In this article, Mak looks into how the materiality of the page, everything that goes into it and on it, works in relationships with societies, marking its place in our collective historical mindset. The page, for Mak, serves as a sort of icon, a historical marker of the mindsets of cultures and creators in history; the page may be conceptualized as a platform for engagement with society, as well as for the creation and dissemination of knowledge. The important distinction for her though, is that this was all dependent upon all aspects of the page, as noted above.
In her discussion of the page, Mak discusses many important core concepts, which include the following ideas:
- At the beginning of the article, she discusses the essence of the page and its meaning in society. She also discusses the importance of the page. The very first sentence of Mak’s article states, “[t]he page has played a central role in preserving the intellectual and artistic traditions of the West for over two millennia” (Mak 9). Even in the advent of the so-called “digital revolution,” the page warrants detailed study; it persists as a vital medium through which connections with myriad goals are established. Here she debunks the myth of technological supersession. The page will not fade away; it transforms and the elements that make it up, font, color, size, situation, visuals, whether or not one page is bound to another, etc., evolve along with it and are employed by authors and designers to present content to a specific society. The page has its own identity and stands as a marker of is time, due to recursive nature of these relationships. Meaning changes based on how and when a page is crafted, as well as how it makes itself known to the society in which it is created. These elements are just as important as the message itself, and perhaps may say even more about the popular mindsets of the culture, society, and the authors that were associated with its creation at all stages.
- In connection with this idea, she discusses the page as an interface. It opens up a world of connection and expression. This is especially evident when she discusses Buonaccorso’s treatise and how it has varied throughout history. Though the content itself has remained fairly in tact, the way in which it has been presented has varied. This is a marker of human engagement, demonstrating how the page as a media technology is shapes and is shaped by the society in which it is present. Mak notes that “[t]hese material variations mark important shifts in the perception and use of the treatise; the differences in the materiality of the page are difference in meaning” (Mak 20). What one scholar wanted an audience to take from this document influenced how he presented it to them. Text then, is a tool influencing societal perception of any sort of sentiment, and that instills it, along with its author or translator, with tremendous power. I think the most resounding summary of this idea can be found on the final page of the article we read in which Mak notes that “[r]eaders interpret text, space, and image as they are inclined, but the meanings that they formulate are predicated upon the materiality of each carefully designed page.” (Mak 21). This, I think, demonstrates the power that texts have, but also that societies have in negotiating their meaning. We as a society make knowledge, and these technologies help us to do it. We exist in relationship with them, and the power afforded in knowing how to utilize these technologies to the fullest is not to be discounted. The creation of knowledge and its dissemination shape cultural attitudes and historical memory. Texts are very much alive through these relationships, and will continue to thrive and maintain this sort of societal significance throughout time. Understanding that there are these elements that though they may initially appear to lie amongst the minutia of what may be terms the process of our “textual understanding,” are actually the powerhouses of the page, and without paying them any mind, we are robbing the text, and also ourselves, of a deeper level of understanding and appreciation of the media as a whole.
- She also notes how the aesthetic elements of the page, which could be said to include the font, images, and even the blank spaces, are markers of social and historical mindsets that have important implications on how we understand and engage with the texts. These elements function as the sort of “gatekeepers of the page,” meaning they have the ability to mitigate or spur engagement. Fonts had the power to mark societal and political change or challenges, as Mak notes on page 16. She states that “[b]y generating a particular visual expression, the shapes of letters may, for instance, exploit the authority of an established tradition or diverge self-consciously from conventional patterns” (Mak 15-16). The silent power of the visual cannot be discounted. Indeed, Mak notes how traditional visuals, in terms of illustration, influence readers through negotiating how the read the text, how it maps the path their eyes take on the page. Visuals tell stories too, and so looking at how these images are presented, what concepts they describe, which pages face each other and which ones don’t, and at why this might have been done, is important in considering what truly makes the page at its utmost essence. In terms of blank space, Mak notes that it is precisely what isn’t being said on the page that is equally as important as what is printed there. She states, “[b]y leaving space on the page unfilled, designers provide openings for readers to pause and consider the thoughts that they have encountered. Readers are given the opportunity in these zones to contemplate, consider, and question ideas, and may even be encountered by the empty spaces to add their own thoughts to the page” (Mak 17). What readers see on the page subconsciously dictates their thought process, or at least it has that potential; it can cause them to read slower, to re-read, or to take up a pen in their own hands and make notes, silent conversation, with the text and the author. These aesthetic elements allow readers to reach through the past and connect with sentiments and societies past.
After reading the article, I wanted clarification/elaboration on the following:
- On page 15, she discusses that the evolution of the page and how texts have been utilized by scribes/authors/translators/readers throughout history. Mak notes that their “markings on the page are a part of the ‘cultural residue’…and can be read as a compelling narrative about the history of thought” (Mak 15). I found this to be extremely fascinating, and I wanted to know more about how this might be tied to the digital literary artifacts that we are encountering now, or what Mak might have to say about that.
- She briefly mentions single pages of text and how their solitary existence and the boundaries created on that platform for text have power in themselves, but I just wanted more clarification of what the possible affective qualities this take on the materiality of the singular “page” could have and how it functioned within society, keeping in mind all that Mak discusses here.
I would like to offer the following question up for debate:
- As we move further into this “digital age,” where we encounter more text-based content via these digital technologies like laptops or smartphones, based on everything that Mak proposes here, about the impact of font, size, color, images, and the situation on a page of all of those things, how might these ideas be utilized by news sources or other individuals to make a certain point or to sway audiences in a certain direction? Also, in connection with this idea, because our eyes are drawn, perhaps more easily, to these large bold fonts (the Buzzfeed effect, if you will), how does this impact or understanding of and engagement with the page in terms of the content that is presented? What could the larger implications of these concepts on society include?