Mexico 01


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Thoughts on Hypertext Narrative

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  • I’d like to talk today about narrative and links. I believe that the Web is important, and that links – literally – make the Web. And I want to begin with this clean and pleasant place.

    The light is good. Something is happening here. Someone may need the café.

    How many links have we already created? You created some while you read this slide, before I began. Tonight, perhaps you will make more. Nothing is blue, or underlined.
  • This talk is a story about a dead girl and a dying giraffe.
  • It’s a story. Already you want to know how it turns out – is this guy crazy? Here are some thoughts on narrative and the Web. I’m going to review some ideas I’ve proposed over the years. I’m going to move fast. I apologize: make your own links, and we’ll talk afterward. Hold on!
  • It’s a story. Already you want to know how it turns out – is this guy crazy? Here are some thoughts on narrative and the Web. I’m going to review some ideas I’ve proposed over the years. I’m going to move fast. I apologize: make your own links, and we’ll talk afterward. Hold on!
  • People see the Web as a get rich quick scheme. People see the Web as a wild frontier. People see the Web as an open world of Free Software. People see the Web as the end of books, of culture, of decency.

    People see the Web as all sorts of things, the reflection of their dreams, the image of their fears.
  • This morning, I want to talk about work about making software and about using that software to make art. But all this work takes place in the economy. There is nothing outside the economy. We cannot wish it away. We are not above it.
  • Times are hard. I’d prefer a literary economy in which writing might be a vocation, not a hobby. This, ultimately, is why I talk about artisanal software and artisanal criticism as NeoVictorian. The Victorian age was deeply interested in the question of independency.
    Independence means that you can create without fear of the boss, the client, the provost. This doesn’t mean without regard for others, but rather without fear. The streets of London cast a long shadow in these difficult days.

    Just look at advice to bloggers, and you’ll see the same spectrum of concerns. Freedom from pettifogging editors. Freedom from corporate restrictions. Six figure income: the new gentility, which we can achieve from fifteen minutes of fame, or from Google ads and beggar’s bowls. Make viral media, and maybe Hollywood will offer you a job!
  • I want to advocate artisanal software: built for and by people, crafted in workshops, bought for a fair price. This is not the only way, but I submit it is not a bad one.

    My own work has focused on what comes after the end of books – or, more precisely, on how we can make things that are much better than books at what books do.
  • My workshop is called Eastgate, where we publish original hypertexts and create hypertext tools.
  • The most important thing to remember about books is that there are a lot of them. You can find a book on almost any subject you can imagine. They’re written by people. It takes a year or two or maybe ten. They’re read by people, too. A book doesn’t have to be read by everyone to be successful, important, or influential.
  • I’m interested too – perhaps quaintly so – in excellent work. Plenty of people are happy to built sites that get millions of people to write silly or crazy things, because then you can sell lots of ads. You can make lots of money, for a time, doing arbitrage on user-generated garbage.
    But we have before us a new thing, a fresh literary machine with new affordances and new abilities and new problems. It draws on all our arts – literary, painterly, scientific. It creates places we will inhabit. It shapes language, and language shapes thought.
  • This morning, I’m going to touch on several lines of work my colleagues and I at Eastgate – and our colleagues throughout the world – have undertaken over the past two decades. All this work focuses on the link, because the link (not the internet) is the key development of our age.
  • The link is the most important punctuation mark since the invention of the comma. It transforms how we write and what we write. Already, everyone reads and writes with links. We seldom think about them, and we seldom use them well.
  • We sometimes think that Web design is page layout, perhaps augmented by some Information Architecture to get “users” to look at the right page. I’m interested in messages that don’t fit on one page. Few important things do.
    Today I’m going to talk a lot about narrative – descriptions of things that happened (or might happen) ranging from history and memoir to novels and instruction manuals and legal briefs.
  • We should not forget everything we’ve learned about reading from Postmodernism and Theory just because we’ve got some links.

    Link make manifest many uncertainties we have on paper.
  • Not kid stuff
    Cinema and the link
  • Narrative drives the social Web. Every playwright knows: we want to know how things turn out.

    I sometimes play a very bad social game, just to see what’s happening. It’s very boring. But one of the other players, recently, was a young actress who broke her arm in a sword fight, and found out she had bone cancer, and so couldn’t play the game normally and needed helpers. The game was suddenly very serious and very compelling.
  • We COULD choose our own adventure, but that’s seldom very interesting. I’ll explain in a moment why we don’t really want to meet Hamlet on the Holodeck. But there’s lots of other things we do want — and need — because we are all different, and we always changing.
  • People -- most notably Janet Murray in HAMLET ON THE HOLODECK, have argued that the great promise of new media is immersivity -- the opportunity to make the narrative experience even more real than cinema. We’ve seen this fashion sweep computing periodically; only a few years ago, virtual reality was the future and VRML was going to replace the Web.
    But reality is overrated. Art depends on removing detail, not adding more. And literal realism often distances us from the subject. The most accessible mass market happens today happens to be pre-adolescent, an age where realist art is more interesting than at any time before or after. But we should not let the wealth of pre-teens sway us any more than the opulence of the royal court.
  • Then, there’s the problem that, if you let a sane and sensible person like you into, say, Romeo and Juliet, everything collapses. You talk to Mom, everyone is a little upset. Happens every day. Nothing to see here.

    Yet another problem with immersively real media is that they’re immersively real. The girl doesn’t stand, anymore, for an idea of sacrifice and the lost hopes of defeat. The more real she is, the more she’s a girl, a specific girl, somone else. Not you.

    David Mamet argues that the natural tendency of cinema is the gradual disrobing of the actors and actresses. When everything is real, it’s the real that matters. Flesh is the enemy of the idea.
  • If the reader commands a hero protagonist, it naturally leads the reader to test the limits of the possible. That’s what heroes do. The imaginative reader is bound to think of things the creator never envisioned, and the reader's best thinking inevitably generates the dullest response: "I don't understand."

