The last week found me teasing out techniques for working with sidenotes as alternative to footnotes or endnotes. In a contentually brilliant PhD Dissertation on timelines as a digital collection visualisation tool – I was concurrently impressed by the quality of the layout of the entire dissertation to enhance readability. Florian Kräutli’s dissertation [ref] http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/1774/ – Visualising Cultural Data: Exploring Digital Collections Through Timeline Visualisations.[/ref] is a great example of having some latitude to take the reader into account and make the content of a PhD dissertation usable beyond merely submitting it to check a box.
Sidenotes to my thinking address many of the users challenges in reading the text. As a point of fact, sidenotes are not that techie. All we are doing is using a slightly larger margin on one side of the page and populating it when necessary. The processor/composer just needs to align the text to the reference. Overflow issues sometimes challenge the immediately adjacent placement, but aside from that it may actually be technically easier to process – and it’s definitely far easier for the reader to glance to the side of the text as they read should they want referential corroboration. It may (and to some extent is) wasteful from a page space standpoint with more (possibly excessive) whitespace…but is whitespace a bad thing? Where I have seen sidenotes used in the wider whitespace margins recently I have a sense that this is a more readable aesthetically and logically if I want to see the note with more info…there it is.
Brilliant really, and yet unsupported by most – if not all – modern word processors [ref]I can accomplish sidenotes in WordPress and using LaTEX or InDesign.[/ref]. What’s up with that?