In a guest post on the British Library Digital Scholarship blog, Carol Butler (University of London) outlines her research on reader-author interactions in social networking and other digital interfaces. Butler is interested in drawing attention to the ways digital tools uncover some of the networking and reader response channels that were hidden and constrained by the private and print-only practices of the past:
Authors and readers have always sought to better their understanding of a written work- and of each other- by exchanging questions and feedback. However, historically, their communications have been mediated through a hierarchical chain, for example through letters sent privately via an author’s agent. Constrained by process, available technology and geography, this has also largely only possible after a finished work has been published. Interaction has therefore been somewhat slow and limited.
Butler goes on to identify new channels for these interactions represented by annotation and user review tools like Genius and GoodReads, and suggests that the proliferation of social networks and online tools in use disperse author-reader interactions among many locations. Her intent is to understand the needs and behaviors of authors and readers in these spaces and to develop a theory for use in the development of new reading interfaces.
By ascertaining where, how and why readers and authors interact with each other and the tools, I hope to better understand their needs and behaviours. I will investigate how interaction behaviour is mediated, hindered by, and at times resultant of this technology. My intent is to develop theory to explain their behaviour which I can use to provide design guidelines for future tools, to help better support their needs. I will also be looking at what types of works, ways of working and publishing trends emerge from this use of technology, and the challenges posed for the British Library in collecting and preserving them.
dh+lib readers will appreciate Butler’s discussion of the forms and spaces readers inhabit, and the impact that the tools we choose to include in our practice have on those forms and spaces.