Digital commonplacing
First Monday

Digital commonplacing by Jon Hoem and Ture Schwebs



Abstract
This paper presents illustrative examples of digital technology that facilitates information sorting and recontextualizing. A number of online media, like microblogging and photo sharing Web sites, allow collecting and systematizing information over time. Citations and user annotations, along with copied and embedded multimodal material, are compiled into new works through a complex interplay between users and Web services. The resulting texts can be seen as remixes, created by tags and links to various sources, which let individual contributions become part of a large number of potentially new texts. This article examines two examples to highlight qualities of tagging written and visual information: Twitter and Pinterest.

This way of reusing digital information may be compared to similar analogue information management practices, known as commonplacing, found in early modern Europe. Readers would keep useful information to be retrieved later by copying passages from their own reading into notebooks called commonplace books.

Contents

Introduction
Commonplacing in early modern Europe
Prosuming
Digital commonplacing
Commonplacing written digital texts: Twitter
Commonplacing digital images: Pinterest
Commonplacing and remixing
Conclusion

 


 

Introduction

The aim of this article is to examine illustrative examples of digital technology that facilitates not only information search and collecting, but also information sorting and contextualizing.

It may be argued that memorizing facts is a waste of time and cognitive resources, given that factual information may be found online, anytime and anywhere (Tapscott and Williams, 2010; Tapscott, 1998). Others argue, on the other hand, that easy access to information will restrict reflection and critical thinking (Prensky, 2001; Carr, 2008).

Given that the flow and complexity of information is not going to decrease, both perspectives outlined above call for better ways of managing and mastering digital information, often for continuously changing purposes. Consequently ‘digital literacy’ needs to include the skills of situating information within a broader, meaningful context. This kind of (re)contextualizing may appear when the user acquires a knowledge supply by gathering and organizing information over time. The challenge implies constructing information processing tools which let the user combine browsing with pausing, surface with depth. The strategy is based on the capacity to do a fast, broad information search and — according to present needs — plunge into a specified field. By arranging and systematizing information for later retrieving, the user can build his own database over time, thus constructing a ‘knowledge inventory’. People who have developed a rich base of facts, find it easier to learn more (Willingham, 2006).

However, similar information handling challenges were met long before the idea of personal computers. Looking back into the European history of scholarly reading and writing, we find a way of organizing and handling information called commonplacing, based of information management principles relevant to how we use computers today.

 

++++++++++

Commonplacing in early modern Europe

‘Commonplace’ is a translation of the Latin term locus communis (Greek tópos koinós), meaning “a theme or argument of general application”. In classic Greek rhetoric tópos is the ‘place’ where the rhetor would find appropriate topics, views and evidence for his speech. Roman students of rhetoric learned how to argue with loci communes in order to extract general statements from specific cases, and they produced collections of tópoi to be used in various occasions.

Gutenberg’s invention of a process for mass-producing movable types and the development of the printing press significantly increased the market for industrial production of paper. In the following centuries paper became almost a commodity, however printed books were still rare and expensive. In libraries and churches books were considered so important, or even dangerous, that they were chained to reading desks and lecterns. Therefore, devoted scholars and scientists became accustomed to copy information of importance. They wrote quotations from printed books and other sources into their own notebooks, to form personal anthologies called commonplace books or commonplaces.

Commonplace books emerged in the Renaissance. Readers, writers, students and teachers would buy books with empty pages to collect and store information from a number of sources, often along a common theme. They copied passages which they would like to keep for later reference. It could be remarkable quotations found to convey a special insight or written in a style that the commonplacer approved. These individually compiled books were used as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts. Each commonplace book was unique, and reflected its creator’s particular interests or profession. A commonplace book could hold anything the commonplacer found significant and was able to write or draw on paper. Many simple commonplaces would just list topics under a few headings, like “virtues” or “vices”. Other were more ambitious, organizing the excerpts under highly specialized categories and sub-sections (Sherman, 1992). However, most commonplace books followed specific topics, resembling the commonplacer’s occupation or special interests.