    And -- even if you could overcome this -- it just won’t do. Let a sane and sensible protagonist like you into the room, and everything collapses Take Hamlet: it's absolutely obvious that he should go back to school, get roaring drunk, get laid, and await his opportunity. He knows this. Horatio knows this. Ophelia knows this. Even Claudius and Gertrude know — why else send for his college pals? Nobody can bring themselves to say the words — that's the tragedy. But what’s to stop you?
  • Montage and Collage create new ideas by juxtaposition of images in space and in sequence. Both are powerful.
  • A stylishly goth young woman nurses a dying giraffe in the middle of a small urban park. “There’s a story here”, we tell ourselves.

    Perhaps this is connected to that clean and well lighted place I mentioned before.

    In fact, whenever we see elements together, in sequence or in juxtaposition, montage or collage, we create a story.
  • George Landow observed, famously, that in a hypertext environment, any potentially signifying element will, sooner or later, be a signifier. In PATCHWORK GIRL,the hypertext map bears an uncanny resemblance to its frontispiece. “ My body is both insinuating and naive:”, she writes writes, “ moments of knowingness of art ... punctuate my abandonment.” The link structure reminds us of the protagonist, who is stichted together, a female Frankenstein.

  • People are always complaining about screens. Or, they expect the magic screen of the Kindle or the iPad or whatever comes next will transform everything, because they imagine that the screens are the problem.
    Yea, paper is more usable than a screen. Unless the paper is in the Bodleian Library, and you’re in Buffalo or Brisbane.
    Unless the paper is in your desk drawer, and there’s someone out there whose life it will change, but you have no idea who, and neither do they.
    Screens are good enough. They’re getting better.
  • Elegies for the book confound the object with the ideas.
    The end of books is not a disaster to be feared, any more than the end of clay tablets. Books are literary machines. We need literary machines that are better than books/
  • Much of the discussion of immersive senusuality, pro and con, centers around THOSE KIDS -- the MTV generation with their short attention spans, hypermedia-addled minds, and their notorious distaste for reading.

    This is nonsense, of course. It’s been going on since Caesar Augustus shut down Ovid’s Web site. It has nothing to do with reading or writing or ideas, and everything to do with our jealousy of those kids of their nice bodies. Of course, you can’t talk about that in the US these days.
  • The enemies of the Web also embrace the notion that the Web has no ideas and no principles, that Google is making us Stupid.

  • We aren’t stupid, we aren’t distracted, our attention spans are not decaying. Pop art embraces huge forms; Shaw complained that people couldn’t manage a three hour play, and today we relish hundred-hour films.
  • Sometimes people pretend we’re going to do without reading. Sometimes people pretend we already do.

    Many of the things we want to talk about, we can only talk about symbolically. From quantum mechanics to law to the nature of true love, symbols are often all we have.

    But the computer IS a symbol machine! It’s perfect for the job -- as long as we don’t waste it by trying to make it recreate a the merely real. We may attempt this AGAINST the spirit of the medium, just as we may carve pillows in marble, but it is not the natural tendency of the medium.
  • Umberto Eco says that “books are still the best companions for a shipwreck, or for the Day After.”
    (in Nunberg, Future of the Book, 299)
    Reading in bed, reading in the bathtub, reading on the Day After The End Of The World.
    The Bolter Test is merely a sign of terror in the face of change, which really expresses terror in the face of our mortality. And it’s a sign of lazy editors settling for an obvious master narrative.

    Skeptics who talk a lot about the Bolter test also hate movies on VCR. The experience is so much better in a real theater. “Consistency is all I seek/Give us this day or daily week”
  • A few academics are outraged that somebody might make money off of literary machines.
    Capitalism may be a bad idea. It may be evil. But it’s NOT OUR FAULT.
    The Google settlement is probably a disaster, but it’s not a tragedy. We have time to fix it.
  • People fear that new media won’t last; that the media will decay or the format may become obsolete.
    They may be right. But what they are really expressing is the knowledge that they themselves will surely decay, the fear that they are already obsolete.

    Hypertexts, and books, survive as long as the audience cares. It was ever thus, but it’s truer now than ever.
  • So: there’s no reason not to write with links. How might we go about it?
  • We can begin with annotation. We link to explain, to clarify, to offer evidence. This is straightforward, and useful.
  • Annotation, though, is not especially interesting in hypertext. The note, literally leads nowhere. Or, rather, it leads right back. I’m going to talk more in a minute about annotation as a reading practice: people can’t wait to write.

    But suppose, instead of going there and right back, we went for a brief excursion before we came back to our starting point? That’s a cycle. Cycles in hypertext are EXTREMELY interesting, and annotations are tiny cycles.
  • Michael Joyce makes the crucial observation: the atom of hypertext is not the link, but the cycle.

    Recurrence was once thought to reflect confusion, inefficiency. Going back to something already seen seemed -- wrong. You still see this at times in Information Archiotecture. But the theory was wrong, and hypertext right: there are many reasons to go home again, and we do it all the time. Recurrence is not an error: it is how we perceive that structure exists. Without recurrence, we cannot observe structure at all.
  • Terry Harpold observed that every turning toward is also a turning away: that hypertext structure is most easily perceived by its resistance, by the choices NOT offered.

    Hypertexts do not need to be clear, brief, and sincere -- any more than our other texts adhere to such virtues. Rhetoric, as Richard Lanham reminded us in THE ELECTRONIC WORD (though few paused to listen) is also part of the text. The feint is always present, and can be used to inform as well as to delight -- for utilitarian as well as artistic effect. It belongs to the vocabulary of the technical writer as much as to the poet.
  • And, of course, we have many more patterns to study, to catalog, and to explore.
  • Lets think some more about hypertext narrative. Specifically, about the shape of stories.
  • Recently, DIane Greco and I put together a volume of important papers, some new but most old, about reading with links. We did this because some of the indispensible papers are found in unexpected places – computer science journals, or monographs on Homer.
  • In particular, the apparent quarrel between narrative and the link has generated terrific confusion. It seems absurd after all: how could a story not start at the beginning and move to the end?

