The ostensible intention of these notes is to create a transparent continuity between the notes I gather from day to day and “finished” texts. There is also something comforting about the idea that all my notes, which I gather readily as I go about my day, will almost automatically—like drops of mercury on a flat surface—gather themselves into finished texts.
Obviously, the first thing that goes out the window is any notion of a finished text. The stability of text has been extensively theorised since the last century (and practised well before that) but electronic media have truly disabused us of any notions of fixity. While instability was hitherto practised through the process of revised editions and transcription, piracy and plagiarism, it was a relatively slow process that spanned years. But now I can change anything on this site as I idly swipe through my notes on a train platform. Everything you see here is only here because I have neglected to change it.
The second notion to go is the idea that these notes are now in any way casual. 1 The knowledge that these notes are being published gives them the flavour of the politician’s diary, I go through the pretence of talking to myself, with one ear cocked to hear the audience’s reaction. 2
Although I have tried to minimise the distinction between texts, and the level of readiness of each, there are obviously different types. Some have even been given a title, some have been given their own URL. And then there are the annotations which could themselves have been independent notes, and sometimes reflect more closely the way I actually take notes, and leave notes to myself.
But all these texts are, at once, both too self-conscious to be casual notes and too mutable to be ever finished.
- 1Of course, I don’t publish everything as soon as I take it down. That could be interesting (at least, to me) but also incoherent. The texts that appear on this book are only a fraction of the notes I gather, and I frequently publish a note years after I have actually written it down. Or only publish a note after it has been revised several times, even if I allow previous versions to become visible.
- 2I do not, after all, introduce an idea to myself using a whimsical oblique paragraph.