Lab 1 - Field Book

Markdown as a Medium

This semester, we’ve been tasked to separate media from text itself - how does the physical engine used to deliver text tell us something about the literary contents, that maybe we wouldn’t get from lines of letters alone. In other words, what can we get from text other than words (no pun intended). Markdown, in a very simple, very direct way, separates the structure of text from the style for us. Clever, isn’t it?

Markdown: McLuhan and Liu

McLuhan emphasizes “The Message in the Medium,” bringing light to the fact that the way in which media is presented or shared is just as important as the media itself. The message is in the medium. Markdown is a simplified example in a lot of ways. Markdown as the medium serves as a processing system where text is input without any stylistic elements; those are to be added and changed later. It operates (and looks) more like code than a typical WYSIWYG processor, leaving all formatting at the wayside and just literally inputting what one wants to say. However, this comes with both affordances and limitations.

Liu makes a point in his paper, that new media does not replace old media. MacDown (the Markdown processor that I am using now), emphasizes this point by showing a split screen: Markdown “code” on the left, and a stylistic interpretation on the right. This aims to nullify any apprehension one may have after using only WYSIWYG processing systems (it helped me out tremendously). Liu’s point about new media and old media is nicely applied in this case - it would be unreasonable to expect a person unfamiliar with code to understand fully and comfortably perform in a new, foreign (quite scary looking) processor without a guide. Using Liu’s language, WYSIWYG processing like Word did not “die” or cease to exist when Markdown was created, but rather now served as a crutch for people familiar with it, transitioning to a new system.

Affordances & Limitations of Markdown

McLuhan tells us (and it is obvious to see) that there are affordances and limitations to all media. Here are just a few I’ve seen in my short time with Markdown:

  • no stylistic interference – type what you want to say
  • capable of saving/printing/publishing in different formats
  • relatively easy to input links and media
  • easily able to send or edit text w/o changes to structure
  • uncomfortable shift from WYSIWYG processors
  • saved media doesn’t open in same window (from what I’ve tried… maybe I’m doing something wrong)
  • certain functions (headings, saving) have to be input exactly correctly in code or text won’t publish properly

Fun with Markdown

I look forward to practicing and improving in Markdown. For now, please enjoy me fiddling around with some controls and commands, trying to make this processor do what I want it to do : )

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is one of my favorite books of all time. I’ve read it over a dozen times and could undoubtedly quote good portions of it off the top of my head. Incredibly, the movie is just as good in my opinion (good on you, Coppola - director). The cast captures the essence of each character, making the movie believable and iconic. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book:

I’ve been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you’re gold when you’re a kid, like green. When you’re a kid everything’s new, dawn. It’s just when you get used to everything that it’s day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That’s gold. Keep that way, it’s a good way to be.

The poem Johnny is referring to is Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. Ponyboy recites this poem by heart while watching the sunrise one morning. He says he always remembered it because he never knew what it meant. In the quote above, Johnny explains what it means to him, but only in a letter Ponyboy reads after Johnny dies (I know, dramatic…don’t you love it!)