    Of course, this isn;t the way we tell stories — not just in our postmodern flights but also our histories, our war stories, our jokes.
  • To think more about stories, I’d link to indulge in a brief excursion through narratology.
  • Story: what happened
    Plot: how we describe what happened
    Presentation: what we see on the page

  • if we are not simply fraudulent, the reader’s choice of links has to make a difference. Changing the presentation literally changes the surface: this is adaptive hypertext, and it’s interesting and worthwhile, but it’s literally superficial, on the surface.

    So: we can change the story, or we can change the plot.
  • Occasionally, we can change the plot. Everyone thinks of this first. But that’s seldom what we really want.

    I mentioned this problem earlier. If we’re talking about death and the maiden and you can change the story, what exactly is the point? And if all your efforts cannot change the story, why invite people to try? Nature’s oppression is hard: the fraudulent game’s oppression is unbearable.

  • Plot is not a surface detail, a bit of crafty art to heighten suspense and boost the box office.

    Look, for example, at these three Annunciations. Each is a fairly modern painting that assumes our familiarity with old masters. There is no variation of story here. Yet each tells a distinctly different story.

    Notice, also, that these all work through allusion, and allusion has always been hypertextual and nonsequential.
  • Let’s look at a story. Little Red Riding Hood: our oldest story about the dangers of social software! You may know it by other names.

    A girl goes to her grandmother’s house. There, her bedridden grandmother has been replaced by a wolf. It’s a very small story with countless variations. Let’s look at one detail: when does the reader find out about the wolf?
  • Perhaps we begin with the wolf. If so, we know that Little Red Riding Hood is headed for disaster. This is tragedy.
    Or perhaps we only discover the wolf while we are in progress through the woods. This is melodrama: the horror movie.
    Or perhaps we only discover the wolf at the very last moment! This is comedy (if Little Red determines her fate through her effort and ingenuity) or romance (if she wins through because of her inner excellence)
    Or perhaps she gets into bed with her grandmother, and only later do we find out what really happened. We’re in the world of Rashomon -- another important hypertext pattern -- or Coover’s “The Babysitter”.

  • OK: we’re varying plot. We’re writing with cycles. We’re doing things with links that we couldn’t do in print.

    Good. But won’t people find this confusing? I think not. We’ve done this before, after all.

    In antiquity, books came on long scrolls. In the 4th century, people started to write instead on codexes -- bound books.
  • This meant that continuous scrolls were re-mediated. The work was literally chopped into arbitrary segments.

    Isn’t this disorienting?
  • I confess that I am what Jau Bolter calls a naive American technodeterminist, but the effect of the codex were not what we might have expected. And, in point of fact, people don’t get lost in hypertexts unless you work very hard to disorient them.
  • But there’s always been a deep concern about electronic text. Will all this navigation lead people to get lost in the woods (and eaten by wolves)?
  • But there’s always been a deep concern about electronic text. Will all this navigation lead people to get lost in the woods (and eaten by wolves)?
  • But there’s always been a deep concern about electronic text. Will all this navigation lead people to get lost in the woods (and eaten by wolves)?
  • “Print stays itself”, Michael Joyce reminds us. “Electronic text replaces itself.” One solution to this perceived problem has been stretchtext: extend or modify the text while staying in the same place.
    On the Web, we tend to call this AJAX.

    In literary circles, the real objection was probably not to hypertext, but rather to modernism and postmodernism. In technical circles, the real objection to navigation is often network latency or rendering artifacts. Still, why not transform the text in place?
  • People keep trying this, but the result has never been satisfactory, and our disatisfaction has never been explained.

    It turns out -- I’ll refer you to my Hypertext 09 paper for the details -- that the problem is formal. Stretchtext is a potent hypertext approach, but stretchtext makes it hard to vary the plot.
  • It turns out that the situation, once recognized, can be salvaged and a formal change lets us change the plot with the same freedom to which we’ve become accustomed in navigational hypertexts like Storyspace.
  • I’d like to take a moment, here, to talk about the reader and the writer. Readers write, and writers read.

    It’s popular to say, “Most people’s software needs are simple.” It’s popular to say, “they need simple tools.” This is a mistake.

    Everyone's everyday tasks are filled with complex and important knowledge work. Yes, perhaps the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, but as designers we should seek to improve things. Our users may be living in universities or cities or in a shack by a pond named Walden (which happens to be down the road from Eastgate). They are doing good work, hard work.

  • We care most about our house and garden, about the fields we know and our thousands of close and personal friends. About me, you, and everyone we know.

  • I write for these people. So, I think, do you.

    We sometimes make fun of the Web because some Web writers have small audiences. If only your mother reads your Web site, isn’t that a pitiful failure? No: it’s good to write to you mother!
  • We all know (because they tell us) that everyday people need things to be very simple. They dont want to learn stuff like markup or how to operate complex software. They watch a lot of television and buy consumer goods. Some spend a lot of time lying around in bed.

  • Sometimes they might need to fill out forms, or check facts on the Web -- such as official instructions for filling in forms -- or perhaps process routine business workflow so those forms are properly processed.
  • Occasionally, everyone might travel to a meeting or a vacation spot, perhaps meeting a few friends
  • Sometimes, anyone might write a postcard or a letter to people they know, perhaps containing news they think their friends might like to know.
  • We might write to our family, or to our cat, or to our imaginary friends.
  • Or we might simply record some things we would like to remember.
  • This is the core of out work with Tinderbox: a tool for making, analyzing, and sharing notes.
  • Tinderbox puts a powerful knowledge representation system with prototype inheritance at the service of people who just want to write stuff down and get things done.
  • Spatial hypertext lets us group convey tentative connections and conjectural linkages through lightweight, informal relations. A key, we have found, is to avoid premature commitment, and to encourage people to write now and formalize later.
  • It’s a great tool for taking notes at conferences!
  • So: we read and we write.

