Jenny Reeder

Annotations and the Complexity of Online History
February 5, 2007, 7:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Last semester we discussed the power of hyperlinks, and I was thrilled at the possibility. I quickly realized, however, that while links are an inherent strength of the Web, scholarly footnotes prove problematic. Although Jenny Lyn Bader cites the power of “clickability,” I agreed with Misha that frenetic button-pushing can lead to attention deficit disorder. While the non-linear, individual-oriented user can control the direction of information-seeking, the scholar loses. Footnotes and hyperlinks are not the same. Rather, as Gertrude Himmelfarb noted, we lose accountability when we lose footnotes.

I’m intrigued by the different ideas of how to deal with scholarly footnotes. I think my favorite option by our own Professor Petrik is the popup. I love the concept of an explanation visibly available, right next to the text in question. I like the idea that I can control the popup according to my own interest–I read some; I leave some. I feel strongly about being able to print the document with the footnotes in place. I think the sidebar is tricky–some footnotes are extremely long and would take up a lot of sidebar.

It’s all about usability and accountability…


5 Comments so far
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Jenny, I’m with you on desirability of footnotes,
When I read Bader’s article, I was surprised how demanding I’ve become of online materials, I was sad when I hovered and clicked around her footnotes and noting happened!

I’ve come to appreciate the popup in MS Word. It’s a quick and easy glimpse at the footnote. I hope to be able to figure out how to use it in Clio 2!


Comment by Bill

Jenny, I agree as well. The scroll-to-the-end-of-the-page footnote on the web is distracting; the popup, potentially synchronous with the flow of reading. I really like your booklist as part of the blog.

Comment by Lee Ann Ghajar

It seems as though most people are in agreement that the pop-up is the footnote of the future (on the web at least). I wonder how this debate will affect printed text? Ie., I wonder if people will be more inclined to read footnotes online because they can pick and choose, and because the footnote appears instantly right next to its text. Text on the web began more as a mirror of printed text, but now it’s expanding well beyond the capabilities of the printed word. I wonder if publishers will respond by attempting to mirror virtual text.

Comment by James Garber

The pop-up seems most popular. But do you really think it functions in anywhere near the same capacity as a footnote. They seem so easy to ignore, which I think is what most people are apt to do when reading the web. I don’t want to be labeled a determinist, but I wonder if this might encourage even poorer scholarly habits.

Comment by Ken

[…] thoughts are continued in my comment on Jenny’s […]

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