This week’s symposium was rather philosophical and thought-provoking. It centred around the importance of materiality, rather than the meaning behind something (which is often the thing we concentrate most on today). The example used was a book and we were asked how we would explain this object to someone who had never seen the written word before. The answer (if there is one), was extremely complex – to even begin to explain how to use a book requires the explanation of a printing press and of course how to understand the written word in whatever language the book might be written in. In very broad terms, a book seems to be an amalgamation of materiality and meaning. When I say this I mean that to some extent, the physicality of a book can both limit and aid the creation of the meaning that can be taken from reading the text. For instance, the average book appears as follows: 300 paper pages, 40 lines which you read from left to right, top to bottom, a page number at the bottom of every page and a spine a couple of centimetres in width. All of these aspects to a book’s materiality in some way limits the medium.
Let’s take the size of a book as an example; the fact that a book must be portable means that the amount of pages and how big they are is limited, which in turn means that the book must end – it must have a finishing page, just as it must have a first page. This concept brought about the question of whether or not stories in books were limited because of the very materiality of the book itself. And in short, yes, they are. Although oral stories also have beginnings and endings, their limitation is time, rather than space. So then came the big question… if there is ‘no limitation’ to the time and space of the internet, do online stories need a beginning, middle and end?