The codex, and with it the page, have set the parameters for what in the Western tradition constitutes text. The “text is stable, has clear boundaries, and is silent” (Soicheff &Taylor, 1999). Its ease of mobility and distribution was ideal for the new religion as it gained followers. This mobility continues today with the page and the iPad.
Jan Tschichold made these principles of page design popular in the mid to late 20th century.Tschichold wrote, “Though largely forgotten today, methods and rules upon which it is impossible to improve have been developed for centuries. To produce perfect books these rules have to be brought to life and applied."
Tschichold's "golden canon of page construction" figure is illustrated with (left) diagonals and circle and (right) a division of the page in ninths. These two constructions rely on the 2:3 page ratio to give a type area height equal to page width. This shows show how Gutenberg and other scholars of the medieval age may have divided their page to achieve margins of one-ninth and two-ninths, a type area the same proportion as the page.
Medieval manuscript framework according to Tschichold, in which a text area proportioned near the golden ratio is constructed. "Page proportion is 2:3, text area proportioned in the Golden Section.
The iPad has similar type area and margins as the medieval manuscript framework.
Antebellum era family Bible dating back to 1859
Source: David Ball 2006
Painting “The Evolution of the Book” located in Library of Congress by painter John White Alexander (1856–1915)
Source: Andreas Praefcke 2007
A medieval page from the “Book of Hours” (Christian devotional book popular in the middle ages) circa 1300
The Form of the Book, Jan Tschichold (1991)
The Form of the Book, Jan Tschichold (1991)
One of the classic hypertext authoring systems, HyperCard, was developed by Bill Atkinson at Apple, and was released in 1987. HyperCard's textual database was the 'card stack': the collection of content that users could link together. HyperCard was revolutionary because it enabled non-programmers to create complex interactive systems with images, sound, movies, etc. In this regard, Hypercard should technically be referred to as a ‘hypermedia’ application because of its ability to link between a variety media types – not just text. HyperCard was widely used by amateur enthusiasts and professional application developers alike.
The Digital Page:
the iPad as Hypertext device.
Just as modern educational practices continue from where academia originated, the medieval era , we continue to work in the intellectual framework of the medieval page.
The traditional design features of page design are highly functional and they are highly functional, because they developed along with out understanding of what constitutes information (Taylor, 1999). The current layout design of the iPad inherits many of its features from high medieval academic texts because this is where there was a development of academic culture. If the iPad is reproducing features of medieval page design it is doing do because these features have become integrated into our habits of epistemology and knowledge formation.
Arguably the iPad has brought us full circle, back from the roll to codex to medieval test. The change does not challenge the prevailing text’s architectural structure.Texts, both printed and digital, are stable, static, and definite, with clearly defined margins and borders. They are both visual depictions conceived as a collection of two dimensional spaces.
Ancient scrolls contained text in a lateral sequence that resembled the modern page. The units of text according to Christian Vandendorpe (1999) were called paginae, where the term page derives. The paginae were taller than they were wide. This was a format that aided the process of reading, and a line of text was more easily read if shorter, from left to right, than longer, allowing information to be absorbed more readily, and to be read aloud more consistently without losing one's place. The width of the paginae varied but it was between eight and eleven centimeters, the range of text widths found in most standard paper today and approximately the range of text widths for the iPad.
While hypertext is generally associated with the computer, its fundamental structuring principles (units of text joined by links), were used well before the invention of the digital technology. Hypertexts have been around for as long as writers have included annotations, marginalia, and references in their texts. Each of these practices entails a kind "interactive branching". For example, textual forms like encyclopedias, dictionaries, and telephone books are not experienced linearly.
The idea of building complex machinery and knowledge infrastructures to facilitate the creation, storage, and use of links between units of text predates the invention the digital computer. An early example is Paul Otlet's (1910) Mundaneum: a vast database of interlinked documents in index card form with which Otlet hoped to make all the world's knowledge instantly retrievable. At the Mundaneum workers broke books apart, dividing them into units of information in index card form. The index cards were individually cataloged and stored using a library classification system (index cards on similar topics were stored together). In 1934, Otlet also conceptualized the "televised book": a multimedia workspace for querying and interactively experiencing texts and other types of media. In the post-World War II era, Vannevar Bush's Memex is also recognized as a proto-hypertext system. The Memex relied on mechanical processes like microfiche and dry-process photography, not digital technology.
