Ethernotes

Ethernotes

A particular, asymmetric use for a text streaming and broadcasting service with restrictions on unit size?

(Possibly related: Graceful Publication; Writeflow.)

Point one: I’ve never found a good use for Twitter. I’ve tried using it for socializing, but it doesn’t work for me: the business-card personae it encourages people to cultivate are not personae I want to interact with, even when I know the persons they represent and enjoy interacting with them elsewhere. I’ve tried using it to keep up with news, to gather news, to share news, or to simultaneously preserve and share links (news or otherwise), but none of those really proved rewarding for long.

It’s at the point where I feel I shouldn’t maintain an account if I’m not going to use it, since in non-use it grows less and less meaningfully representative.

Point two: when one publishes a book, afterward, no matter how much rewriting for clarity and refinement was accomplished, one still spends several years mentally conversing with the book itself, with oneself as its author, and with its readers, no matter how few or how many the latter may turn out to be. All publication forces one to recognize the fundamental character (and use) of writing, which creates a discursive object that stands in its author’s place in both space and (eventually) time; but obviously, books are created at the most widely spaced intervals relative to other units of publication — so the recognition has greater violence.

Point two point five: I know I’m not the only one who’s ever written a footnote longer than the text on the printed page it is anchored to, and who understands why that is awkward, but can justify it. Or who has faced the understandable (because economic), but no less lamentable hostility of print publishers to footnotes.

Point three: perhaps there’s a particular, asymmetric use here for a text streaming and broadcasting service with fundamental restrictions on unit size. “Tweetstorms” are a currently popular form, which both recognizes and resists those restrictions — but has a different use than what I imagine, which are marginal scholia, or footnotes, paraphrasing the sentence units of a much larger, objectively incompatible text as briefly and clearly as possible, and elaborating on them when warranted. The shadow of the larger work, here, is not in the future, in some book to evolve later from one’s thought in the moment, but in the past where it probably belongs.

That’s what I’ll be doing here until it doesn’t work for me any more. Deliberately slowly, one or two units per day — so more a drizzle than a storm. The source text is my forthcoming Passwords: Philology, Security, Authentication (Harvard University Press, 2018).