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Babel to Xanadu: Hypertext
Prof. Alvarado
MDST 3703
24 September 2013
Business
• Quiz 1 to be posted Thursday
• Take home, delivered through Collab
• 10 IDs, 5 short answers, 1 essay
• Covers ...
Review: Studio Concepts Covered in
Tutorial
• Documents are made of elements—abstract
units of structure
• Elements are re...
Review: Seminar
• Text as self-contained entity
• In terms of form, texts are internally ordered
as a hierarchy (OHCO), re...
But are texts really like this?
What is a text?
Jorge Luis Borges gives us a
thought experiment
Borges provides us with an allegory
“The Library of Babel”
“The Universe (which others call the
Library) …”
What does the Library contain?
Babel Books!
• A library of identical books organized into rooms
• 410 pages per book
• 40 lines per page
• 80 characters ...
Interestingly, the “IBM Card,” a general-purpose punch
card, introduced in 1928, had 80-columns.
If all possible combinations are
represented, how many books, then,
does the library contain?
Here is what Google’s calculator give us . . .
Number of
characters
Number of
positions
So, what kind of information is in
the library?
Are the books readable? What is in
them?
Everything that can be
represented by text
• All books ever written and to be written
• In every language (transliterated)
• Every possible variation
• Every YouTube...
How likely are you to find something
readable in this library?
Passages from Babel Books
What does the Library of Babel
remind you of?
Information Explosion
Liberation
What does hypertext liberate us
from? How?
Freedom to access more
information?
or
Freedom from the constraints of
hierarchy and linearity?
Liberation from …
• Hierarchy and linear thinking implied by how
books and libraries are organized
• Limits imposed by the...
Vannevar Bush
• American, 1899—1974
• Attended Harvard, MIT,
Tufts
• Engineer
• Director of the Office of
Scientific Resea...
What is the problem Bush
addresses in “As We May Think”?
A record if it is to be useful to science,
must be continuously extended, it must
be stored, and above all it must be
cons...
What makes it hard to find
things?
The problem of selection
When data are placed in storage, they are
filed alphabetically or numerically, and
information is found (when it is) by tr...
The Memex
How does the Memex
solve the problem of
selection?
It is exactly as though the physical
items had been gathered together
from widely separated sources and
bound together to ...
Key ideas
• Associative indexing
– “Any item may be caused at will to select
immediately and automatically another”
– “Thi...
Theodor Hom Nelson
• American, b. 1937
• Attended Swarthmore
College
• Studied sociology at
Harvard University
• Invented ...
“Hypertext is non-sequential
writing”
From Literary Machines
Key Ideas
• Computer “files” simply reproduce the metaphor
of documents and catalogs (hierarchy)
• Computers should be “li...
Some definitions
• Hypertext: Non-sequential writing
• Lexia: a unit of text
• Link: a segment of text that interrupts the...
Axial Hypertext
Types of Hypertext
AXIAL hypertext
RHIZOMIC hypertext
Sir Tim Berners-Lee
• English, b. 1955
• Attended Oxford 1976
• Physicist
• A fellow at CERN
• Inventor of the World
Wide ...
Dan Brown, Angels & Demons, p. 19
[Angels and Demons]
“In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal for an information
management system to his boss, Mike Sendall. ‘Vagu...
[BL quote are social org]
“CERN is a wonderful organisation. It involves
several thousand people …. Although they are
nomi...
[Berners-Lee’s diagram]
Berners-Lee’s was the first system to
link lexia across the network
Hypertext not only linked lexia, but
people – across t...
<a href=“http://www.virginia.edu”>UVA</a>
The link in HTML connects more than
lexia
Nelson never liked the Web
• The web remains bound to the metaphor of
the file
• Links point to files (for the most part),...
Observations
• Borges, Bush, Nelson, and Berners-Lee each
break the model of the self-contained,
hierarchically ordered te...
More Observations
• Bush and Berners-Lee, both of whom tried to
solve real-world problems, grasped the social
nature of th...
Is hypertext new?
The Talmud
1 = Mishna, the first major
transcription of the oral law
2 = Gemara, analytical
discussions
3 = Rashi, glossar...
