Oh My God, Page Numbers

(you can’t quote from this blog in your coursework – there are no pages to number!)

In stumbling ever closer to the completion of my History coursework, I have realised the extent to which having to provide adequate footnotes for things is bloody annoying. However, I appreciate that you need to provide evidence for your argument, and explain the origin of this evidence so other writers actually get some credit for their work, rather than their ideas floating out into the great void of human consciousness, like the idea that we should drive on the left or that black ties are associated with formality and mourning; all ideas come from individuals, but only some are properly remembered as such.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not irritating to flick through books for a second or fifth time to find the one page our of two hundred and eighteen containing the relevant quote, and that it’s not soul-crushing to have to cut a piece of great evidence from an essay because you were too stupid to note down which textbook it came from.

I suppose this irritation comes from the divide between the essay itself, and the means of properly referencing it: essays, whether they’re for English, History or whatever, are about responding to evidence and events creatively, exploring links between ideas and theories. Referencing all this, however, is a dry, page number-scrawling task that involves the deconstruction of fun ideas into footnotealbe passages and italicised headings, which are a bit more boring.

And I feel that the Internet isn’t helping all this; it’s not that it’s easy to steal information off each other, but that today, ideas are contained within blog posts, YouTube videos and Tumblr gifs, not necessarily in full prose that can be easily referenced in an academic-style essay. Essentially, the Internet has contributed an infinite number of ideas to that ‘void of human consciousness’ thing, but in a way that is either difficult to reference (my blog posts have no page numbers) or altogether impossible to source (who know who came up with half the gifs on Tumblr?).

This is why works like Becoming YouTube, or even Equals Three, are so popular: they take the mess of ideas and events on the Internet, and present them to us, in either thematic episodes, or a structured, three-video approach that lends a framework to the great mass of stuff on the Internet. It seems that people like being able to spread ideas freely, but that they also like these ideas to be categorised, and their thinkers known: t’s no surprise that YouTubers such as Alex Day have changed their usernames from their old nicknames to their actual human identifiers.

While some will argue that we don’t need to categorise ideas, as the enjoyment associated with it comes from living in it, not reviewing and discussing it from a distance some time later – an idea I kinda agree with, which is why I live the events of my life, not take poorly-framed pictures of them and tweet them to other shutter-spamming morons – the fact that there is a structure to and a means of identifying the origin of ideas means that those that want to look back on stuff can, while others can plough on with their lives without a glance backwards.

And I like how the Internet is both a hotbed of dumb ideas, with a few people trying to make sense of it all for the benefit of the lazy, forward-lookers among us. I just wish I was so supportive of this structure when it comes to footnoting History coursework.

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4 thoughts on “Oh My God, Page Numbers

  1. Protip (after 7 or so years of having to cite sources): if you are a notetaker, jot down source and page number after each note. If you aren’t a notetaker, use sticky tabs for things that you know will be crucial. Then you can find them again. Also, use the index to your advantage, assuming the text has one.

    1. The problem was that I didn’t know where half my sources came from – books or the Internet. So looking in indexes was all well and good, but often there wouldn’t be a quote in that book for me to look up, and it would actually be on page 18 of a Google search on a site no-one’s ever heard of.

      But it would totally have been more useful to make a note of page numbers as I found stuff – hindsight is annoyingly accurate.

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