Maintaining a commonplace book was an integrated part of the act of reading, and an activity known to poets, philosophers and scholars and anyone with intellectual ambition. Historian Robert Darnton describes how readers in early modern England read, jumping from book to book:

They broke texts into fragments and assembled them into new patterns by transcribing them in different sections of their notebooks. Then they reread the copies and rearranged the patterns while adding more excerpts. Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. (Darnton, 2000)

Commonplacing emerged in a period of time when imitation, not originality, was an ideal. Classic rhetoric understood cópia as ‘richness’ and ‘fullness’ and included the repertoire of arguments (cópia rérum) and linguistic formulations (cópia verbórum) which the rhetor had at his disposal. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance cópia was the foremost style ideal and a characteristics of scholarly writing. Commonplacing was not considered as derivative, but a sign of eloquence and learning. Pupils were taught to construct commonplace books almost as soon as they could read and write, the books were a sign that someone had done their homework rather than having plagiarized other people’s words, ideas, and images (Sherman, 1992).

Commonplace books flourished from the 1600s. In the eighteenth century information sources became more diverse due to mass production of printed material, such as less expensive books, newspapers and newsletters. In the nineteenth century efficient image reproducing technologies (lithography, photography) led to even more multimodal commonplaces, like scrapbooks filled with written and pictorial items of every kind: poems, prayers, recipes, letters, illustrations etc., along with bits of the owner’s own writings and drawings. In this way the commonplacer could construct a trail of references, often shared with other people, as a way of showing off their taste and their circle of friends. Friends would often make contributions to each other’s books.

 

A merchant's commonplace book, dating from 1312
 
Figure 1: A merchant’s commonplace book, dating from 1312, containing hand-drawn diagrams of Venetian ships and descriptions of Venice’s merchant culture (Source: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (MS 327), Yale University).

 

Commonplacing came in many flavors, and every commonplacer could possibly come up with his own organizing methods and reference systems, whatever he found the best to serve his own needs, as depicted in Figure 1. However, this clearly individual aspect was often counterweighted by an implicit intention of making the copied information available to others. A merchant having spent years collecting information he considered vital to his trade, would consider it being a great value to bring information to his successor or an associate. From this perspective it definitely made sense to structure the information in common places, in ways that could be universally understood among people within the trade.

Seventeenth century philosopher John Locke refined his commonplacing by developing an index system that was expandable as more quotes and observations were added. Locke’s method was a response to a conflict between a methodical approach and individual associations, a technique which may lead to unexpected new connections. Locke’s approach made it easy to locate minor parts of text, but it also allowed the body of text to evolve with no predefined structure. This approach will be quite familiar to users of digital tools for personal publishing, like blogs, notation services, pinboards etc.

In the nineteenth century the use of commonplace books declined. The fall of the popularity of commonplacing can be related to easier access to printed information. A great number of public and private libraries were established in Europe and North America, and more effective printing presses and industrial production paper made printed books less expensive. This gave people in general much easier access to information, and the value of a single book diminished. So did the value of copying it.

 

++++++++++

Prosuming

Analogue commonplacing — manufacturing paper-based commonplace books — were activities linked to reading as well as to writing. Consuming a text was integrated in the process of producing another text. In this respect we find a parallel to modern prosuming, a significant characteristics of how digital media is used today. The American futurist Alvin Toffler (1981) introduced the term prosuming to describe the merging of production and consumption. Prosumption was predominant in pre-industrial societies, before marketization separated producers and consumers. Information society is moving away from the separation of sender and receiver, towards “the rise of the prosumer” [1].

Various forms of user participation on the Internet make the active parts of prosumption more prominent and increasingly complex. With computers and the transformability of digital information one can argue that prosumption has been taken to new levels, first by services often characterized as Web 2.0 — defined by the users’ ability to take part in the production of texts (media content) collaboratively (Ritzer and Jurgenson, 2010). One can argue that a distinguishing mark of successful digital communication services is their ability to handle their users’ numerous alterations between consuming and producing. In the last few years these practices have been taken to the mobile Web, where devices enabling user contributions are with us almost all the time. On the Internet value is created when users copy and link, and thereby create connections between contributions from a large number of individuals. Knowledge can be seen as existing in social networks, and learning as forming and navigating these networks become important skills (Siemens, 2008).

 

++++++++++

Digital commonplacing

Analogue commonplacing is a model that may be used for organizing information available online. We will define digital commonplacing as equipping copied information fragments with tags and with links to the online sources. Tags are words or phrases assigned to an entity of information in order to organize and retrieve it. The fragments are primarily content already existing on the Web and will typically be shared and contextualized within a collective framework. Such collective framework are generally named folksonomies, a term coined from ‘folk’ and ‘taxonomy’ (Vander Wal, 2007). Unlike a taxonomy, being a systematic classification, a folksonomy has no hierarchy or predefined relationship between different tags. Tags are typically implemented by individual users, often following group consensus. However, a tag may also introduce ambiguity: ‘Orange’ may refer to the color, the fruit, a mobile phone company, a bike manufacturer, numerous places in different parts of the world, etc. Still, tags provide a user friendly approach to categorization that benefits from the ‘wisdom of crowds’ (Surowiecki, 2004). Given the vast information resources on the Internet, folksonomies are often the only realistic approach if humans are to be involved in information indexing.

Users may have different intentions when tagging. In some situations tags are used to connect a piece of information to other information fragments of the same topic. This is typically what happens when a specific tag is introduced in a formal setting, like at a conference where participants are asked to tag their information in a specific way (e.g., ‘sxsw2014’, used at the 2014 technology festival South by Southwest). A tag can also evolve informally into a specific meaning by group consensus. An example would be a tag like ‘TBT’, short for ‘ThrowBackThursday’, used by people posting old photos or memories. These kinds of tags are used by individual users with the specific intention of connecting their information to similar information posted by others.

In other situations users will want to give information exclusive tags. Such a tag can be easy to decode, like ‘vacation_granada_july_2014’. People who intentionally use exclusive tags, choose not to be part in the collaborative information sharing. A piece of information can, however, be furnished with multiple tags, making it possible to use connective tags and exclusive tags simultaneously. Multiple tags are useful, giving the information both common places and private places. This reflects the duality of a lot of information on the Internet, often existing on the border between the private and the public, having the duality in common with paper-based commonplacing.

Tagging is widely used by a number of online services. They may be differentiate in two main groups: those whose main purpose is to store and organize information uploaded by users to the Web, and those that organize information stored elsewhere. In the first category we will find image and video services like Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo. All of them allow tagging, but they are restricted to material that is stored by the services themselves. By not primarily being designed for republishing content already existing on the Web, they do not facilitate digital commonplacing.

In the other category we may find social bookmarking services, whose main purpose is to organize material found elsewhere on the Web, thus meeting our commonplacing criteria. Examples are Delicious, Citeulike and note-taking services like OneNote and Evernote. In the following we will look into two illustrative examples: the mainly text-based Twitter and the image-focusing Pinterest.

 

++++++++++

Commonplacing written digital texts: Twitter

Twitter started as a microblogging tool, intended to share short messages, limited to 140 characters, and give no room for longer citations. Twitter was ahead of its time, as mobile devices today are about to be the preferred choice for consuming digital content.

Information can be tagged in different ways. On Twitter the most common are tagging with usernames and/or with ‘hashtags’. Twitter uses tags for every user. In Figure 2 the first post has a reference to the Twitter user @SPIEGELONLINE. Referring to a user is an explicit way of giving context to a message, because the message will also be shown in the mentioned user’s own Twitter stream, among all the other users he follows. Without going into Twitter-specific details, we see that even though the options available to users are limited, they can have a quite powerful effect, which makes the information flow between users.

Any combination of characters led by a # (hash) is called a hashtag, and is used to make it easier to search for specific topics in a large corpus of text. Hashtags have a long tradition in online media preceding Twitter, and was first introduced on Twitter by users (Twitter, 2014). Words or phrases preceded by the # symbol grew into a way for organizing tweets.