    How do we know that what we are writing is any good? How might we talk about hypertext?

    The patterns work, with which we began, has been popular because it provides some vocabulary. But let’s look beyond that, to craft and judgment.

  • The point is not really to tell you which hypertexts to buy or which ads to read. It’s to think seriously about judging hypertext beyond what the revenue it earns from ads for quack medicine and automobile ads.
  • These are hard times. A call for more criticism may sound strange at this moment, because there seems to be no one who wants it. Times are tough for everyone, but the critic really can’t get work. Newspapers are closing down book pages even as they collapse. Magazines are no better off. Libraries don’t buy monographs. It seems as if we are post-critical.
  • But how are we to discover what we need to read? How do we know why to read it? You read what people tell you to read, and you read reviews. This is even more important for new media, because they are new, and because we don’t yet know how to think about them.
  • Art inhabits a world which is economic, and that people in this world can choose to do something about it. We should not buy commodities raised with slave labor. We should not prize art that represents work without thought.
  • Once again, we can (and must) change the literary economy. I want to briefly outline the economy as it is, and then turn to hypertext criticism and show what we have done – and why we need to do more.
  • These are key facts about the economy of books. They are easy to overlook, they are so familiar at to barely need repetition. But it is essential to keep them all in mind.
  • The book world is always in crisis. Lots of things about today’s book economy are bad. But reading itself isn’t going anywhere; the prophecies of the McLuhan generation were simply wrong.
  • But we do have problems. Everyone knows the woes of the bookseller, the newspaper, the publisher. Our troubles are pervasive: small literary magazines that don’t pay beans receive thousands of submissions, and hundreds of readers. This is not an avante garde: it’s a hiring hall, or it’s a hamster wheel.
  • Consolidation of publishers, booksellers, and places that publish reviews has tended to focus attention on a small number of very successful books.
  • I confess to what David Bolter once called naive American technodeterminism, if by that we mean the belief that better tools and technologies can make a real difference to our lives.
  • It has long been true that the cost of making and publishing a books is roughly congruent with private means. It is practical to publish books about important topics that interest a few hundred people. This is the most important and least recognized fact in the economy of writing: books are (and of right ought to be) numerous.
  • The business press mostly thinks that print media is in trouble because it’s old and stupid and won’t trim down to net agility. This is wrong. Newspapers are big not because they want to be, but because print required presses and trucks and teamsters. Neither banks nor the teamsters are eager to walk away.
  • So we can’t expect newspapers to tell us what we want to read — especially not what hypertexts we want. Yet this is work that needs to be done. This is the future of digital studies: to tell us what to read and show us how to write.
  • We need to know what it to read, and we need to know how to write hypertexts worth reading. How can we tell? The favorite tool of computer science has been empirical evaluation.

  • We can, for example, take a print story and turn it into a hypertext. We ask a bunch of our students whether they like the jumbled story or the real story. They give us the answer we want; and we get a publication.
  • Drag races between media are almost always a bad idea. You can’t measure the average productivity difference between an opera and a bronze statue.
  • Evaluation is sometimes useful, but often leaves us adrift. First, it privileges first and casual encounters, which are not really our first interest. Second, the really important effects are by definition rare, especially with undergraduates! Finally, we find a definition of “work” as “finding facts” or “filling out forms”; this is easy to measure but not in fact what knowledge workers do.

  • Nobody knows how to make love more real, or how to make the Occupation more transparent. Next to these, the importance of making a banking transaction a few percentage points more efficiently loses some of its luster.
  • Others, instead, have turned to careful examination of actual hypertexts.
  • There’s quite a lot of excellent work along these lines, examining actual hypertexts and exploring what they do and how they do it. Notable among this group was a cadre of young European and Oceanic scholars, many of whom, oddly, now write much less than they did ten years ago.
  • Still, each hypertext and each writer differ. Discussing hypertexts one by one is hard work. Can we draw lessons beyond respect for isolated genius? Some have tried to work from the essential properties of digital, perhaps illustrating these properties through individual works.
  • In his “Golden Age” speech. for example, Coover retreats from a modernist examination of actual hypertexts to argue from the Web’s apparent propensity for superficial imagery. He has no particular evidence for this, and I think it was wrong, but since Coover says it can’t be done, a generation hasn’t tried very hard to do it.
  • Or take Hamlet On The Holodeck. Murray says digital environments are procedural, participatory, spatial, and encyclopedic. But this isn’t an empirical observation; it’s an argument from the supposed essence of computation. This is fine when the essence is necessarily true, as is is for Joyce in “Nonce Upon Some Times”. But here we can easily quibble: is “Lust” encyclopedic? Is “afternoon” procedural? Is Prolog?
  • Finally, an important thread of essentialism begins from the conclusion that new media are pernicious. Since hypertext is harmful (especially to kids), these critics tend to avoid reading much of it.
  • A number of critics have embarked on a reflective practice, essentially auto-ethnography. They read and, reflecting on their reading, try to figure out what’s happening in front of them.
  • The reading-log appendices in Douglas’s dissertation point the way to something significant, I think: by looking closely at actual readers (and at our own reading), we can better see what is really going on, and what really matters.
  • The same thread runs through much of the best new media criticism: looking both at the work and at its experience. Think for example of Marshall’s thoughtful studies of annotation, Efimova’s reflections on blogging about writing a dissertation on weblogs, Jill Walker’s “Tearing Apart and Piecing Together”, and Shelley Jackson’s Stitch Bitch.
  • Though I’ve been hard today on the Essentialists and the Evaluators, all four threads contribute to help us know what hypertext to read and to explain how it works. We can practice all four to good effect. Let me conclude with some guidelines about how this new economy of judgment could be most helpful.
  • I return again to artistic and political practices of the late 19th and early 20th century radicals from Ruskin to the early Bauhaus, practices I call (without regard to nationality) NeoVictorian. The key concept that runs throughout these disparate movements is the integrity of the artist and the work. As a field, we have affected to honor these ideas and have not always succeeded as well as we ought.
  • First, we need to get our hands dirty. We need to read hypertexts and we need to read about them. We need to use hypertext tools in our daily work. Here, for example, are some notes on my recent reading from Tinderbox, a hypertextual tool I designed for making and analyzing notes. We should writing new media. We should demand excellent new media from students. You can (and must) understand computers now.
  • In my view, a great fault of digital humanities today is that there are few consequences (and many rewards) for being wrong. Indeed, being spectacularly wrong gets you press coverage and party invitations. Further, it is one thing to be mistaken and another, entirely, to be wrong and know it. In the sciences, we call this fraud; until you get this right, many will consider your discipline contemptible.
  • We do not wish to return Art to the patron, the prince, and the priest. It is easier for a critic to pin a fault on a student than to censure a colleague. It is also wrong. It is easy to assign nefarious motives to corporations and to sneer at tradesmen. Absent evidence, it is also wrong. Capitalism may be foul, but it is not our fault.
  • Convincing critical appreciations approach the hypertext in detail, yet draw on muriad sources and ideas. Sympathetic reporting of what was missed — what, as Harpold suggests, the hypertext turns away from — helps establish the critic’s position, and candor.
  • Failure can be as interesting as success. Many of the best readings of hypertexts begin from incomprehension and confusion. I hated afternoon the first time I read it; I thought hypertext fiction preoposterous.
  • The critic may be wrong. Our judgments are preliminary. We may return and revise them.