[Study Bible]
[OED]
[Guernica]
Picasso’s Guernica, 1937
Where does hierarchy come in?
Where do you find it?
Hierarchy
Organization of the library Organization of the book
Goes back to Aristotle …
So, what’s wrong with hierarchy?
Hierarchies fail because things
belong in more than one place
[Tomato]
How does digital text overcome
these problems?
Let’s look at the history …
Mdst3703 2013-09-24-hypertext
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Mdst3703 2013-09-24-hypertext

  1. 1. Babel to Xanadu: Hypertext Prof. Alvarado MDST 3703 24 September 2013
  2. 2. Business • Quiz 1 to be posted Thursday • Take home, delivered through Collab • 10 IDs, 5 short answers, 1 essay • Covers seminar, readings, and studio • Open book – free to consult course blog and other internet sources referenced in class • Googling for answers not allowed
  3. 3. Review: Studio Concepts Covered in Tutorial • Documents are made of elements—abstract units of structure • Elements are represented in XML by means of tags and attributes • HTML is written in XML • DIV and SPAN elements, along with the CLASS and ID attributes, allow HTML to be more semantic • CSS is a language use to add style to XML
  4. 4. Review: Seminar • Text as self-contained entity • In terms of form, texts are internally ordered as a hierarchy (OHCO), representable by XML • In terms of content, Aristotle, Levi- Strauss, Colby, and Ramsey each take the story, written as text, as a unit of analysis
  5. 5. But are texts really like this? What is a text?
  6. 6. Jorge Luis Borges gives us a thought experiment
  7. 7. Borges provides us with an allegory “The Library of Babel” “The Universe (which others call the Library) …”
  8. 8. What does the Library contain?
  9. 9. Babel Books! • A library of identical books organized into rooms • 410 pages per book • 40 lines per page • 80 characters per line • 25 characters (incl. space, period, and comma) • So, each book is a very long string: 80 * 40 * 410 = 1,312,000 chars • No two books are identical
  10. 10. Interestingly, the “IBM Card,” a general-purpose punch card, introduced in 1928, had 80-columns.
  11. 11. If all possible combinations are represented, how many books, then, does the library contain?
  12. 12. Here is what Google’s calculator give us . . .
  13. 13. Number of characters Number of positions
  14. 14. So, what kind of information is in the library? Are the books readable? What is in them?
  15. 15. Everything that can be represented by text
  16. 16. • All books ever written and to be written • In every language (transliterated) • Every possible variation • Every YouTube video, image, etc. • EVERYTHING THAT CAN BE WRITTEN DOWN
  17. 17. How likely are you to find something readable in this library?
  18. 18. Passages from Babel Books
  19. 19. What does the Library of Babel remind you of?
  20. 20. Information Explosion
  21. 21. Liberation What does hypertext liberate us from? How?
  22. 22. Freedom to access more information? or Freedom from the constraints of hierarchy and linearity?
  23. 23. Liberation from … • Hierarchy and linear thinking implied by how books and libraries are organized • Limits imposed by the material form of texts that prevent minds from making natural connections
  24. 24. Vannevar Bush • American, 1899—1974 • Attended Harvard, MIT, Tufts • Engineer • Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development in WWII • Inventor of memex concept, precursor to hypertext
  25. 25. What is the problem Bush addresses in “As We May Think”?
  26. 26. A record if it is to be useful to science, must be continuously extended, it must be stored, and above all it must be consulted. There is a growing mountain of research. Publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record. AND BUT
  27. 27. What makes it hard to find things? The problem of selection
  28. 28. When data are placed in storage, they are filed alphabetically or numerically, and information is found (when it is) by tracing it down from subclass to subclass. It can be in only one place, unless duplicates are used; one has to have rules as to which path will locate it, and the rules are cumbersome. Having found one item, moreover, one has to emerge from the system and re-enter on a new path. . . . The hman mind does not work that way. It operates by association.
  29. 29. The Memex
  30. 30. How does the Memex solve the problem of selection?
