Thursday, June 5, 2008

moveable text

I logged onto blogger intending to write something about a particular oddity of this technology: templates. The one I am using is Minima--it's the first template in their list of templates, which makes it one reason to choose. But another is its relatively spare look--it's not cluttered, it has a neutral color scheme. And I really like the headline font and layout. I chose a pleasant rust orange for the frame, rather than the default grey, which feels satisfyingly like I've personalized the site to suit my tastes. (See Virginia Heffernan's recent piece in the New York Times Magazine on Google's new "artist themes" and the web's encouragement to personalize this.)

But it has problems, too. Unless you're more adept at html code than I am (I managed to write my own code back in the early days, but that was long ago), you cannot easily shape it to your own whims. I find frustrating the column width of the main text--I think it is too narrow. But the stretch, that's not so good either. Google--as with everything--makes it very easy to get online and express yourself. But your words are shaped by their decisions about how and what you will most want to express.

There is much to be said about the tension between using this format--the prestructured template--and talking about the way in which material aspects of books shape how we use them. The 1527 bible I posted about earlier structures its user's passage through it with the finding tabs and the cross-referencing system.

But when I logged on tonight, what I noticed immediately was that the blog looked different. For some time now I've been frustrated by the variable leading of my text. Sometimes the lines of my posts are pleasantly spaced out, separated by white space that makes the thoughts seem open and accessible. But other paragraphs appear all scrunched together, dark and impenetrable. And I have not been able to figure out the rhyme or reason for those differences. I don't think I'm doing anything differently.

But tonight, magically through the power of the internet tubes, all my paragraphs were perfectly leaded. It looked gorgeous. And it just goes to show: Google's templates shape my meaning through the technology of digital media, but they also make my meaning unstable. I can hardly think of anything more appropriate for discussing early modern books.

No comments: