or Digital Indexing/Metadata.  Literature degree preferred.  The successful applicant will have a rich multidisciplinary portfolio and at least 2 digiturgical author credits.  Full benefits included. Pay starting at $250K per year – negotiable.

I imagine many of us do this – we read books or articles while occasionally (or more frequently) bouncing out to look up relevant facts, places, images on the Google machine.  Personally, I spent 1/3 of my time reading The Orphan Master’s Son on-line searching facts about and images of North Korea.  And yes, I often wound up lost in the web – eventually looking at pictures of broccolini and of volcanoes from space until I fall asleep.  That’s the danger with DIY footnoting; you are cast into the labyrinth without a string.  One minute you are happily reading a well-crafted novel, the next you are young Theseus lost in the twisted maze, stalking some minotaur or other.  Not cool.

The internet serves as the ultimate reference library and has made reference library users of us all. But what of the librarians? We lose some important things – context, curation, authority, quality – without their guidance. A solution, short of cohabiting with a librarian, lies in software development.  The startup Beneath the Ink, for example, has crafted a epub-based platform that provides in-line links activated by the hyperlinked text.  The links open right there in the body of the text using a sort of stretchtext

A bink in the wild.

A bink in the wild.

approach to hyperlinks.  No whisking away, no floating modals.  What’s more, these relatively non-disruptive in-line links (they call them ‘binks’) house all sorts of media.

Most importantly, bink content is authored by someone.  Sometimes it is the author of the main text as with their award winning title Mistress of France by Ema Boling.  Other times, these are authored by a third party – someone who is scouring the record for material, researching relevance, creating juicy associations and auxiliaries, pacing the binks, and generally crafting and structuring the reader’s meta-textual experience. This author is creating a new kind of paratext – part footnote, part reference, part art form.

A good analogy is the dramaturge in theater.  This professional dramatist provides essential research, background, and context to the playwright and/or director as they shape their work. Their input, albeit somewhat academic, is an essential element of the experience of the work.  So to with the modern digiturge laboring to provide experiential scaffolding to a work of digital reading.

Olivia Tufo, officially ‘Head of Author Outreach at Beneath The Ink’ is also what I consider to be the resident digiturge at Beneath the Ink.  She describes her task as “supporting the author and looking through the text” for meaningful connections to the corpus of human knowledge and bringing these to light.  In her words, she is “on the side of the author, like a translator.”  Well crafted binks allow us to expand our reading

Tattoo idea

Tattoo idea

without entering the labyrinth.  All strings, no Minotaur.  Ms. Tufo is part author, part librarian, part indexer and all creative participant in the reading experience.  Her skills and qualities as a creative researcher and empathic reader contribute to her success as the world’s first digiturge.

Perhaps Ms. Tufo will go on to Chair the first Digiturge Graduate Program at ASU or some other progressive university.  But wait, I want that job.  I bet the future has room for at least two of us…

Expert Publishing Blog
Corey Pressman (@cspressman)

About Corey Pressman (@cspressman)

Corey is an anthropologist, futurist, author, and speaker. He is busy imagining and enacting our digital future as Director of Experience Strategy at Neologic, a Portland-based agency and imagination lab. A Fellow of the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, Corey regularly publishes and presents on the past, present, and future of media. He recently contributed the closing chapter to the book Examining Paratextual Theory and its Applications in Digital Culture.

2 thoughts on “Ancient Marginalia: Theseus and the Dramaturge

  1. Olivia

    Corey- I could not imagine a better co-chair for the Fictional Department of Digiturgy. How else would we have comparative paratext seminars?
    Many thanks from one lifelong reader to another.

  2. Steve

    Make it three, Corey – love the “digiturge” concept. I think contemporary editorial process has to include this kind of curatorial function. Deep, associative knowledge + talent + charismatic voice will attract a following the way certain DJs do. Kudos to Beneath the Ink and Olivia for the elegant, intuitive design and excellent commentary layer. But though it’s a convenient contraction, Olivia, I’ve gotta say I hope you all are not locked into the term \bink,\ which to my ear sounds more like a baby pacifier than an interface for serious reading. (BTW, for a wonderful early iteration of inline expanded text, see Fluid Reader, developed by Rich Gold and his team at Xerox PARC, circa 1999.)



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