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g4m3r 7h30ry and the history of commentpress

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Such an appropriation has been at the center one of the projects of the Institute for the Future of the Book, whose members have been at work on ways to enable conversation in and around digitally published texts; as Bob Stein suggested to a reporter from The Chronicle of Higher Education, the electronic text can powerfully overcome the codex’s isolation:

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 I realized that this questioning that goes on while you read, that that could happen sort of in real time and in a dynamic way…. And best of all would be if readers could talk to each other, and if readers could talk to the author, because the reason for a book is to afford conversation across space and time, and so why shouldn’t some of that conversation take place literally within the book itself? (Young)

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 2 Among the projects through which the Institute hopes to facilitate some of that conversation is an adaptation of WordPress’s blogging engine for use in electronic publishing. Their open-source theme, named CommentPress, has its deep origins in a collaboration with McKenzie Wark who, in preparing the manuscript for his 2007 book, Gamer Theory, was persuaded to collaborate with the Institute in putting a draft of the text online. The online version, titled GAM3R 7H30RY (so that Wark could distinguish Google hits mentioning the online text from those mentioning the print book), easily adapted itself to publication through a blogging engine, but Wark and the Institute early expressed an interest in subverting one of the basic structures of the blogging hierarchy: rather than keeping each chunk of his text up top, with comments relegated to a spot further down the screen, Wark and the Institute’s developers collaborated on a design that would place the text and the comments side-by-side, emphasizing the conversational principle that the publication hoped to foster.1

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 screenshot1

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 G4M3R 7H30RY lent itself to being published in this fashion in part because the text was already “chunked,” written in a hyper-structured, rigidly algorithmic structure, with 9 alphabetically sequential chapters, each containing 25 paragraphs, with a strict 250-word limit per paragraph; as the paragraphs themselves were often aphoristic, many of them stood alone well, and reader comments were thus able to be closely associated with each paragraph of the text. However, the translation of what was originally intended to be a traditional codex book into this nonlinear structure nonetheless created some complications: each paragraph looked a bit more free-standing than it really was; a reader couldn’t simply enter and exit the text at any random point; readers often left questions or comments on early chunks about issues that were addressed in later parts of the text. Moreover, publishing Wark’s text online was extraordinarily labor-intensive, requiring too much manual tweaking to be readily adaptable for more general publishing purposes.

  1. 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0
  2. “Doing the comments this way (next to, not below, the parent posts) came out of a desire to break out of the usual top-down hierarchy of blog-based discussion” (Vershbow, “G4M3R 7H30RY”).
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Source: http://projects.plannedobsolescence.net/cpdraft/g4m3r-7h30ry-and-the-history-of-commentpress/