What made blogs so immediately popular, both with readers and with writers, was the very fact that they changed and developed over time, existing not as a static, complete text but rather as an ongoing series of updates, additions, and revisions. This is of course to be expected of a journal-like format, and might easily be compared to any form of periodical or serial publication; the blog as a whole remains relatively constant, even as new ‘issues’ or posts are added to it. But the fact that a blog’s readers return again and again in order to find those new posts might encourage us to ask whether there is something in the structure of digital authorship that privileges and encourages development and change, even beyond the obviously diachronic aspect of the blog’s structure. When web pages are not regularly updated and attended to, after all, they’re subject to rapid degeneration: aging styles, outdated standards, and worst, perhaps, ‘link rot.’ Such ephemerality makes it arguable that the unspoken contract between the author and the reader of a piece of digital text is radically different from that between the author of a book and its reader; rather than assuming that the text is fixed, complete, and stable, the reader of a digital text may well assume otherwise. As Clifford Lynch suggests, we do not yet fully understand what ‘reader expectations about updating published work’ will be (Lynch, 2001); will the assumption come to be that a text must be up-to-date, with all known errors corrected, reflecting new information as it comes to light, in order to maintain the ‘authority’ that print has held? Sites such as Wikipedia seem to indicate a growing assumption that digitally published texts not only will but should change over time. Digital text is, above all else, malleable, and the relationship between the reader and the text reflects that malleability; there is little sense in attempting to replicate the permanence of print in a medium whose chief value is change.
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “The Digital Future of Authorship: Rethinking Originality.” Culture Machine Vol. 12, 2011:11

My post on the Manchester Comics conference next week.

With thanks to Claire Warwick, Melissa Terras, Claire Ross, Samantha Hulston and everyone at UCL IS, UCL DH and the HM8 Research Students list. 

Please follow the University College London Centre for Digital Humanities on Twitter here and with the hashtag #UCLDH. 

The 2010 issue of West Wind Review is hot off the press. It is published (on glorious paper) at Southern Oregon University. The editors are Greta Mikkelsen and K. Silem Mohammad. It comes with one of my humble digital comics/text mashup thingies… & I’m in very good company!