    But we should be ready to make judgments without regard to page hits or conversion ratios.
  • We should expect to write seriously about actual new media throughout our careers, not only as as the outset.
  • Michael Ruhlman speaks of placing ones art in the service of the potato. This is, I think, precisely what we need in new media. We need the sustenance of solid, thoughtful criticism. We need it regularly, not merely in binges. We need a balanced diet of approaches, though perhaps we can cut down on the essentialist candy. The work is what matters, and we need to figure out how to get the work done.

  • Critics argue that Web 2.0 chiefly seeks admiration and attention, that the net is filed with childish indulgences, narcissistic pleas for attention from undisciplined techies eager to tell the world about their cheese sandwich.
  • Here’s what I see when I write my web site.

    Each note is a little box, a writing space. Some of the notes are linked. The computer helps keep things sorted in some useful ways. It stamps the time on each note, it alphabetizes the books I read by author and by title. It looks at what I’ve written and suggests related notes that use similar words and phrases. It assembles the notes into Web pages.

    But lots of relationships can’t be mechanised, and for these we have containers and we have links — connections between notes, between ideas.
  • What good are notes? Why do we make journals. And, more to the point, why do people read these things?

    “The impulse to keep a diary is to actual diaries as the impulse to go on a diet is to actual slimness.”

    Yet, as we have seen, the impulse to write often leads to actual writing.
  • First, simplicity. Software lends itself to complexity. Over time, programs grow and ramify,

    Unexpected simplicity and remarkable concision create elegance. Nothing in software is more prized.
  • Between the bare ruined choirs of the cathedral and the empty crowds of the bazaar, I think we have little too to choose. The cathedral and the bazaar are both empty. They’re places to park. Or, they’re filled with the nameless, the faceless. The users.
  • Mexico 01

