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Marginalia in the Library of Babel at WRT: Writer Response Theory

[11/25/2010: update The latest version of Marginalia in the Library of Babel can be found here.]

[4/15/08: update: the links below work, however the navigation in the stickynotes need to be updated.  Please instead read the stand-alone version in New River, which uses saved versions of some of the web pages bookmarked below. That version functions on most of the major browsers and operating systems. This version, which uses live web pages, is in-progress — beta release.  Check back for updates. See technical requirements below.  For more information about the technology used in the live version, see this post.]

It starts with Borges. It always starts with Borges, the god of our hyperlinked souls. I fight the solitude of the vertigo he has imagined for me, and yet I may have finally found a way out of the labyrinth.

At night, I search for Borges, alone, hunched in the solitary chamber of an internet browser. Searching for something original to say about his genius. If I were not seeking him, I would be seeking myself. And I already know where I am and the speck size of my shadow on the Web.

We search at night as we yield the time for interiority to a desperate exteriority that lacks the confining cowl of contemplation.

Every midnight, I pace the endless halls of the Library of Babel. For we have realized that library, have we not? This thing that captures all we write, that can encircle the universe, that transcribes information from the air we breathe. We have encoded it. We have executed Borges’ story and here we are. The internet. The library. They are one. How the centigrade drops out when you realize you have been so utterly predicted.

But my machine is evolving the power of speech. It told me I was not alone, that I could leave a record of my footsteps, carve my marks upon the wall for those who discover my hexagonal cell. How can I not help but be gladdened by the possibility? Unless it is not a possibility. Unless I am as always no more than a trace imagined by these packet-switching machines and their omniscient fiber-optics.

Write in the margins, suggested my machine. Social annotation.

With these tools, I have created one of the infinity of combinations of slices of the web that spell out Borges and can highlight it in blue to show others, to share with others, like a hidden mark up in an underground railroad. Consider this record, too, an homage of connections. As one man’s travels through another man’s influence. An assemblage that is also a desperate message. Desperate because the medium does not seem to be a product of our imagination. Yet it does not exist at all as we imagine it, nor, by extension, do we.

It began when I read that story.

Fellow traveler, tracking my steps, when you go to these places, you will see my annotations and follow them to other annotations or return here or leave your own annotations and share them with someone else, or return to reading books, yes those disconnected apparati, in which no one traces your steps but the librarian and the federal agents she whispers to every night under 3-D renderings of torn-sheets in that Second Life flophouse. That is the trick of it. They have stolen our lonely landings, our solitude.
The notes will frequently offer the opportunity to return to the annotated text of the “The Library of Babel” as well as Home, here, the partial–yes, always partial–list of the annotations.

Back Home Library of Babel Text Next

A kind of map to my links. Let me share my bookmarks with you and my dog ears and my highlighting, my underlining, my frowns, my boxes around words, my question marks, my crossings out, my reading, my solitude, my mental state at the interface of the text. Of course, since this is my borrowing record from the Library, it is expanding and shifting even now.
–C.K. 27 August 1:12 am

[Some pages take a little time to load…]

    Technical Requirements:Currently, this story requires the installation of the Diigo annotation plugin. Diigo is a bit new (and was perhaps not intended for this use), so please be patient and let me know of problems as you come across them. Browser: Firefox[This story works best in Firefox and somewhat in Safari. I doubt it works at all on IE unless you are willing to adjust your security settings. Firefox users: If your notes are blinking, scroll down on the page so they are closer to the middle. Firefox does not seem to like having notes too close to the bottom of the browser window. Please wait while the notes load. Let me know of any other problems. Safari users: If your notes are blinking, click on them to lock them in place while you read them. Diigo: Social Bookmarking software (free) Currently The navigation buttons in the Sticky Notes open the subsequent pages in the Sticky Note itself. So, temporarily, please navigate from this page to see each bookmarked page or open those links in a new window.

New: The Raw Feed of Babel Bookmarks:

Jump to the latest bookmarks for “Marginalia in the Library of Babel” straight from the Diigo feed.





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