When users collaboratively agree upon using a specific tag, they create a record of related messages. The general convention is that hashtags will be used to share information among all users, but individual users may also use unique tags, not related to tags used by other users, to organize posts for their own purposes.

The example in Figure 2 illustrates how Twitter users can create a collaborative text with the help of tags. In tweets, tags are written as part of each message. The metadata become an integrated part of the message itself, making them easy to include. This may be of vital importance for users reading and writing on small mobile devices with limited screen space.

 

Following the hashtag #eurocrisis on Twitter
 
Figure 2: Following the hashtag ‘#eurocrisis’ on Twitter. Most of the users agree that this tag will be used for information about the economic crisis in Europe. The text is constantly evolving, as new tweets with the same hashtag are added.

 

Figure 2 shows only a small fragment of a text that was created when searching for a specific tag on Twitter. Still we clearly see the mechanisms in play: All of the five messages to the right have in common the tag ‘#eurocrisis’, which is why they appeared on this specific page. Some of the messages include several tags, which makes them part of other contexts, see Figure 3.

Hashtags are written metadata, but the way they are used on Twitter is also a telling example of the blurred boundaries between data and metadata, like the first tweet shown in Figure 2.:

Downward Spiral: #SouthernEurope Remains Stuck in Crisis-Time for change in strategy? http://spon.de/adYA8 via @SPIEGELONLINE #eurocrisis

Here the hashtag ‘#SouthernEurope’ serves two purposes. It can be read as a perfectly meaningful part of the message. Simultaneously it connects the tweet to other messages with this hashtag. The user has copied the text from the title of the page he is linking to, but changed ‘Southern Europe’ into ‘#SouthernEurope’. This is quite common on Twitter, as the 140 character limitation forces the users to write their messages as condensed as possible, while using hashtags to connect their tweets to others.

 

Some of the tweets tagged with #eurocrisis have more than one hashtag
 
Figure 3: Some of the tweets tagged with #eurocrisis have more than one hashtag. This gives additional context to a specific tweet, but if one follows a link to a related search, like #SouthernEurope and #troika, the context may change completely.

 

Lev Manovich compares following a Twitter stream to the experience of the flaneur, who “navigates through the flows of passersby and the city streets, enjoying the density of stimuli and information provided by the modern metropolis. He can intensify his experience of ‘being in the flow’ by choosing particular places and times of days.” (Manovich, 2012) This metaphor has often been used to describe browsing a hyperlinked text. The flow of passing events is never ending, but by grasping and holding on to some fragments the user can retweet selected messages and add hashtags that he finds appropriate.

When following current events assigned to a specific hashtag, there can be hundreds of tweets, every minute, making it close to impossible to follow details. In such situations collaborative filtering becomes helpful: some messages are forwarded (retweeted) by a number of users, who consider them important and/or worth sharing. In such environments many small actors often link to a few large ones. A service like Twitter then appears like a “real-time amplifier”, where the “nodes that lose the fitness that got them there in the first place retire very quickly” (Ito, 2004). Following ongoing events Twitter can be regarded as an information network that allows large scale and small scale communication simultaneously. On the large scale, resourceful actors can do their traditional one point-to-multipoint distribution with limited feedback. This resembles mass media’s transmission pattern, where transaction costs are kept to a minimum and creating a power-law distribution of links (Shirky, 2003). At the same time there will be an even larger discussion going on among average users, whose individual contributions are much less retweeted. How the two levels are in play at the same time can be shown statistically, but it also becomes visible when following specific events, like in Egypt, July 2013 (Figures 4 and 5).

 

The most popular tweets posted to #egypt, those that have been retweeted by most users, come from authoritative sources
 
Figure 4: The most popular tweets posted to #egypt, those that have been retweeted by most users, come from authoritative sources. Major actors, like BBC and Al Jazeera, dominate searching for #egypt.

