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Why Swarthmore?

I'm really curious about the preponderance of Swarthmore people in the field of hypertext. There's Ted Nelson '59, who coined the term and helped invent the field. Andries van Dam '60. Mark Bernstein '77. Justin Hall '98, who probably invented the weblog as we know it, did so in Willets dorm in 1994. And that's not to mention more recent alumni who are as yet small fish in the pond. Is it, as one of the biographies of Ted Nelson suggests, because people who go to Swarthmore (and end up in computing) are too scattered for anything more linear or structured to contain their daydreamings?

George Landow

Eastgate's bio sums up what I would put here: George Landow is Professor of English and Art History at Brown University. A leading scholar on Ruskin and Victorian literature and culture, Professor Landow is also internationally recognized as a theorist of hypertext application and design. He has written several books on hypertext critical theory, wrote the important early hypertext The Victorian Web, and has been a key player in the history of hypertext at Brown University. He has his own domain and his CV is online.

J Yellowlees Douglas

J Yellowlees Douglas is an Associate Director of the University Writing Program and Associate Professor of English at the University of Florida. She is the author of the first book I have read through for textuality. Eastgate has a better bio of her.

Hypertext Now: Sticky Fingers

http://www.eastgate.com/HypertextNow/archives/Gass.html - I haven't read what she's responding to, so ... ? Diane had good arguments, but to me it was preaching to the choir and the points are more articulate and developed in other writings where there it isn't so focused as a response.

Hypertext Now: No Mystery

http://www.eastgate.com/HypertextNow/archives/Mystery.html . Nice article to read, but I'm not a mystery writer or reader, so I haven't much to say on it.

Tekka Review of Me++

The article reviewed Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Neworked City, by William J. Mitchell through MIT Press, 2003. I haven't much to say about the review, so it'll be the first of these entries to be published in the blog but not stored in the categories.

The book sounds interesting. It explores how people are becoming like lexia in the human network. How the threats that we perceive right now in the US are easily and productively seen as "infiltrations of the network" like terrorists and immigration.

Landow liked the book, saying that it did a good job of balancing optimism and a clear view of technological dangers, that it used history thoroughly and well. He said the second half dragged a bit as the format: argument, positive, negative, citecitecitecitecite, grew predictable.

Lindsay's Story: Hypertext and Liberation in High School

I love this article. That's not in the past tense for a reason-- I know I'll be coming back to this article as I have every time I'm in need of a boost of enthusiasm about hypertext. In the article, Pamela G. Taylor tells about how concept mapping and writing within Storyspace enabled a student to find her voice, to get a sense of her own authority and agency in a school that had largely encouraged passivity, and to connect her studies and her life by seeing how the ways that she thought for each corresponded and connected.

URL

http://eastgate.com/storyspace/art/Taylor1.html

Thoughts don't always fit

That is why hypertext is important to me. In hypertext you can fit all the structures --all your thoughts and connections-- side-by-side when they don't seem to fit into the order you're asked for-- and thus figure out why they don't fit. You can see your thoughts, see how you think. It's the meta-level that is so hard to impart to students, and you can do it without getting abstract-- by simply doing thought-mapping in the classroom, as Pamela Taylor did.

One voice of many

That is why hypertext is so important to me. Because when you are given that freedom to think and encouraged to use it, you see that your voice is one of many in a positive sense-- it is a voice, and the one that's lecturing to you is but one of many, not the one. Multiplicity is everywhere. And when you get your voice, amazing things happen, as with Lindsay.

Good tech practice in the classroom

The article also outlines some fine teaching practice using Storyspace, and I never tire of stories of productive classroom experience. Taylor does so many things right with technology in her classroom-- she gives templates to students to cut out the technical overhead, she gives students their head with content, and she pays attention to that content, not just the form or flash. Here, though, is a superlative example of the human impact of the changes in thought that hypertext encourages.

Hypertext Now: Span of Attention

I think this made some good points, but I couldn't get through it... I kept getting distracted. (kidding) Briefly: when critics complain that current (visual or digital) media are debasing our storytelling talents with 30 minute episodes or sound-bites or music videos, they're conflating a few issues and not really giving the authors (or we readers) proper credit for the epic narratives that are out there.

