Old Wine for New Bottles: Making the Britannica CD Multimedia Timelines

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang


Many authors see the development of new media as an event of great significance in the history of reading and writing. The works produced by commentators and theorists surveying the history and future of new media have several features. They assume that our ideas about authorship, copyright, and literary categories are at some level determined by the character of the printed word; and they believe that electronic works are as devoid of material constraints as printed works are defined by them. This article challenges both of these assumptions. It examines the making of multimedia timelines for the 1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica CD. The development process reveals that content, design, and programming are even more intimately connected in electronic media than in print. It also shows that literary genres developed in print can make the transition to new media, retaining their traditional functions and qualities even as they develop new properties and use.

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