Part I – Pilot Project
In early 2015, Dr. Sherri Melrose proposed the development of an open e-textbook for a course at Athabasca University. The idea of developing the open e-textbook on an open e-textbook publishing system was inspired by previous development of an open e-textbook in 2014 on an open source Pressbooks publishing system at BCCampus. This open e-literature (i.e., MEM) is a personal reflection on developing and deploying a collaborative open source e-publishing system for production and consumption of open e-textbooks at Athabasca University. In addition, this is an alternative method to documenting the pilot project initiative and exploring “practicing what you preach” through creation of this website. The continuous online updating of content (as evidenced by the revisions page), is a paradigm shift in the form and function of a e-literature that is no longer a passive static product.
Books traditionally defined as a static literary composition (Apple Inc., 2005), are being disrupted or improved by advances in computing technologies. The computer has afforded an electronic conversion of analog content, perhaps most familiar as hard copy – printed books (“Book,” 2016). The electronic medium provides a dynamic synchronous and asynchronous transmittance of information over space and time. While the advantages for digital information production and consumption are seemingly limitless, the entire computing system exists by electrons manipulated into the binary number system (“Binary number,” 2016) and programmatically transposed into a pixel representation that is displayed on a two dimensional surface (“Pixel,” 2016). Hence, there is an inherent fragility and boundless potential for electronic media.
To exploit the potential of electronic media, necessitates at least three general considerations (Swettenham, 2006):
Accessibility in the human – technology interface will either promote or reduce utilization. If the book had been a technology that could only be used by a few people under extreme conditions, would it have been perceived differently than it is now? In example, clay tablets that were fragile, heavy, and required much effort to produce.
Transparency of the electronic medium is important in sustaining the transmittance of the information from one age to the next. Regardless of platform or format, if the 0’s and 1’s cannot be easily deciphered by the next wave of technologies, the information may become irretrievable, much like paper that has been damaged by fire, water, or time.
Stability of the digital environment is critical to continued access and sustained transparency of the system. HTML and open source standards are examples of strategies to promote controlled development of digital environs.
The choices in technologies in producing the open source e-textbook – Creative Clinical Teaching In The Health Professions – employed the aforementioned three considerations. In personal experiences with computing technologies, there is no one perfect choice, only possibilities that are optimal in the context of the project.
Opening the Book (Kennedy, 2013) discusses the digital book, connections, future, and human relationship(s) with communication:
Every human created record, such the parietal wall paintings of Lascaux (“Lascaux,” 2018), is a story of human memories, with producers and consumers over time and space; a microcosm of information and encoded knowledge.
What does a scroll and book have in common? Both are analog containers of recorded stories, packaged in a way to be read and transported by humans. It is noteworthy that a replica Lascaux has also been transported beyond its original location (“Lascaux Découvrir la Préhistoire en Dordogne-Périgord,” n.d.).
A digital container is a less restrictive form of the analog physical media. Networks transport bits and bytes from one node to another. Within a container, hypermedia content enables a multi-directional approach to information in any digital format imaginable; as exemplified by the Web . What differentiates a website from other Internet of things, is that it is a container of multimedia with attributes to identify the package as a website, rather than a data bits floating in the World Wide Web ether.
Hence, a website can become the digital version of a book, as the application Pressbooks compiles the web pages for export to another container format such as EPUB. A WordPress Pressbooks site by itself is an HTML package that is part of a larger content management system.
Although the current Pressbooks output is restricted by export parameters, it is possible to create a format converter for the HTML content. In example, there is a Pressbooks export option to transform HTML into LibreOffice document format. The challenge is to map the internal Pressbooks elements (existing format) to the external container elements (new format) as a parallel interchange.
The digital media creates a different environment from the previous traditional hard copy media. Marshall McLuhan predicted the change of the book from individual to crowd users in the following presentation:
The proposed next generation knowledge and story container is the MEM. The term MEM can be interconnected and interlaced with memories (imagined and/or real). Humanity has focused much energy and resources toward preserving memories, snapshots in time, from cave wall paintings and petroglyphs, to pictographs and digital media. A MEM is an appropriate inheritor of the “book” container; or “memook” for interim transitioning from the analog “book”.
A MEM is an intersection between media and memory in the form of a digital container representing an aggregated reality and snapshot in time of that reality. Example applications of MEMs are:
- Focused knowledge
- Just-in-time tasks
- Asynchronous communications (dynamic MEMs)
- Synchronous communications (live MEMs)
- Socially constructed (collective MEMs)
- Connected (distributed MEMs)
Apple Inc. (2005). Dictionary (Version 2.2.1 (171.1)) [Apple OS 10.10.5].
Binary number. (2016, March 28). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Binary_number&oldid=712365266
Book. (2016, March 15). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Book&oldid=710197167
Kennedy, P. (2013, February 25). Opening the Book [Radio Documentary, 53:58]. Retrieved September 24, 2016, from http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/opening-the-book-encore-february-25-2013-1.1646075
Lascaux. (2018). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lascaux&oldid=852770648
Lascaux Découvrir la Préhistoire en Dordogne-Périgord. (n.d.). Retrieved August 11, 2018, from https://www.lascaux.fr/en
Pixel. (2016, March 28). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pixel&oldid=712295292
- Hypermedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypermedia ↵