the littlest barcampers and information depth

Moomin is in the cute Barcamp video. I wonder what he’ll say when he sees it?

Next year… we make the kids give their own presentations about what they want the web to do. Moomin’s current top desire is for a decent coloring-book search engine. Go on, try to find a cool coloring book outline drawing on the millenium falcon or a Star Wars themed word-find. What a pain in the ass! That stuff is out there but it takes me a lot of painful clicking through the most annoying and awful blinky animated-gif site designs EVER.

Imagine kids tagging up their cool kid web. (Yahooligans, but done better.) Perhaps a better software tool, rather than a regular web page with cartoons added (as if that matters… ) A kid’s browser would have, without condescension, identity (including age and interests) – a good tagging system – and a voting interface to say thumbs up or thumbs down. It would track history and organize favorites for you in some reasonably intelligent way, so, “most visited” plus highest rated, or some more complex algorithm I’m not imagining. An intelligent 5 year old who can read could use it as well as a 10 year old.

I was also thinking about age, information depth, encyclopedias and dictionaries. Think of how awfully dull most museum exhibits are, because the curator is going on lowest common denominator theory and doesn’t want to bore or confuse anyone by having too much info. So you end up with glitzy shallow crap. The best exhibits have that as level 1 obvious, and then you can look further if you want to. What if other information had depth-levels written in, so that if you wanted to “know about spiders” you’d get a summary suitable for that drawling thug who used to spit tobacco on the floor in my 9th grade spanish class in Houston or for my 5 year old. Then if that wasn’t enough info for your Report On Spiders, you’d click “expand” or “go deeper” and the article would expand itself to go up a level of complexity.

What if we wrote documents this way habitually? Important documents, or instruction manuals, or like I said, dictionaries and encyclopedias. Textbooks. What if your science textbook through much of school was the same textbook, and you could pursue particular subjects in more depth and others in less? This would be beautifully nonlinear. You don’t have to to do the grade 1 science book and then the grade 2 and then the grade 3. You can just do your regular grade 1 book but will know all about Batteries and Electricity up to college level, because that’s what you’re grooving on at the moment so you can drill down into it.

(I’ve often noticed that if I want to develop a working knowledge of some subject, the best way to get up to speed quickly is to go to the junior non-fiction section. Books from the 50s-70s are the best. Geology explained! The biography of Abraham Lincoln! An overview of Cambodia! Once you hit the mid-80s there is a noticeable dumbing-down effect; I’m not sure why but probably differing educational theories.)

What if a novel, too, were approached this way, with all its critical apparatus built in at higher levels – its footnotes and annotations, its litcrit, its intertextualities, its movies, its glossaries and world-building and history and maps?

Dear geeks with the wherewithal to make this kind of thing happen… please take this idea and run with it and percolate it around. I’m feeling so odd lately, since blogher and barcamp. i have ideas like this all time, but am not tapped into communities that talk about them regularly and develop them like serious grownups. The academic literary world is not listening to me, that’s for sure.

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5 Responses to “the littlest barcampers and information depth”

  1. Melissa Gira

    Yes, yes, yes — what if novels were written this way. Yes! I am lifting this over to sacredwhore so I don’t forget. Brilliance. (I’ve been reading you daily since Blogher trying to maintain that groove, too.)

  2. sacredwhore: mobwhorelog

    Barthes Would Have a Field Day

    Borrowed from badgerbag and do not let me forget: “I was also thinking about age, information depth, encyclopedias and dictionaries. Think of how awfully dull most museum exhibits are, because the curator is going on lowest common denominator theory an…

  3. badgerbag

    Lift away, and spread it around, oh fellow-whore and bloggity sluty info princess! I’m reading you too via Kinja.
    The idea should have a name, like multi-level writing, or… something more catchy… er… layered expansion…
    Why is it all I can think about is the Tampax faq about how their hi-tech cooch-plugs expand in a flower, star, or v-pattern? They love those flower metaphors! What if they had war metaphors instead and instead of names like “Pearl” they were like, “Silver Bullet” or “Warhead”. “Ram in this Intercontinental Missile Shield of Doom for the ULTIMATE PROTECTION.” I would totally go for a tampon named “T-Bomb.” Okay… enough with the tampax. Ahem.
    Deep information? something about focus, or diving, or caving, or peeling? “layers” or depth not quite the thing, as it’s more about expanding the same thing, a little bit like pyramid-structured news articles; but way more modular or granular. You know… someone’s going to tell me any second that there was a working group and a slew of white papers on this very subject from people who have thought about it seriously rather than just a halfbaked blog brainstorm. Anyway, it’s rhizomes all over again!!!
    The Bloatable Rhizome!

  4. GraceD

    Video was excellent. M was his usual wise self. How geeky does one have to be to attend barcamp?

  5. garnet

    It would be cool if some novels were written that way, but I wouldn’t like all novels to be like that. Linearity is useful for some kinds of story telling.
    I took a look at that coloring book website, and my first question is what is “Christian Christmas?” Especially since they don’t list any other kinds of Christmas.

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