Emerging formats – interactive commentary on documents

Yes, the blog has been quiet lately – not because there’s been nothing to discuss, but more because there’s been too much – so many ideas, thoughts, happenings and interesting things I’ve come across that I haven’t had time to focus on one or two enough to make a coherent blog post!

I love the blog, if:book from the Institute for the Future of the Book. There are always fascinating and challenging projects and ideas being posted and discussed, pushing the boundaries – or sometimes operating right outside them.

One of their recent projects is particularly interesting:

Last month we published an online edition of the Iraq Study Group Report in a new format we’re developing (in-house name is “Comment Press”) that allows readers to enter into conversation with a text and with one another. This was a first step in a creative partnership with Lewis Lapham and Lapham’s Quarterly, a new journal that will look at contemporary issues through the lens of history. Launching only a few days before Christmas, the timing was certainly against us. Only a handful of commenters showed up in those first few days, slowing down almost to a halt as the holiday hibernation period set in. Since New Year’s, however, the site has been picking up momentum and has now amassed a sizable batch of commentary on the Report from a diverse group of respondents including Howard Zinn, Frances FitzGerald and Gary Hart.

While that discussion continues to develop in the Report’s margins, we are following it up with a companion text: the transcript and video of President Bush’s address to the nation last night where he outlined his new strategy for Iraq, presented in a similarly Talmudic fashion with commentary accreting around the central text. To these two documents invited readers and other interested members of the public can continue to append their comments, criticisms and clarifications, “at liberty to find,” in Lapham’s words, “‘the way forward’ in or out of Iraq, back to the future or across the Potomac and into the trees.”

It’s worth a look at the site, not just for interesting commentary on a significant current issues, but the format may well be a useful one in an educational context. I can see a lot of applications for this sort of interactive structure in our teaching programs, particularly in terms of policy or text analysis.


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