From A to <A> [cover]

From A to <A>: Keywords of Markup.

Ed. Bradley Dilger and Jeff Rice. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

246 pp., 978-0-8166-6609-6.


While From A to <A> does not—could not—create a comprehensive encyclopedia of the array of markup tags Web designers have at their fingertips, its collection of essays achieves what the collection sets out to do by introducing an overview of several significant pieces of markup, situating them in the history of the Web and of Web design, and offering ways to think about the rhetorical and theoretical significance of how Web users interact with (or are oblivious to) the ways these tags shape the experience of browsing the Web. The collection identifies itself as a place to begin the conversation about the rhetorical and cultural significance of markup in our literate practices—the beginning of a “vocabulary of vocabularies” as Dilger and Rice put it in their introduction to the volume (xvi)—and succeeds remarkably well. Each essay is thoughtful and thought-provoking and would serve well to start classroom conversations about the ideological choices at stake in Web design.

If there are any drawbacks to this collection, perhaps it would lie in the fact that the authors and editors do not shy away from using the specialist vocabulary of Web design. Though each chapter includes an overview of the markup tag under discussion and the individual authors do situate their discussions with explanations of how their chosen tags function, it is clear that readers of this volume are assumed to have at least a passing familiarity with the basics of markup. However, this assumption allows the authors to dig deeper into the thorny questions about the place of markup within our understanding of digital literacies and rhetorics, so perhaps this is not so much a bug as a design feature. In addition to this feature, while many of the authors use specific examples of contemporary social networks and Web sites, they do not rely on such examples to carry their points, which suggests that this volume will be a durable addition to the field of software studies.