I think an enduring point the article makes is that a short presentation format does not equal a short narrative, either for the author or the reader. If we can be swept up in the multi-year arc of Babylon 5, or Hill Street Blues, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer despite receiving those stories in 40-minute segments, then perhaps we're getting ready for sweeping literary or multimedia arcs composed of short disconnected segments. Readers are keeping up (or expanding) the skills necessary to perceive and maintain large narratives over many small 'readings'.

URL

http://www.eastgate.com/HypertextNow/archives/Attention.html

Do web texts work like Babylon 5?

Mark argues that serial publication of larger narratives (Dickens, for one) is one argument against the claim that the short presentation formats of current media are debasing storytelling. I think that's an excellent point in general, but when applied to the web or hypertext I wonder how often it applies. How many readers follow enough of a digital text to get the full sweep and scope?

Someone who stops in for an arc of Fans! or It's Walky! is missing out on much of what the series do. It's particularly easy to do with the neatly-packaged story arcs that those two comics provide, but the question applies even to 'punchline'-style comics that have a satisfying resolution at the end of every day or week. A reader can, by virtue of the format and medium, slip into and out of the story, get a bit of a thrill on the way, and never engage the larger narrative. Closure is reached within the short episode as well as the longer series. The medium facilitates those with short attention spans in a way that even Dickens didn't when he published his Great Works in serial form.

Sure, it's always been possible for a reader to ignore the upper levels of what they're reading, but I do think the medium makes that ignorance easier to maintain at the same time as it encourages some people to read on.

Large stories from small scattered texts

I think the article misses some good examples, if only because they've sprung up in the five years since it seems to have been published. First, there's Cloudmakers and its ilk... massive "web games" that are a) presented primarily through websites and web pages, b) are puzzles, in that each site or page is furthermore a puzzle rather than a clear narrative to follow, and c) nevertheless create fairly extensive narratives and participate in larger ones. As I write this, current speculation is that I Love Bees is a part of the Halo story which spans two video games and has correspondences (if not clear connections) to Marathon, a series of three video games whose story occupied readers for five to seven years of sporadic narrative analysis.

Isn't a DVD boxed set a single text?

The growing interest (and supply) of DVD sets are another great example I'd put into the article. When I encounter a new webcomic that looks promising, I dig through it's archive-- and in the case of Fans! I actually bought a subscription so that I could follow the archive. I think people approach DVDs like I do my webcomics-- people are going out to get the 'archives' of television and cinematic series in order to follow the larger sweep... and to revisit the same narrative from the different angle of a single presentation.

We're developing our skills, really.

I think an enduring point the article makes is that a short presentation format does not equal a short narrative, either for the author or the reader. If we can be swept up in the multi-year arc of Babylon 5, or Hill Street Blues, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer despite receiving those stories in 40-minute segments, then perhaps we're getting ready for sweeping literary or multimedia arcs composed of short disconnected segments. Readers are keeping up (or expanding) the skills necessary to perceive and maintain large narratives over many small 'readings'.

Textuality is officially adolescent

T.org is officially adolescent. I say this because:

  • It is going through growth spurts (new categories, issues)

  • Its voice keeps changing

  • It's about to look very different

  • While it's going through all this, it hasn't been doing much but changing (few actual posts)

  • I've been arguing with its code a lot (specifically cross-browser css).

T.org is in the process of finding itself. It's not quite a normal blog, and it's not just an archive of resources and reviews. Mark Bernstein calls blogs like this Fagerjordian (Tinderbox News 21 Oct 2003), after Anders Fagerjord's surftrail. Fagerjordian blogs are more deeply hypertextual... the blog is clearly one projection, one path, of a richer hypertext and the blog uses that richer structure to enrich the reading experience. I bought into that scheme for t.org before I'd heard the term, so I hope it's a positive development.

So, yes... for another week or so my t.org worktime is going into css and Tinderbox rather than reviews. Hope I don't lose all three of you that are reading this!