Monday, December 8, 2008

Chunking in Reverse

For the past semester, we’ve talked about the good and bad of chunking when it comes to creating digital documents in the digital media class I'm taking at Utah State. We’ve taken the tack that when writing from another medium is used on the Web, one needs to be careful that the text not be chunked wholesale from one medium to the other, because the web media may support different uses, users and such than the former media.

I absolutely agree with that.

I also agree with the opposite – that when texts are taken from the Web and are put into other media, they cannot be chunked wholesale. I’m finding this out as we at Uncharted work to take some of our web content – this is stuff that was originally written for the web – and begin working it into a printed book, a project we need to complete in the next few months to protect our broad copyright interests.

Chunking from Web to print isn’t just a matter of tweaking the text so what hyperlinks are there are omitted and the text augmented to explain what the hyperlinks offered. There are other matters to consider as well, including a lot of editing of the text to make it more palatable to a print audience. We know that the audience that buys books regards printed matter as much more “permanent” than text that exist on the Web, so as we look to move our texts from Web to print, we have to consider factors that affect a text’s permanence. So often in a web text, we refer readers to other websites, saying, “go here for the most current information.” We can’t do that in print. In print, with the audience we’re considering, we have to concentrate more on evocative, storytelling text than we do information on trip planning, because the printed version will be permanent, but static – frozen in time. The web content can be constantly updated at little to no cost. Not so with a book. So it’s been interesting to see how this works out.

In taking Web to print, we also have to consider how much Uncharted context to bring over. With the web site, if people want to know who we are, they can click on the “who we are” link and probably find too much information. We have to economize that kind of information in printed form. The Web site will have the context of many explorers sharing their photos, stories and adventures. The book, given its geologic proximity in Idaho, and the fact that only two authors, not many, are contributing, will paint a different picture of Uncharted if we do not consider how much context to bring over.

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