    1. 1. “We are of two different kinds,” the older waiter said. He was now dressed to go home. “It is not only a question of youth and confidence although those things are very beautiful. Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the cafe.” “Hombre, there are bodegas open all night long.” “You do not understand. This is a Ernest Hemingway ”A Clean, Well- clean and pleasant cafe. It is well Lighted Place” lighted. The light is very good
    2. 2. Thoughts On Narrative and the Web Mark Bernstein ❧ Eastgate Systems, Inc. First International Congress On Web Studies
    3. 3. ith even w !W s! No tur key m ore Thoughts On Narrative and the Web Mark Bernstein ❧ Eastgate Systems, Inc. First International Congress On Web Studies
    4. 4. Seeing the Web The floor of the software factory is hard and cold. Date
    5. 5. Artisanal Software Art exists within an economy. We can (and must) change the economy. Date after a self-portrait by Lady Raven Eve
    6. 6. Independenc The streets of London cast a shadow photo: MediaEater, Carlos Castillo
    7. 7. NeoVictorian ✤ Built for people ✤ Built by people ✤ Crafted in workshops ✤ Embracing irregularity ✤ Inspired Carter McKendry
    8. 8. Eastgate serious hypertext fiction nonfiction poetry since 1989
    9. 9. Human Scale Individuals write books. The natural scale of publishing is small. Books can address specialized audiences
    10. 10. The ultimate aim of all creative activity is the Web Site! Das Endziel aller bildnerischen Tätigkeit ist der Bau! Doorknob from I. G. Farben building, Frankfurt. Peter Behrens, 1920-25. — Walter Gropius photo: Anja Rau 10
    11. 11. ✤ Patterns of Hypertext ✤ On Hypertext Narrative ✤ Nobitics ✤ On Criticism
    12. 12. Links Matter
    13. 13. Beyond
    14. 14. All th curre is is fa Links theo nt th ough milia r fro ry an t on m d ep litera istem ry ✤ we don’t know where olog y the reader starts ✤ we don’t know where the reading ends ✤ we don’t know what the reader will think ✤ meaning is See Landow, Hypertext 3.0
    15. 15. Narrative isn’t just for fun
    16. 16. Narrative Drives The Social Web
    17. 17. n t v e A d o y n u r e s e w o o o h
    18. 18. Immersive? But when it's in your numbers or your horoscope you just know that's the way the world was when you had your life and you accept it. Of course, I have to admit I'd have liked to live a little longer from Card Shark and Thespis, Hypertext ‘01 Proceedings I mean there's a lot I don't know yet. Like: why do guys insist on driving? And how come they call on Friday to ask you out for Friday night? Charles Mee, The Trojan Women, a love s
    19. 19. Immersive? it lon ger et. dm tle a it w y ng? e to e a l 't kno rivi av iv I h to l on on d se, ed ur ik I d ist co e l lot ins O f av there gu's a ys dh n I' ea do I m : why L ike
    20. 20. My Friend “Tragedy requires that the characters be blind (as we ourselves, at times, are blind). If you let a sane and sensible reader-protagonist into the room, everything is bound Cornered Rat Software, World War II Mark Bernstein and Diane Greco, “Card Shark and Online Thespis”, First Person, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, ed.
    21. 21. Montage and Collage
    22. 22. We Make Narrative Michal Huisman, Bear Pit Monument, Maastricht 2001 (photo MB)
    23. 23. Shelley Jackson Patchwork Girl Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl
    24. 24. Shelley Jackson Patchwork Girl Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl
    25. 25. Five Silly Myths
    26. 26. 1 E. A. Proulx TWITCHY SCREENS Essentially all professional writers now write on screens. We all spend our days in front of screens. They’re good enough. Getting better, too.
    27. 27. 2 Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies BUT I LOVE BOOKS!
    28. 28. 2 Those Kids! “Parental fears of what children might see on the Internet are very peculiar, considering what children can see on the walls in public restrooms.” –Theodor Holm Nelson illus: Chris Where (again) are the Hypertexts? Baldwin HT99
    29. 29. 2 enemies Google is making us stupid. — Nicholas Carr “The very nature of the blogosphere is proliferation and dispersal; it is centrifugal and represents a reversal of the norms of print — Sven Birkerts culture.”
    30. 30. Short attention? 2 Babylon 5: a single, 100-hour film, meant to be viewed over the course of five years Buffy, The Vampire Slayer: from adolescence to adulthood, in real time Patrick O’Brian: a 20- volume historical
    31. 31. Symbol 2 Ψ Quantum Mechanics The Rights of Man Polixena’s sacrifice
    32. 32. 3 you CAN’T READ them IN THE BATHTUB The Bolter Test
    33. 33. “You say you want a revolution? 4 WHAT? YOU HAVE TO PAY? The tools are cheap. And getting cheaper. A good book has ALWAYS cost as much as a good dinner. We’re still subject to the ills of capitalism. For scholars to blame artists for
    34. 34. “You say you want a revolution? 5 It Won’t Last Neither will you. Hypertexts won’t be lost because formats go obsolete or media decays. Hypertexts (and texts) are lost when nobody reads them. Books, like Tinkerbell, survive as long as their audience cares.
    35. 35. Patterns Of Hypertext
    36. 36. Annotation Landow: arrival and departure Marshall, Reading & Writing The Electronic Book
    37. 37. Readers are Writers Photo courtesy of Eloisa Bordador, Anaheim, March 2007; http://
    38. 38. Cycle “Of recursus, there is hallucination, déja vu, compulsion, riff, ripple, canon, isobar, daydream, and theme and variation...Of timeshift there is the death of Mrs. Ramsay and the near disintegration of the house...Leopold Bloom on a walk, and a man who wants to say he may have seen his son die. Of the renewal there is every story not listed previously. ” Michael Joyce, “None Upon Some Times” Recurrence is not an error. Multivalence Mark Bernstein et al., Contours of Coinstructive Hypertext, is not a vice. HT93
    39. 39. Feint Free and knowing navigation Clarity, brevity, sincerity
    40. 40. ...and many more • cycle • contour • Joyce’s cycle • Douglas’ cycle • counterpoint • mirrorworld • tangle • sieve • collage • neighborhood • split/join • Rashomon • missing link • feint
    41. 41. On Hypertext Narrative Mark Bernstein
    42. 42. How did this work Reading happen? Hypertext I reread lots of terrific papers in the course of compiling a new anthology about Reading Hypertext. Mark Bernstein Diane Greco
