The cute cat theory of manuscripts?

At IAS I went to a postgrad masterclass on ‘publishing and getting published’, which, strangely, seemed to be mostly about why you should leave academia for publishing careers.1 And at this session, the speaker from Boydell and Brewer endeavoured to impress upon us the fit-for-purpose nature of hardcopy books. They’re portable, and often have their own inbuilt search engine, called the ‘index’! If we had no books, she said, and someone came up with the idea of printing things out, binding them, and putting indices and contents pages in them, everyone would be standing around going “oooh, what a clever idea! Clearly it is the way of the future!”

In other news, I have been particularly enjoying Got Medieval’s series on Cute cats in Harley 6563.

I would like to propose that the Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism applies to books.

Specifically: Book 1.0 was created to allow people to share research papers intellectual content of some sort. Book 2.0 was created to allow people to share cute pictures of cats (or monkeys2).

OK, that’s clearly not the *sole* purpose of Book 2.0, wherever you want to draw the boundary, but there is a clear increase in cute pictures in manuscripts over time, yes?

Consider also the porn part of the Cute Cats Theory:

Hypothesis: Sufficiently usable read/write platforms will attract porn and activists.

If there’s no porn, the tool doesn’t work.

If there are no activists, the tool doesn’t work well

Now, by this logic, the book doesn’t work at all until 1748, which is clearly not true. But consider that Charlotte of Savoy liked naked people alongside her daily devotions. I’m sure we can stretch the definition of ‘porn’ to include titilating marginalia, yes?

And from there, can we draw a long bow and say that the use of books in popular activism increases at the same time as the amount of titilating marginalia increases?

Also, cats.3

I rest my case.

1. Apparently I am a prime candidate for this, because I was able to identify Stephanie Meyer as the only author other than JKR who could probably get away with a Pottermore-style self-publishing venture. I’m actually not sure that SMeyer *is* the only such person – there are smaller-scale YA authors with particularly net-savvy audiences, like Tamora Pierce.
2. Speaking of monkeys, how cute is the monkey in The Lady and the Unicorn? VERY CUTE, is how cute. I resisted the urge to buy a throw cushion with the monkey on it, and was rather disappointed that you could buy cuddly toy unicorns but not cuddly toy monkeys.
3. Got Medieval reckons the BL are anti-kitteh! Clearly not. They published a whole book about kittehs in books. How recursive.


4 Responses to “The cute cat theory of manuscripts?”

  1. Jonathan Jarrett Says:

    I was attempting to establish by means of Wikipedia whether I had been using the Internet before search engines a day or two ago (answer: no, but only just no, and I took a while to find them) and this reminds me, via trying to make any use of the earliest version of, that when you say (that someone else said):

    They’re portable, and often have their own inbuilt search engine, called the ‘index’!

    … that’s not a search engine, that’s a directory. Like bloody Yahoo was. Thankfully the average index is more use that that. But a search engine would have to return answers to a term the reader chose independently, not selected from a list.

    • highlyeccentric Says:

      Well, yes, and my instant thought when she said that was ‘but i can multiple-keyword search a PDF book instantly!”

      • Jonathan Jarrett Says:

        And that actually ties up well with the Zuckerman link you provided (which is really interesting), in as much as it’s the same difference between providing organised and useful information and allowing the user to generate their own, here by reading against or across the text rather than with it. A good index should let you find what the author thought was important; but it’s a bit much to ask that they manage to offer you what they didn’t realise someone else might find important… So to an extent the reader generates new readings of the text by being able to search it.

        I may by now be repeating the paper you saw, in which case sorry, but I have to write something like this fairly soon so such thinking is helping me, even if not the rest of your audience…

        • highlyeccentric Says:

          Oh, no, you’re not. The paper I saw was a Love Song To The Traditional Publishing Industry. The whole session was, really.

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