 

 

It became impossible to follow all of the tweets posted to #egypt during events in Egypt in July 2013
 
Figure 5: It became impossible to follow all of the tweets posted to #egypt during events in Egypt in July 2013. But all the tweets still contribute to an overall picture that can be used for future search and reference.

 

One can argue that a few actors dominate, because they have a huge base of followers. On the other hand there can be an extremely long tail of tweets, and the “top” tweets (Figure 4) almost totally disappear when following the stream from all of the tweets on a popular topic (Figure 5). Holding on to Egypt: During the uprising in 2011 tweets from average users were cherry-picked by global news organizations, where journalists published on their own platforms what they saw as the most relevant tweets (Russell, 2011). These tweets would be shared on Twitter and other social media, and retweeted by a large number of users. The use of tags becomes an important contribution that makes it possible to figure out some of this complexity.

Analogue commonplacing was carried out with a relatively specific purpose, unlike what most Twitter users do. The use of hashtags as common placeholders for information is obviously not like carefully leaving information in a book written by hand. On Twitter the actual text is seldom copied, only made accessible by a referring link. The analogy to traditional commonplacing is therefore less a matter of compilation of information. What becomes more important is the collaborative development and maintenance of a shared index.

 

++++++++++

Commonplacing digital images: Pinterest

Metadata formed as letters and numbers in written text, like tweets, may be indexed and searched by computers. A much more complex task is supplying graphical images and videos with metadata. To describe precisely what one see in an image may literally take more than a thousand words. It is safe to claim that commonplacing visual images is better done with dedicated services, which keep the visual reference to the original information. Pinterest.com is an example of a tool well suited for this purpose.

Pinterest is, like the name indicates, a pinboard style Web site that allows its users to manage theme-based image collections (Figure 6). Other users may “follow” boards or comment on them, and they may be invited to contribute to them. Pinterest is one of the Web-based image services that comes closest to analogue commonplacing, given that most users post and share images that are already published on the Web.

Pinning images is easy, reflecting that the intention is that this activity is performed while browsing the Web. Users can install a bookmarklet (‘Pin It’ button) in their Web browser, which makes pinning simply a matter of clicking the bookmarklet button, selecting the desired image to represent the Web page in question and assigning it to a pinboard. A copy of the image will automatically be added to the specified board. The users can view each other’s pinboards and ‘re-pin’ images to their own pinboards. Similar to the significance of retweeting on Twitter, Pinterest has repinning as part of their core functionality. This way a popular image can be quite widely spread among a number of users. More than 80 percent of the pins are said to be re-pins (Moore, 2012). This fact shows how crucial it is to facilitate ways of sharing information within social communities.

The user who pinned an image to Pinterest initially is given ‘discovery credit’ by being named as the original publisher of the pin and the source of the link. To many users this credit is important, but it is even more important to the service provider. The sharing of images through repinning, likes and comment is what gives Pinterest their most valuable data as a service provider. Not unlike Twitter, Pinterest’s business model is based on the knowledge that they are able to collect from monitoring user posts on trending topics. The majority of Pinterest users are women (Gilbert, et al., 2013), and it seems fair to say that a lot of pins are about lifestyle, diet, fashion, interiors etc., all topics that are of interest to marketers. Given a large user group, Pinterest can give commercial actors valuable insight to very specific details about a large variety of products. There is of course also a pretty obvious marketing potential for a vendor getting images of his products widely shared.

Below every pinned image Pinterest provides a commentary box allowing up to 500 characters, letting the user leave written details of the image. The function thus enables annotating — a trait that also characterizes analogue commonplacing.

 

Like all social media, Pinterest deals with sharing and discovering information
 
Figure 6: Like all social media, Pinterest deals with sharing and discovering information. Users can choose to have their pinned images displayed on shared pinboards, which aggregates a body of pinned images from all of the users.

 

Figure 6 shows how Pinterest’s pinboard style creates a column-based spatial representation which enables a kind of multilinearity, where the generated collage of images can be explored in various ways and give room for individual associations. The relationship between the images tend to form a meaningful juxtaposition when perceived by a viewer.

This usage follows a long visual tradition: In the beginning of the twentieth century the German art historian and cultural theorist Aby Warburg made numerous compilations of illustrations from a variety of sources. Pictures and drawings were put on analogue pinboards corresponding to specific themes, a kind of visual commonplacing with paper copies. The representations were used for exposition, but the boards would also be photographed. The new images could later be used in new montages (Manovich, 2002).

Pinterest and Twitter have some substantial differences when it comes to how the common places are defined. Pinterest has predefined a set of global or common categories not to be altered by users. Every board is connected to one of several global categories (Figure 7), and this category is shared by all the pins on the board. There are about 30 global categories, which makes each category broad, like ‘History’. When assigning an image to a pinboard, the user adds metadata, but unlike Twitter, where a tweet can be given several tags, an image can only be assigned to a single pinboard. The name of the board can be considered as an additional category specified by the user, but it is quite evident that Pinterest has not given priority to individual freedom as far as tagging is concerned. Other image services work differently. For example, Flickr will allow users to add multiple tags to every image, without restrictions. Flickr, however, is a service that focuses on uploading and sharing images, and is, as we pointed out earlier, rarely used for re-publishing and linking to existing images from other Web sites.

 

Pinterest: Assigning a pinboard to a global/common category
 
Figure 7: Pinterest: Assigning a pinboard to a global/common category. The categories are decided by the service provider, and may not be altered by users. A “Who can pin?” option render possible to invite selected users to contribute to a board.

 

Given the limited choices for adding metadata, we might consider Pinterest as strictly commonplacing. Users are given more freedom by services that allow and facilitate tagging. Written tags are, however, such a powerful way of indexing information, that one may lose sight of other significant qualities of Pinterest. Tags are surely useful for collaborative indexing, but compilation of elements in relation to each other is also an essential part of commonplacing.

This relational feature brings to our attention the power of images as additional kind of data with specific qualities. On Pinterest, images are brought together as a kind of ‘spatial montage’ (Manovich, 2002). Pinterest is, however, not a “spatial publishing system”. Spatial Web publishing requires that “media objects can be placed in a position on the screen chosen by the user” (Hoem, 2010). Pinterest users do not influence pinboards’ layout, sizes and the order of elements. All the images are displayed in columns with a fixed width. Pinterest succeeds, though, in providing a simple set of tools that allow extensive reuse of images based on their visual appearance. Boards may also be shared, and numerous contributors may add hundreds of images to a specific topic, every day. Pinboards that are maintained by active users, become dynamic expressions, and therefore offering many of the fundamental functions of commonplacing.

 

A pin can be repinned or liked by rolling the cursor over an image and selecting the desired button
 
Figure 8: A pin can be “repinned” or “liked” by rolling the cursor over an image and selecting the desired button.

 

 

++++++++++

Commonplacing and remixing

Digital media and computer tools give increased possibilities for receiving information, but the ability to create and re-contextualize information can be seen as just as important. The material can be unique digital information, produced by the user, but often it consists of existing bits and pieces found on the Internet. Sometimes the material becomes transformed, and completely new creations emerge, but just as often significant parts of the original sources are visible in the new product.

These processes, found both in analogue and digital media, can be characterized as remixing (Navas, 2010), a term originating in the music industry. A remix is an alternative version of a sound recording. The term is also used for adoption, alteration, and recombination of existing texts in general, into new forms. According to the American jurist Lawrence Lessig, a proponent of Creative Commons licensing, digital technology lets more people being able “to take what is our culture; to ‘rip’ it — meaning to copy it; to ‘mix’ it — meaning to reform it however the user wants, and finally, and most important, ‘burn’ it — to publish it in a way that others can see and hear” [2]. When all of the information is accessible on the Internet, some of this remixing can become significantly different from remixes created with analogue media. Through Web services, new forms of selected material can originate as a combination of human efforts and automated processing. The results are often (re)published and become part of an evolving culture.