  31. 31. It is exactly as though the physical items had been gathered together from widely separated sources and bound together to form a new book. It is more than this, for any item can be joined into numerous trails. READING AS WRITING
  32. 32. Key ideas • Associative indexing – “Any item may be caused at will to select immediately and automatically another” – “This is the essential feature of the memex” • Trails and Codes • The idea is to have media model how the mind (supposedly) works • Any analogs in contemporary technology?
  33. 33. Theodor Hom Nelson • American, b. 1937 • Attended Swarthmore College • Studied sociology at Harvard University • Invented term “hypertext” in 1965 • Conceived of Xanadu
  34. 34. “Hypertext is non-sequential writing” From Literary Machines
  35. 35. Key Ideas • Computer “files” simply reproduce the metaphor of documents and catalogs (hierarchy) • Computers should be “literary machines” – From the beginning they have been used and imaging as machines for representing and manipulating text • Again, the dream is to have them model the way the mind works – Interactive and associative, not static and linear • Nothing is forgotten, nothing is lost (because linked)
  36. 36. Some definitions • Hypertext: Non-sequential writing • Lexia: a unit of text • Link: a segment of text that interrupts the reading of one lexia and moves you to another • Text: a collection of linked lexia • Hypermedia: A hypertext system involving other media, such as sounds, images, and videos. • Latent Hypertext: Hypertext implied in analog media
  37. 37. Axial Hypertext Types of Hypertext AXIAL hypertext RHIZOMIC hypertext
  38. 38. Sir Tim Berners-Lee • English, b. 1955 • Attended Oxford 1976 • Physicist • A fellow at CERN • Inventor of the World Wide Web per se • Unitarian • Made a Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth
  39. 39. Dan Brown, Angels & Demons, p. 19 [Angels and Demons]
  40. 40. “In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal for an information management system to his boss, Mike Sendall. ‘Vague, but exciting’, were the words that Sendall wrote on the proposal, allowing Berners-Lee to continue.” (http://info.cern.ch/Proposal.html) [CERN doc]
  41. 41. [BL quote are social org] “CERN is a wonderful organisation. It involves several thousand people …. Although they are nominally organised into a hierarchical management structure, this does not constrain the way people will communicate, and share information, equipment and software across groups. … The actual observed working structure of the organisation is a multiply connected "web" whose interconnections evolve with time.”
  42. 42. [Berners-Lee’s diagram]
  43. 43. Berners-Lee’s was the first system to link lexia across the network Hypertext not only linked lexia, but people – across the planet
  44. 44. <a href=“http://www.virginia.edu”>UVA</a> The link in HTML connects more than lexia
  45. 45. Nelson never liked the Web • The web remains bound to the metaphor of the file • Links point to files (for the most part), not to true lexia • Links are also “dumb” – they don’t go in both directions, and they are not named (as Bush would have wanted) • Google has changed this some …
  46. 46. Observations • Borges, Bush, Nelson, and Berners-Lee each break the model of the self-contained, hierarchically ordered text • A text emerges as a node in a network of lexia • The distinction between the library and the book breaks down • Instead, we have the “docuverse”
  47. 47. More Observations • Bush and Berners-Lee, both of whom tried to solve real-world problems, grasped the social nature of the problem • The social nature of networked digital media would end up dominating information technology in the decades following the invention of the WWW
  48. 48. Is hypertext new?
  49. 49. The Talmud 1 = Mishna, the first major transcription of the oral law 2 = Gemara, analytical discussions 3 = Rashi, glossary 4 = Tosefos, additions 5 = Hananel, comments 6 = Eye of Justice, legal decisions 8 = Light of the Bible, references to Biblical quotations. 9 = Bach's Annotations 10 = Gra's Annotations
  50. 50. [Study Bible]
  51. 51. [OED]
  52. 52. [Guernica] Picasso’s Guernica, 1937
  53. 53. Where does hierarchy come in? Where do you find it?
  54. 54. Hierarchy Organization of the library Organization of the book
  55. 55. Goes back to Aristotle …
  56. 56. So, what’s wrong with hierarchy?
  57. 57. Hierarchies fail because things belong in more than one place
  58. 58. [Tomato]
  59. 59. How does digital text overcome these problems? Let’s look at the history …

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