Writing on the margins of the web

14 February, Wednesdey

10:00 - 10:15 Introduction to 'Writing in Digital Margins'
10:15 - 10:45 Theoretical Background - How to read source code
10:45 - 11:00 Break
11:00 - 12:30 Practical part - Exploring Digital Margins
12:30 - 13:00 Reading and Closing Discussion

glossary (work in progress)


citation as storytelling, not ownership. citation not b/c we believe in the ownership of ideas, but citation as a form of storytelling and lineage


These are notes written in the margins of the page, alongside the main text. They are not formally integrated into the structure of the text but are added by readers or sometimes by the author during or after the writing process. Marginalia can be more spontaneous and personal compared to the structured format of footnotes.

Historically, marginalia have been used by readers as a way of interacting with the text on a personal level. They offer insights into the reader's thoughts and can be a form of dialogue between different readers of the same text over time, especially in shared or passed-down books.

The practice of writing in the margins of books gradually declined over several centuries after the invention of the printing press. Printed books gradually became much less expensive, so they were no longer regarded as long-term assets to be improved for succeeding generations.

I feel margins (and experimenting with, exceeding 'mise-en-page') are just making a reappearance with rising interest in autotheoretic arts and writing.

We thought of these two examples
  • Maggie Nelson – the argonauts
    Name of Theorist, Artist, Writer cited put into the margin next to where Nelson quotes or summarizes their ideas.
    Placing cited Name in the margin makes citation (in reading direction left to right) part of the reading experience.
    stands in contrast to endnotes, footnotes (which are underneath the text)
  • Roland Bartes – A Lovers Discourse
    here barthes cited names in the margins (originally) its whom Nelson is referring to. A lovers discourse highly conceptional in its structure, margins are not only for cited names but more broadly references (initials, titles, names...).
    here resulting from a poststructuralist manner (dont think the exact understanding of this term is important) where any literary or cultural text is understood as a 'tissue of citations, resulting from the thousand sources of culture' (Death of the Author). (Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author", 1997, p.144)


meaning does not lie in things, or in the signs of language. (Berardi, 2018, p. 71)

Meaning is interpersonal interpretation, a shared pathway of consciousness. (Berardi, 2018, p. 79)

Meaning is based on friendship, on dialogue among friends. (Berardi, 2018, p. 80) Meaning is then based on relation. It can only enfold when situated, entangled, located.

I guess this meaning-making conecption does not solely span the meaning of a text, letter or idea:

Citation, based next to a memory becomes a way of making ones life intelligible.
▚ Lauren Fornier "Autotheory as feminist practice in art, writing and criticism"

Excessiveness is the condition of revelation, of emancipation from established meaning and of the disclosure of an unseen horizon of signification: the possible.” (Berardi, 2018, p. 20)


The noun markup is derived from the traditional publishing practice called "marking up" a manuscript, which involves adding handwritten annotations in the form of conventional symbolic printer's instructions — in the margins and the text of a paper or a printed manuscript. (maybe writing markup language then is writing marginalia)


We have used this term for the person who browses, to distinguish them from the program (browser) which (s)he uses.


The practice of writing marginalia is as old as writing itself. Particularly in books produced before the printing press, marginalia often formed dialogues between readers, as these books were handcrafted and passed down through generations. While our engagement with physical books remains, we frequently encounter digital texts, code-based texts, and hypertexts. This leads us to ponder: what are the margins of a webpage or a code?

Challenging the perception of digital text as intangible and flat, we strive to explore its materialities and possibilities for inscription and relation. In source codes, we confront the notion that code is best-practice when it lacks comments and is deemed self-explanatory. Commenting on code, however, makes the writing process more legible for writers, readers, learners, and inspectors. We propose using comments in source code not just for describing or crediting steps, but as a margin that provides space for process documentation, conversation, and the otherwise overlooked or deemed 'unimportant'.

Every webpage’s source code is accessible through built-in web inspector tools in browsers, a starting point that forms a margin to the text on site. we propose using comments in source code as margin that provides space for process documentation, conversation, and the otherwise overlooked or deemed 'unimportant‘. for this workshop's practical component, we will bring a selection of digital texts. You will be invited to write your own annotations, comments, and interpretations, exploring how these marginal notes can shape and add dimension to the source-code. A basic understanding of HTML will be helpful but is not required.


browse examples Start writing

Source code writing examples

Example by Kim and Polinsski (add later)


sandbox (add later)