Mashup as Paratextual Practice: Beyond Digital Objects (in the Age of Networked Media)

Mashup as Paratextual Practice: Beyond Digital Objects (in the Age of Networked Media)

Anna Nacher (Jagiellonian University, Poland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6002-1.ch004
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The main objective of this chapter is to contribute to a more dynamic understanding of the notion of paratext (Genette, 1997a). The author argues that in order to fully grasp the discourse of contemporary media objects, one has to focus on the networked, hyperconnective and fluid nature of today's media environments (Jenkins, 2008; Varnelis, 2008), where content itself often seems secondary to the modes of its circulation. In this regard, the concept of paratext still provides a valuable framework of analysis, especially when related to the widespread programming and coding procedures of contemporary Web services. In order to enable such a dynamic understanding of the notion in the contemporary digital media environment, Genette's proposition should be read not only (or primarily) as relating to the set of subtexts, “parasitic” texts, annotations and markers accompanying the “main” text, but first and foremost as a semiotic-technological apparatus enabling the circulation of digital content across different media platforms. Such a re-reading also calls for an updated understanding of digital media, with more prominence given to the relational characteristics of the objects, as well as to the fluidity and dynamics of the processes of circulation, rather than to digital “objects” as such.
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My chapter is aimed at a more dynamic understanding of the notion of paratext developed by Gérard Genette (1997a), which I argue is necessary to fully grasp the discourse of contemporary media objects. It seems that what distinguishes them from older types of media is not only their digital nature, but first and foremost their networked, hyperconnective and fluid nature (Jenkins, 2008; Varnelis, 2008). By “hyperconnectivity” I mean the intensified communication exchanges which define today’s society; it is, however, important to notice that such a communication frenzy is a matter of concern not only in regard to us, people (Ranadivé, 2013). The fact is, it incorporates different kinds of machinic entities (including artificial intelligence) on a much wider scale than ever before, which inspires attempts at developing a kind of thinking that would face this new situation in a more relevant way (Gunkel, 2012). The growing role of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication contributed to a nascent phase of what came to be called the Internet-of-things (IoT) (van Kranenburg, 2008), strongly relying upon RFID technology (a wireless technology allowing for direct communication between machines). Another important factor determining the formation of a hyperconnective world is the increasing automatization of communication environments. Who and what communicates with whom and under which conditions depends today, to a growing extent, on the algorithms, automated responses and standards of interoperability (the idea of interoperability enables the use of different software environments, a combination of applications, their mutual information exchange and the sharing of content across platforms). It is not a coincidence that Google’s exact algorithm is one of the company’s most treasured secrets and that Facebook’s EdgeRank is actually responsible for what kind of content we can see on our profile walls.

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