Lab 1

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Lab 1: Understanding Textual Structure with Markdown

###Quill Huntley

Being a Computer Science major, I am used to the working with interfaces like Markdown. It is interesting to me that, the more computing languages I learn and interfaces I work with, the easier it has been to adopt the conventions and syntax of a new language or albeit interface. Before learning to code, my assumption was that it would be difficult to maneuver these differences, but I have noticed that many languages and environments tend to follow the same basic rules of logic and computation.

I align with what Alan Liu alludes to as “zones of encounters” in Imagining the New Media Encounter, suggesting that new media are old, and old media are new. Indeed, any given new medium is an extension of the medium that has come before it, working within these encounter zones. When doing this type of programming, I find that the distinction between the code surrounding the writing and the writing itself has become blurred; carets, brackets, and tags all become part of the writing experience.

This writing, though natural to me, is compartmentalized into different subsections of writing which can feel jarring when you first encounter it. To name a few of these subsections, there is:

  • the writing of the text itself
  • the markdown language that allows text to be rendered
  • the markup language that allows you to stylize and manipulate the default rendering of the text

…and this becomes even more complex when you introduce animation, responsiveness, etc.

When writing on paper, these stylistic elements can be incorporated in tandem with the writing, which does not need to be rendered once written out plainly on the page. For example, if you wanted to make a piece of text italicized, you would simply write underline it.

Similarly, if you wanted to make a piece of text


you would just write it bigger. These actions have just been translated into symbols (* and #) in order to produce the same effect.

Limitations & Affordances

As evidenced, the Markdown medium could appear to be more time-consuming. However, this argument would only hold for simple tasks like changing text size. For more advanced things, such as changing colors and page background color, using Markdown can actually save time. Instead of getting all the colors and paper you need, the tools are all available to you at your fingertips. These tools can even allow you to add animation, something that is impossible when writing with pen and paper. Therefore, the Markdown language has several affordances:

  • Dynamic design
  • Tools available in one spot for ease and efficiency
  • Allows for creativity visual representations of writing
  • Scalable: With markup languages (like CSS) you can replicate styles and documents
  • Easily convert documents into different formats (such as PDFS)
  • Easily shareable and searchable

However, there are obviously some limitations of Markdown, that promote writing documents with pen and paper, as well as other simpler mediums:

  • Simple: Writing with pen and paper does not require charging or booting time.
  • Reliable: Other physical documents don’t crash and get deleted
  • Loss of individuality: Cannot incorporate your own handwriting. Must use a default texts available
  • Aids learning: The act of physical writing material can aid our memory and retention