    43. 43. Reading Hypertext 1. Into The Weeds 1 Readin Mark Bernstein 2. Why are we still talking like this? 15 Diane Greco 3. La Maison Hypertext 19 Charles A. Perfetti 4. Piecing together and tearing apart: finding the story in afternoon 21 g Jill Walker 5. A Cognitive Model 35 N. J. Lowe 6. “How Do I Stop this Thing?” Closure and Indeterminacy in Interactive Narratives 59 J. Yellowlees Douglas 7. Reconfiguring Writing 89 George P. Landow 8. The Lyrical Quality of Links 99 Susana Pajares Tosca 9. A Pragmatics of Links 103 Susana Pajares Tosca 10. Stitching Together Narrative, Sexuality, Self: Much of this work is Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl George P. Landow 11. These Waves Of Bugs 119 129 insufficiently known. Anja Rau 12. Cinematic paradigms for hypertext Adrian Miles 137 13. Nonce Upon Some Times: Rereading Hypertext Fiction 149 Michael Joyce 14. Returning In Twilight: J In particular, the oyce’s Twilight, a Symphony Dave Ciccoricco 15. Hypertext Structure Under Pressure 165 193 apparent quarrel David Kolb 16. Reading Spatial Hypertext Catherine C. Marshall 213 between narrative and 17. Hypertext Teaching Adrian Miles 18. Hypertext with Consequences: 223 the link has generated Recovering a Politics of Hypertext Diane Greco 19. What the Geeks Know: 239 terrific confusion. Hypertext and the Problem of Literacy Stuart Moulthrop 251
    44. 44. a detour through Theory
    45. 45. Three Story “what happened” Plot the sequence in which we explain what happened Presentation what we see on the page or the
    46. 46. Hypertext & The fraudulent hypertext lots of links but whatever link you choose, you go to the same place proposition 1: How can we know? hypertextuality is perceived through only through rereading rereading and reflection.
    47. 47. If our choice of links is to prove more than superficially consequential, links Story choose your own adventure Hamlet on the Holodeck Plot afternoon, a story Presentation adaptive hypertext
    48. 48. It’s That Kind Of Movie the problem with changing the story Historians can’t change the story. Some stories don’t change. Elna Borch Death and the Maiden Ny Carlsberg Glypotek
    49. 49. Max Klinger My Friend Hamlet Dramas A Mother 1-2 more problems with changing the Many stories interest us because events happen as they did Hamlet could have gone back to school Juliet should have had a long talk with her mother Winston Churchill might have been killed by a taxi in 1931 The world is full of unhappy sons, precocious daughters, and wayward
    50. 50. Changing the Plot Bolter and Joyce, HT87 Changing tone, pacing, point of view Starting and ending at different points Embedding in new frames • The Longest Day • The Big Red One
    51. 51. John Collier Dante Gabriel Rossetti (detail) Henry Osawa Tanner Changing the Plot Three annunciations: all different. Plot is not a surface detail. Allusion has always worked through hypertextual,
    52. 52. Little Red A wolf deceives a girl into climbing into bed with him. (Early lessons re social software) When do we tell the reader that the wolf has run ahead and eaten grandma?
    53. 53. Little Red Riding Hood reader … and the works learns… becomes early tragedy in the horror movie, woods melodrama at the last comedy, romance moment afterward Rashomon, “The s Babysitter”, Portrait of a Lady
    54. 54. a crucial paper Nonce Upon Some the most accessible version had a Describe four things that happen, critical typo forming a sequence Next, we link back to a previously- visited node Where can we go now?
    55. 55. for example… Preston Sturges, The Lady Eve A guy and a gal walk into a bar. He is wealthy, and is returning from a long stint of postdoc field
    56. 56. for example… Preston Sturges, The Lady Eve As is his nature, he falls in love. As is hers, she swindles him out of a large sum of money.
    57. 57. Nonce Upon Some A wealthy and handsome boy, returning from an isolated outpost, embarks on a ship and encounters a beautiful girl who, it happens, is a con artist. They meet. As is his nature, he falls in love. As is hers, she swindles him out of a large sum of money. He discovers that he was been swindled; the lovers quarrel. She discovers that she has fallen in love with him. They part, and do not see each other for a long time. The estranged lovers meet again, It is like they
    58. 58. What Happens Now? four link primitives A wealthy and handsome boy, Recursus We follow the cycle returning from an isolated again (literally, or with outpost, embarks on a ship variations, or metaphorically, and encounters a beautiful girl or …) who, it happens, is a con artist. Timeshift We proceed to a They meet. As is his nature, he new node that follows falls in love. As is hers, she naturally from what has gone swindles him out of a large before (they get married; and sum of money. then…) He discovers that he was been Renewal We proceed to a swindled; the lovers quarrel. new node that takes off in a She discovers that she has new direction (a German
    59. 59. so… We want to vary plot. Our tools are the 4 link primitives recursus ❧ timeshift ❧ renewal ❧ annotation
    60. 60. Parable: The 4th Century
    61. 61. 4th century software engineering Chopping continuous
    62. 62. Experts Might Have I am a naïve Predicted American • disorientation • cognitive overhead What Happened • much longer works
    63. 63. PJ Brown GUIDE Gould, Zellweger, Mangen FLUID Ted Nelson has seen stretchtext as a (the?) natural The Cure for form of hypertext Navigation: stretchtext since the
    64. 64. PJ Brown GUIDE Gould, Zellweger, Mangen FLUID Ted Nelson has seen stretchtext as a (the?) natural The Cure for form of hypertext Navigation: stretchtext since the
    65. 65. But there was one thing they had forgotten... The Cure Zellweger, Gould, Mangen Print stays itself; electronic text replaces itself. Stretchtext no navigation (or at least no departure) context remains present no slippery cycles (The real objection might have been recursus, and the real target either modernism or
    66. 66. Why The Cure Didn’t GUIDE replacement button ABC ADEFC If Y follows X in some reading, then Y will follow X in every reading in which they both appear. Thus not only must we forego cycles, we must always adhere to the same narrative sequence.
    67. 67. our business is varying plot, not story
    68. 68. Interlude everyone's everyday tasks complex and important knowledge work Q i n ti m at e i n f o r ma ti on Q ma r k b e rn s te i n Q wikis y m 0 6 Q 66
    69. 69. Nobitics writing for yourself
    70. 70.
    71. 71. Marcel Proust “Kids today are Ny Carlsberg Glypotek oversexualized, over- stimulated, and are always lying on the couch and watching television or playing games.” National Gallery, Sydney Q j u st b et we e n u s Q ma r k b e rn s te i n Q C AQ DAS 0 7 Q 69
    72. 72. FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS FORMS and other stuff that's easy for us to measure Q i n ti m at e i n f o r ma ti on Q ma r k b e rn s te i n Q wikis y m 0 6 Q 70
    73. 73. Nernst Planck Brillouin Sommerfeld Solvay Lindemann Lorentz De Broglie Curie Rutherford Poincaré Solvay Einstein Langevin Conference Brussels Q j u st b et we e n u s Q ma r k b e rn s te i n Q C AQ DAS 0 7 Q 71
