14.0688 function follows form into argument

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Wed Feb 21 2001 - 03:08:54 EST

  • Next message: by way of Willard McCarty: "14.0689 MA in humanities computing at Alberta"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 688.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Adrian Miles <adrian.miles@bowerbird.rmit.edu.au> (51)
             Subject: Re: 14.0681 function follows form, or not

       [2] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (26)
             Subject: in the machine

       [3] From: "Tim Reuter" <T.Reuter@soton.ac.uk> (20)
             Subject: Re: 14.0681 function follows form, or not

             Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2001 07:57:38 +0000
             From: Adrian Miles <adrian.miles@bowerbird.rmit.edu.au>
             Subject: Re: 14.0681 function follows form, or not

    At 9:30 AM +0000 20/2/2001, Francois Lachance wrote:
    >The essence of
    >interruption is not in the medium. It comes comes from the choices made by

    only if we accept and maintain a particular model of writing (and so
    reading). at the most trivial level there is absolutely no reason why a
    scholarly argument in HTML could not use a meta refresh tag to force
    refresh to another page after a nominated interval. this has been done by
    me in one navel gazing exercise quite a few years ago (hyperweb, originally
    published in a special issue of postmodern culture), and in fiction it has
    been done in the landmark Hegirascope by Stuart Moulthrop. Mark Amerika in
    Grammatron has written something that wanders between critical meta text
    and postnovel fiction which also heavily relies upon the meta refresh tag.
    A time based argument or move is no different to what documentary does *all
    the time*, that we don't know how to do it, or think to do it, in web based
    academic writing is just habit. the point of the example is that it is
    possible to remove this choice from the reader.

    At 9:30 AM +0000 20/2/2001, Steven Robinson wrote:
    >But, as I see it, the
    >question being asked by Willard and so-far discussed here is whether the
    >advent of hypertext either invalidates the former type of structured
    >argument-delivery, or renders it obsolete, or both, or neither. And perhaps
    >also whether hypertext can even really escape it, or wants to?

    a provisional answer that i regularly give to this question (particularly
    loved by teachers of english in my (australian) secondary school system) is
    that at the moment hypertext is currently a post-literate writing practice.
    we need to know how to write essays and make arguments in the essay form
    and this seems to help contextualise the move into hypertext. however, i've
    argued in some essays that hypertext is a postcinematic writing practice,
    which to me suggests that it doesn't need to be postliterate, though
    basically if you don't understand writing (in my experience with undergrad.
    students and staff) then you tend not to understand how to write in
    hypertext. this may become moot if the principal form of argument is visual
    though i think it is clear from the available work that most of the more
    complex problems are being addressed in hypertext (problems of structure,
    pattern, rhetoric, etc) rather than in the visual arts dominated domain of
    new media (there are exceptions, on both sides, of course). so i'd suggest
    we'll have both.

    i think hypertext wants to escape this model, and it will, but i'm not
    sure if our educational institutions are able to accommodate this, and if
    we as teachers can manage this. this is perhaps a more difficult question
    in terms of pedagogy than teaching how to write a multilinear hypermedia
    academic essay.

    adrian miles (who, obviously, is very interested in exploring how to write
    academically doing these sorts of things)


    lecturer in cinema studies and new media rmit university. lecturer in new media university of bergen.

    hypertext theory engine http://bowerbird.rmit.edu.au:8080/ video blog: vog http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/vog/

    --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2001 07:57:56 +0000 From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> Subject: in the machine

    Aimee Morrison's response to my rather fuzzy notion that tools have tendencies --

    >i wonder: what is 'the Web' that it can push 'us' (however we would define >this, and i'm not sure if willard means English instructors, computing >humanists, or the populace at large)? is this construction not indicative >of another sort of determinism? as i understand it, the web is a >collection of online digital documents/texts. so far as i can tell, it has >no agency.

    reminds me of something a friend used to say when he was upset about automobile traffic, that the brain-to-weight ratio of an automobile with driver made it stupider that the largest dinosaur. In other words, the entity in question is the computational tool-in-use, so I should have said, *we* have certain tendencies and so push ourselves in particular ways when we use the Web. Would it be fair to say that the Web, or any other hypertextual medium, is like a set of clothing that makes certain kinds of movement easier than others? Of course the more artificial intelligence (or artificial quasi-intelligence) is invested in a computational tool, the more we are there before we actually arrive. But if the mind-body problem is as hard as I think it is, then there's no clean separation between invested intelligence and its computational clothing.

    Yours, WM

    ----- Dr Willard McCarty / Senior Lecturer / Centre for Computing in the Humanities / King's College London / Strand / London WC2R 2LS / U.K. / +44 (0)20 7848-2784 / ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/

    --[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2001 07:58:16 +0000 From: "Tim Reuter" <T.Reuter@soton.ac.uk> Subject: Re: 14.0681 function follows form, or not

    Willard wrote:

    <<Of course one can reproduce the argument-structure and style of a codex book in hypertext, with each "page" following in sequence, the user carefully given no choice in sequence. But what happens when by virtue of a Web-search, a reader lands in the middle of this sequence from out of nowhere? That is surely not the same thing as a reader going over to a bookshelf, picking out a book and turning to some random page. How might an author respond to the navigational needs of the online reader in the former circumstance?>>

    Surely the real analogy is with the reader who follows a footnote reference either to McCarty (1986) 139-42, or picks up McCarty 1986 and goes to 139-42 by way of the index or the contents page? The paradox of academic ink publishing has surely always been that our works are constructed as a coherent whole -- that's how we think of them when putting them together, that's how publishers' readers and journal editors judge them, that's how they are marketed -- but that readers almost all the time do not use them in that way. How many books does a typical Humanist read each year by starting at 1 and going through to 439 or wherever? Articles may fare a little better, but even there I suspect they often get Xeroxed and gutted.

    Tim Reuter

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