Close reading is familiar to most of us--in school, we read mostly traditional print materials, and while methods of close reading vary in focus (on themes or content versus the form of a narrative or the structure of an argument), we’re still encouraged to cultivate what Hayles calls “deep attention.” But if it seems like students aren’t as engaged, that we can’t get them to read books for hours at a time anymore, there’s an obvious danger in focusing too much on characterizing a large group of people, of creating hasty judgments about what “this generation” is like, without looking at the material, technological, and cultural forces that shape them and continue to shape us as a community.
Another method of reading that has proliferated in recent decades is that of hyper reading. James Sosnoski’s coined this term to mean “a reader-directed, screen-based, computer-assisted reading” (1999: 167) like that of Google searches, keyword filtering, skimming, hyperlinking, pulling out items from a long text, and fragmenting (1999:163-72), suggesting that hyper reading differs significantly from print reading. Moreover, Jakob Nielson and his consulting team have done usability research by asking test subjects to deliver commentaries as they encounter web pages, which are recorded by a human tester while their eye movements are recorded as well. The research indicates that web pages are read in an F pattern (Nielson 2006). Although digital reading is sloppy and cursory at best, it works well to identify pages of interest and sort through pages for relevance. But it also has a precedent in archival research, which requires a similar type of scanning and skimming. Hyper reading requires different reading strategies from the close reading, but she argues that both types of reading are already a part of the frequent reader’s toolkit. To make sense of the world, we must do both.
Here, Hayles does not make a distinction between different types of technologies, and it might be worth considering what distinguishes the kind of reading that occurs with iPad from other forms of digital reading, like on a computer screen. Nicholas Carr more broadly argues in The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains that the internet and digital reading in general presents the problem of a constant state of distraction, which hyper reading might foster. But it also offers us benefits as well, depending on the problem we would like to solve. The problem with the sudden increase in hyper reading lately is not hyper reading in and of itself, it’s the imbalance of preferred reading practices. Instead of providing overgeneralizations, we would like to investigate whether reading on the iPad is so different from reading a book or from reading on a screen. Can it offer us an important technological alternative that allows both close and hyper reading practices?
Craig Mod, an independent writer and designer, writes about the future of books and storytelling in a digital age, and he suggests that the crucial differences between the iPad screen and desktop screen involve the distance between the reader and the text on the reading device, the orientation of the device, the quality of the screen’s for optimal viewing of a text, and the kind of concentration that each type of screen allows. Even though the iPad screen uses the same technology as desktop screens (not e-ink like the Kindle), “modern desktop OSes are optimized for multi-tasking and short bursts of concentration,” while the iPad more closely resembles a book, allowing you to manipulate by hand or reposition according to your physical environment and to change the color of the font and background to accommodate your eyesight and the light in your external environment. The iPad can be manipulated by hand, and its flexibility as a reading device illustrates the way a successful electronic device must acknowledge our embodied or physical experience of the world and of technology.
Books in the Age of the iPad. (n.d.). Craig Mod. Retrieved March 9, 2014, from http://craigmod.com/journal/ipad_and_books/
Hendel, R. (1998). On Book Design. Yale University Press.
Rare full recording of 1983 Steve Jobs speech reveals Apple had been working on iPad for 27 years. (n.d.). The Next Web. Retrieved January 31, 2014, from http://thenextweb.com/apple/2012/10/02/rare-full-recording-of-1983-steve-jobs-speech-reveals-apple-had-been-working-on-ipad-for-27-years
Stoicheff, P., & Taylor, A. (2004). The future of the page. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press.
Tschichold, J., Bringhurst, R., & Hadeler, H. (1991). The form of the book: essays on the morality of good design. Hartley & Marks.