    74. 74. letters to friends Einstein's letter to Roosevelt, August 2, 1939 Q i n ti m at e i n f o r ma ti on Q ma r k b e rn s te i n Q wikis y m 0 6 Q 72
    75. 75. Anne Frank Q j u st b et we e n u s Q ma r k b e rn s te i n Q C AQ DAS 0 7 Q 73
    76. 76. “I had a farm in Africa...” Q j u st b et we e n u s Q ma r k b e rn s te i n Q C AQ DAS 0 7 Q 74
    77. 77. Tinderbox Sentencing Guidelines, Hon. Thomas Smith (Canada)
    78. 78. Patterns in Game Design Julie Tolmie, Kings College
    79. 79. Notes for a lecture on Dr. Michael Bywater
    80. 80. My Notes Future of Digital Studies (detail)
    81. 81. Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill Appear in writing or in judging ill. But, of the two, less dang’rous is th’ offence, To tire our patience, than mislead our sense. NEOVICTORIAN NEW MEDIA: the critical difficulty Mark Bernstein ❧ Eastgate Systems Inc. The Future Of Digital Studies, University Of Florida, 2010.
    82. 82. Mark NeoVictorian Bernstein New Media Eastgate Systems Inc Text The critical problem
    83. 83. Photo: Lee Russell Where would we publish The disappearance of newspaper and magazine review The Future Of Digital Studies
    84. 84. How do we discover what we need to read? ✤ teachers, friends, colleagues ✤ booksellers ✤ reviews in newspapers, magazines, journals ✤ weblogs Roosevelt reading in front of his tent in hunting camp, 1910.
    85. 85. NeoVictorian ✤ We can change the economy ✤ Work without thought is slave’s work unredeem’d
    86. 86. of Judgment An Economy William McGregor Paxton, Leaving The
    87. 87. o us Bo er Re ok um ad s ( ing an dh n is no ype re t o rt sa bs ext ole s) ok te are Bo ind isp en sa ble The Book Business is Small
    88. 88. Reading is not at There’s no other way to learn Chemistry, or to talk about law. No one is going to do without. Dorothea Lange, Girls of Lincoln Bench School study their reading lesson. Near Ontario, Malheur County, Oregon.
    89. 89. But there are lots of problems For example, small literary magazines receive thousands of submissions, but have hundreds of readers. For the economy of new media, see Bernstein & Greco, Genre, in press Lewis Hicks Wine, Newsgirl, Park Row, New York.
    90. 90. Nobody buys criticism Consolidation has focused attention on a small number of extremely popular titles. Lewis Wickes Hine, Current Education, 1912.
    91. 91. The codex book is inadequate Legislators don’t understand the laws on which they vote. Voters don’t understand the issues. We rely on dueling experts. We need a better book. Photo: Lee Russell
    92. 92. Lewis Wickes Hine. A "Reader" in cigar factory, Tampa, Fla. He reads books and newspapers at top of his voice all day long. This is all the education many of these workers receive. He is paid by them and they select what he shall read. There is a lot to read. The most salient economic fact about books: books are numerous. The Future Of Digital Studies
    93. 93. Why newspapers are big… (But not because they’re dumb) Newspaper publishing formerly requires massive distribution Lewis W. Hine. Group investments. of newsboys on a stoop at 4th & Market Sts, Wilmington The mortgages on the trucks, and the Delaware. "Take our mugs, mister?" contracts with the Teamsters, still
    94. 94. Who needs to know if a hypertext is any good? ✤ Publishers ✤ Booksellers ✤ Readers ✤ Writers ✤ Editors ✤ Students ✤ Assistant Professors Lewis Ward Hine. Class in English for employees. Pocasset Mill. After day's work
    95. 95. Evaluation Trust not yourself; but your defects to know, Make use of ev’ry friend — and ev’ry foe
    96. 96. Miall & Dobson 2006 ✤ Take “The Demon Lover” ✤ Make it into a hypertext (how?) ✤ Ask a bunch of undergraduates to read it ✤ Run the statistics ✤ Write the paper
    97. 97. Moulthrop 1991 To require hypertext to function like a book is a bit like expecting a jetliner to behave like a locomotive: yes, it’s very fast but the blasted thing won’t stay on the rails.
    98. 98. Evaluation and its discontents Usability privileges the first encounter Statistics wash out the exceptional case (when not discarded as an outlier) Unrealistic definition of “work”
    99. 99. Nobody knows how to make love 2 more real, or the memory of the Occupation more transparent. Next to this, slightly improving a banking transaction loses some if its luster. Maastrich, 2003
    100. 100. Who to a friend his faults can freely show, And gladly praise the merit of a foe. Real riti cism criti Re al c of cism of r eal real xts! hype hyp erte rtex ts!
    101. 101. William McGregor Paxton, The Breakfast, Metropolitan n Museum Most critics, fond of some subservient art, Essentials Still make the whole depend upon a part
    102. 102. Coover & The Golden Age
    103. 103. Murray “When we stop thinking of the computer as a multimedia telephone link, we can identify its four principal properties, which separately and collectively make it a powerful vehicle for literary creation. Digital environments are procedural, participatory, spatial, and encyclopedic.”
    104. 104. claptrap ✤ Essentialism run amok: the essence of computational media is that they are pernicious (and so we need not — should not — read them) ✤ Believing hypertext to be pernicious or harmful, these critics read little (Miller, Kakutani) or almost none (Birkerts)
    106. 106. Are we reading
    107. 107. Although people sometimes have a hard time deciding whether or not something is art, they are rarely fooled into
    108. 108. The NeoVictorian Critic Evaluation • Modernism • Essentialism • Postmodernism
    109. 109. respect artist work integrity
    110. 110. Dirty hands
    111. 111. Consequences for being wrong
    112. 112. Indifference to persons and
    113. 113. o r ig R a i l et D
    114. 114. t r e rag a v i t n te s b n ain e s o io t s
    115. 115. humilit y
    116. 116. doing the work: a commitme to criticism
    117. 117. Photo: © Louis Sahuc Art in the service of the potato
    118. 118. thank you ✤ Stacey Mason, Samantha Panepinto ✤ Fonts: Neutraface 2, Epic, Kane, Tungsten ✤ Images: Library of Congress, iStockPhoto, MFA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lady Raven Eve, serious hypertext since 1982
    119. 119. Bin
    120. 120. vanity “Popular culture used to draw people to what they liked. Internet culture draws people to what everyone else likes.” Lee Siegel, Against The Machine
    121. 121. Tinderbox
    122. 122. “The impulse to keep a diary is why do we to actual diaries as the write impulse to go diaries? on a diet is to actual slimness.” Louis Menand, “Woke Up This Morning”, The New Yorker (10 Dec 2007)
    123. 123. Rancho de Chimayo, Taos
    124. 124. cathedral/ Photo: Linda J. Thorsen 123