[Submitted by Stephen MacNeil]
In recent blogs I talked through some of the ideas surrounding methods for presenting various textual genres within the NewRadial user interface. In breaking down components of the text into the most basic forms, the NewRadial team came up with various fundamental levels based on the standards that already exist amongst various academic writing formats. For instance, breaking down the poem we move through the entirety of the poem, then to stanzas, and ultimately to individual lines. With a prose document, however, we decided that the most basic object should be the page.
Going forward, however, having the page as the most basic representative object within a node became problematic. For instance, there is always the possibility that text will continue onto the next page, thus making annotating passages within a single page limiting as the ability for a joint-page annotation would not work well within the NewRadial interface as it stands. There are some possible ways around this, but ultimately they would sacrifice some of the conceptual objectives NewRadial set forth from the beginning. For instance, it may be possible, in theory, to create restrictions on a page so that it must end in a complete sentence instead of flowing onto a second page. This, however, would take away from the integrity and replication of the edition. Another idea is to give users the ability to change the font size in order for the text to adjust to the current page so that the entirety of the quotation that is selected remains on a single page. Again, this impedes on the replication of the edition as well as it leaves open the problem of unity amongst various users looking at the same page, but having different font settings. This would be difficult to achieve within the NewRadial social edition environment which would allow multiple users to be working with the same text.
Going forward, then, we have to rethink the page. I wonder—if instead—it might be a better solution to go from chapters to paragraphs. It’s a big leap, but gets rid of the problems related to pages that don’t end with a paragraph’s end. A precedent for this is the way that online documents have numbered paragraphs or the way that McKenzie Wark organized the online version of his book Gamer Theory on The Future of the Book site. An intermediate category between chapter and paragraph might be headers (if the book has them), but this would likely be a feature of secondary scholarship works (monographs, essay collections) rather than novels. Perhaps going back to the idea of the paragraph is the most substantial and workable idea within NewRadial. This way, we could retain the page of the edition in NewRadial, but exploring the page further would give users access to paragraphs. This may mean a restructuring of the current concept of NewRadial’s child and parent node relationships that we are currently working towards. As I have mentioned, integrity and replication of the edition is important so that there is a unified and cohesive agreement between printed and digital editions. Working from this concept, the other factor that needs to under constant consideration is usability. Discovering what is the most user friendly method of breaking down a page to its most basic functions which aids usability amongst many users within the NewRadial environment is one of the main goals moving forward.