12.0167 the commuter model for text production

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Fri, 7 Aug 1998 00:12:53 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 167.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Wed, 5 Aug 1998 22:55:53 -0400 (EDT)
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: seeing the scene


You may recall that I once asked Stuart Lee if he commuted to work via
public transit. The question arose beause I noticed with admiration
how comfortable he was using a laptop during some demonstration as if
he really did use it perched on a lap...

I raise the point because I think his recent challenge to find a
content model for Owen's aptly entitled textual artefact -- "Futility"
may find a solution in a commuter metaphor of text production.

What I am proposing as a "solution" does not save time. It is not new.
(see the excellent article on morphing in the collection on electronic text
edited by Kathryn Sutherland -- praised here recently).

Step One
Apply some of the enthusiasm one recalls from compilers and
hawkers of archives who have displayed much amazment over the transmorgraphic
powers of digital imaging software. However do not mistakenly take
image processing or the perception of visual stimuli, even the most
still of photographs or the most minimalist of abstract paintings, to be
timeless. That is, take a page from animation and treat the verbal elements
and the graphic elements (e.g. the lines indicating deletion) as
elements in an unfolding movie. What you get is a series of shots that
mask various parts of the digital image depicting the typescript or
manuscript. What you do not get is an ambiguous picture of the
sequences between shot of blank page and shot of extant artefact. Like
any sufficiently complex urban transit system, you have a series of
possible paths.

Step Two
Use the elements of the TEI tag set for performance
to produce a "trunk line" in time. The element <stage> can be defined
as a grid to localise other elements such as <caption> <castGroup> <castItem>
<role> <actor> and so on.

Step Three
Choreograph. The hypertext pointers of the TEI just might do.
They work well for the presentation of translations as explains Lou Burnard
in "TEI Extended Pointers: a brief tutorial" (4 February 1997). Of course,
his may mean understanding the Synex Viewport engine and how a browser
might implement the mark-up.

My own efforts at this kind of work are at very very preliminary
stages. I am trying to master the Macromedia Director authoring
environment and its scripting language called Lingo. There are other
multimedia software tools that may do the job. Even a little time
spent viewing demos of these tools might help improve thinking about
concurrent structure as spatially co-ordinated but temporally
disjunctive. As window is to stage is to timeline, discursive syntagms
are reparsable -- some of us start with the marks of deletion,
privileging the deleting over the deleted.

I must admit by reframing the challenge in terms of developing
a content model for a specific instance of a textual artefact using some
of the insights from Gremassian semiotics (the very abstract notion of
actant), I am not quite meeting Dr. Lee on the ground of tagging.
At some junction we may be able to meet and wonder if when the great stroke
of a snaking line in the Owen artefact does not transect the
<title>Futility</title> does it mean that the line began in its
vicinity or ended on the tip of a word or even at the base of the
letter "U" and then we could ponder the meaning of those options.

endlessly techno-semiotic, Francois
regrets that he cannot ride a bicycle and use a laptop simultaneously
ponders the unicycle...

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