27 May 2016
Reading time ~2 minutes
I’ve been thinking, continually, about notebooks. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people with shelves of moleskines, each one full of ideas and dreamwork. I’m not sure when it started. Certainly before I held (and smelled) a Leonardo facsimile.
By that time, I’d already been lucky enough to work on course projects with names like The Garden of Searching for Dreams and The Cavern of Slanting Moon and Three Stars which were, at heart, collaborative notebooks designed to help students explore and reflect on literary texts. For those, as well as later Collaborative Sites projects like the Mexican Migration Portfolio and Literature and Place, it was my job to build the empty notebook – at first in Drupal and then later in Open Atrium. I would put together the features, the foundation, the scaffolding, but ultimately each of those sites, at the point I handed it over, was an empty notebook. And I’d watch, as the semester unfolded, each site fill up with pictures and images and tags and ideas.
And then there was the time I decided to try to build a lumbrous online news clipping thingamawotzit that ultimately aggregated a bit too much news. It was a notebook, too; and again, it was a notebook full of other people’s writing and images.
Most recently, I’ve been working on a digital research notebook to help students get started with the research and writing process.
That’s a lot of notebook-making, w/o any writing of notes….
With this notebook, I’m hoping to both create it, and write in it. I’ve been really inspired by Jason Heppler’s Open History Notebook and other similar projects I’ve run into recently1. These public note taking sites live out many of the things I aspire to with notebooks: I like the focus on publishing process (and process as scholarship), as well as the way that making the architecture of the notebook is an integral part of the creative act of writing the notes.