The idea of remixing is highly relevant when discussing commonplacing, where the commonplacer puts elements from various sources together. Rearranging parts of text, out of their original context and from various sources, creates a new kind of value, different from the original value of the text (Johnson, 2010). The new text become more or less a result of specific intentions, where the creator(s) engage with varying material available.

On the Web we find a multitude of examples showing how individual efforts are combined into collective ones by the help of a range of services. Both Twitter and Pinterest facilitate this kind of collaboration. We can understand some aspects of the text created by hashtags and shared pinboards as a kind of remix.

There are, however, also a large number of services that use information from primary services to create new expressions in other formats. An example is Paper.li, a service which combines metadata from various Web services for use in combination with original information (Figure 9).

 

Paper.li pages look like an online newspaper, apart from the absence of an editorial staff
 
Figure 9: Paper.li pages look like an online newspaper, apart from the absence of an editorial staff. However, beyond the visual appearance — text, authors, various media elements etc. — we recognize that Paper.li is a collaborative work. The pages exist because a lot of loosely connected people have made their small contribution through tagging (paper.li/learn-more.html).

 

It is essential for digital commonplacing that all of the tagged material is accessible to other people and services. Only then can users be free to combine existing material in new ways, and new forms of value appear. Therefore digital commonplacing cannot be fully understood without looking at the actual individual use of a given service in a large context of collaborative effort. A large number of participants contribute across various services, most often without any mutual agreement. Thus we should not limit our investigation of digital commonplacing to one service or device, as users fluctuate between miscellaneous services, using some of them on their cellphones, some on their tablets and others on their personal computers. Some of the collected information stays within one or some of these spheres, other information is shared across a variety of platforms. Media elements can be linked, combined and re-contextualized, sometimes by humans, sometimes by machines, most often in an interplay between the two.

 

++++++++++

Conclusion

In early modern Europe analogue commonplace books became popular due to increased access to various written information resources and relatively inexpensive paper. Today the stable — or static — individual printed books are challenged by online media-rich, interlinked, collective and positioned information resources. A key component in all learning, science and research is the ability to allow somebody’s text become one’s own, and the competence to contextualizing other text. Arguably an essential part of digital literacy is to be able to develop the skills of mastering available information. By using digital tools, like online services that allow annotating, tagging and categorizing content, users may obtain prolific ways to accumulate their background knowledge. Digital commonplacing demonstrates how prosuming by extracting and remixing information makes us able to combine and re-contextualize existing material in original and often unforeseen ways. Moreover, commonplacing — enabling us to make connections between text at a personal level and text made by others — may be seen as a part of intellectual processes that help individuals associate with society at large. End of article

 

About the authors

Jon Hoem is Associate Professor in the Centre for New Media at Bergen University College, in Bergen, Norway.
E-mail: jon [dot] hoem [at] hib [dot] no

Ture Schwebs is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Bergen University College, in Bergen, Norway.
E-mail: ture [dot] schwebs [at] hib [dot] no

 

Notes

1. Toffler, 1981, p. 265.

2. Lessig, 2001, p. 9.

 

References

Nicholas Carr, 2008. “Is Google making us stupid?” Atlantic (July/August), http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/, accessed 18 June 2015.

Robert Darnton, 2000. “Extraordinary commonplaces,” New York Review of Books (21 December), at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2000/dec/21/extraordinary-commonplaces/, accessed 18 June 2015.

Eric Gilbert, Saeideh Bakhshi, Shuo Chang and Loren Terveen, 2013. “‘I need to try this!’ A statistical overview of Pinterest,” CHI ’13: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 2,427–2,436.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2470654.2481336, accessed 18 June 2015.

Jon Hoem, 2010. “Memoz — Spatial weblogging,” In: John G. Breslin, Thomas N. Burg, Hong-Gee Kim, Tom Raftery and Jan-Hinrik Schmidt (editors). Recent trends and developments in social software. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, volume 6045, pp. 131–142.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-16581-8_14, accessed 18 June 2015.

