In his 79 Theses, Alan Jacobs hits upon one of the most important transformations affecting the technology of writing today. “Digital textuality,” writes Jacobs in Thesis 26, “offers us the chance to restore commentary to its pre-modern place as the central scholarly genre.” In an article published online in the Hedgehog Review, Andrew Piper offers a response to Jacobs’ comment on commentary, believing that commentary goes beyond the scholarly and that “in the interconnected, intergalactic Internet, everything is commentary.” Comparing commentary of antiquity, which was preceded by transcription to its modern digital incarnation, Piper shows the constructive value of a gesture he prefers to call “annotation:”
For Jacobs, commentary is about responsiveness and the way we encode ethics into our collective electronic outpourings. Nothing could feel further from the actual comments one encounters online today. As Jacobs points out, “Comment threads seethe with resentment,” not only with what has been written, but with their secondary status as emotions, or rather one emotion. In a world where we imagine writing to be about originality, the comment can only ever be angry. In response, we either turn them off (as is the case with this blog). Or we say “No comment.” Withholding commentary is a sign of resistance or power.
Read the entire article here.