Saturday, November 15, 2008

Digital Storytelling

Blogging is a new form of storytelling.

Or perhaps it is a return to the old serial form of storytelling.

Blogging will destroy old media.

Blogging will save media.

I don't have any answers but Beau Friedlander wrote a nuanced piece for the LA Times last Sunday, The Internet vs. books: Peaceful coexistence, that is well worth reading.

I've buried the lead again, as my HS Journalism teacher would say. This post is really a rave review for Annie Modesitt's latest book, Knit with Courage, Live with Hope. It is an edited compilation of her 2007 blog posts about moving her family from New Jersey to Minnesota and discovering that her husband's back pain is really Multiple Myeloma, a type of cancer.

Why buy the book, when you can read the story for free on her blog? Well, that gets me back to the difference between reading a book and reading a blog.

Because you are reading this now, I don't need to tell you that a blog is read from the bottom up instead of the top down. That is, the earliest entries are at the bottom of the page. Reading from the top of the page gives away the ending. I forget that most people are not habitual blog readers and don't know that. To navigate to specific month, you need to click on the monthly archive (sometimes a pulldown menu under the year) link, usually found on the right side of the page, and then read from the bottom up--unless you are the type to read the end of the story first.

We also scroll up and down to navigate around a web page. We turn the pages of a book from side to side. There is a different eye and head motion to reading a book versus a web page. That doesn't seem like a big deal, but a coworker and I were recently discussing the importance of visual memory for locating information. We both recall information in books partly by its placement on a page. If I want to locate a certain graph, I sort of remember whether it was on the left or right page and if it was near the top or bottom. She can also recall the placement of the paragraphs she is looking for.

When scrolling through a web page, the content is constantly jumping around in placement. Perhaps this is another reason why everything old is new again. Papyrus rolls operated in a similar way; as one section is exposed, another section is hidden.

Then there is the tactile sensation of holding a physical book and turning the pages. I like to read in silence, with only the rustling sound of the paper. No blinking ads. No sidebars. Total immersion in the story.

Moreover, you can read a book without electricity or internet connections. No, I don't have a kindle and can't compare that. I don't like reading ebooks on my laptop or computer. I do keep pdfs of programming books on my laptop for quick reference, but I also like to read the physical versions of the books. For instance, I bought the hard copy of IDL Programming Techniques for $80 and paid an extra $10 to download the pdf as well. I could have just paid $25 for the pdf alone, but I really wanted to hold the book. Maybe that was a bad example because I don't really program without electricity or network connections.

And talk about long digressions, this post is about Annie Modesitt and her new book. Go buy the book. Read her blog. Reading the book and her blog are different experiences.

Oh, what about the content of the book?

Annie Modesitt is a knitting goddess, an internationally-known knitwear designer and teacher. Her work is featured in many top publications and she has written several books. She is also a wonderful artist/sculptor that works in unconventional materials (but that is not how she makes her mortgage). I know her as a friend, which is how I came to receive a review copy of Knit with Courage, Live with Hope.

An incurable form of cancer is an unlikely subject for a book with hope in the title. But, reading the book is an improbably uplifting experience. It is also a love story about Gerry and Annie and how they formed a family and life together. The story does not end with them going "poof in the exact same moment as each other when we're 88 after a long and happy life". But the story continues with Annie's characteristic honesty, courage, strength, warmth and good sense.
Gerry will live until he doesn't, but he will LIVE until he doesn't. We - his family - we'll live, too. And we'll use the love we share to pull us through the hardest parts.
And I will be reading.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I used to follow Annie Modesitt's blog, I am definitely a fan, but I haven't followed much of anything lately. Time to end that and I am looking forward to the book as well.

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