Joichi Ito, 2004. “Inequality and the role of ‘fitness’ in power laws” (17 January), at http://joi.ito.com/weblog/2004/01/17/inequality-and.html, accessed 18 June 2015.

Steven Johnson, 2010. “The glass box and the commonplace book,” at http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/2010/04/the-glass-box-and-the-commonplace-book.html, accessed 18 June 2015.

Lawrence Lessig, 2001. The future of ideas: The fate of the commons in a connected world. New York: Random House.

Lev Manovich, 2012. “Data stream, database, timeline,” at http://lab.softwarestudies.com/2012/10/data-stream-database-timeline-new.html, accessed 18 June 2015.

Lev Manovich, 2002. “The archeology of Windows and spatial montage,” at >http://manovich.net/, accessed 18 June 2015.

Robert J. Moore, 2012. “Pinterest data analysis: An inside look,” at http:// blog.rjmetrics.com/pinterest-data-analysis-an-inside-look/ (no longer available).

Eduardo Navas, 2010. “Regressive and reflexive mashups in sampling culture,” In: Stefan Sonvilla-Weiss (editor). Mashup cultures. Berlin: Springer, pp. 157–177.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-7091-0096-7_10, accessed 18 June 2015.

Marc Prensky, 2001. “Digital natives, digital immigrants, Part 2: Do they really think differently?” On the Horizon, volume 9, number 6, at http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part2.pdf, accessed 18 June 2015.

George Ritzer and Nathan Jurgenson, 2010. “Production, consumption, prosumption: The nature of capitalism in the age of the digital ‘prosumer’,” Journal of Consumer Culture volume 10, number 1, pp. 13–36.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1469540509354673, accessed 18 June 2015.

Adrienne Russell, 2011. “Extra-national information flows, social media and the 2011 Egyptian Uprising,” International Journal of Communication, volume 5, at http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/93/630, accessed 18 June 2015.

William Sherman, 1992. “Editorial introduction,” In: Renaissance commonplace books from the Huntington Library. Marlborough, Wiltshire: Adam Matthew, at http://www.ampltd.co.uk/digital_guides/renaissance_commonplace_books_huntington/Editorial-Introduction.aspx, accessed 18 June 2015.

Clay Shirky, 2003. “Power laws, Weblogs, and inequality” (8 February), at http://www.shirky.com/writings/herecomeseverybody/powerlaw_weblog.html, accessed 18 June 2015.

George Siemens, 2008. “Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers” (27 January), at http://itforum.coe.uga.edu/Paper105/Siemens.pdf, accessed 18 June 2015.

James Surowiecki, 2004. The wisdom of crowds: Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies, and nations. New York: Doubleday.

Don Tapscott, 1998. Growing up digital: The rise of the Net generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, 2010. “Innovating the 21st-century university: It’s time!” EDUCAUSE Review, volume 45, number 1, pp. 16–29, at https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM1010.pdf, accessed 18 June 2015.

Alvin Toffler, 1981. The third wave. London: Pan Books.

Twitter, 2014. “Using hashtags on Twitter,” at https://support.twitter.com/articles/49309-using-hashtags-on-twitter, accessed 18 June 2015.

Thomas Vander Wal, 2007. “Folksonomy coinage and definition” (2 February), at http://www.vanderwal.net/folksonomy.html, accessed 18 June 2015.

Daniel T. Willingham, 2006. “How knowledge helps: It speeds and strengthens reading comprehension, learning — and thinking,” American Federation of Teachers, at http://www.aft.org/newspubs/periodicals/ae/spring2006/willingham.cfm, accessed 18 June 2015.

 


Editorial history

Received 18 July 2014; accepted 16 June 2015.


Copyright © 2015, First Monday.
Copyright © 2015, Jon Hoem and Ture Schwebs.

Digital commonplacing
by Jon Hoem and Ture Schwebs.
First Monday, Volume 20, Number 7 - 6 July 2015
http://www.firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5451/4647
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v20i7.5451





A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

© First Monday, 1995-2017. ISSN 1396-0466.