14.0681 function follows form, or not

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Mon Feb 19 2001 - 02:53:58 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 681.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Adrian Miles <adrian.miles@bowerbird.rmit.edu.au> (146)
             Subject: Re: 14.0678 function follows form, or not

       [2] From: "Tarvers, Josephine K." (42)
             Subject: RE: 14.0678 function follows form, or not

       [3] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (56)
             Subject: hypertext and argument

             Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001 07:29:37 +0000
             From: Adrian Miles <adrian.miles@bowerbird.rmit.edu.au>
             Subject: Re: 14.0678 function follows form, or not

    At 8:02 AM +0000 18/2/2001, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
    >At this stage of hypertext development (which may change if XLinks are
    >widely implemented) the author of an essay determines whether hyperlinks
    >will appear and where they will appear in an essay. It is hardly the case
    >that readers can arbitrarily change the sequence of presentation anymore
    >than a reader who flips through the pages of an essay has altered the
    >order of presentation in a printed version. (The browsing reader has
    >changed the order of presentation in a sense but that simply illlustrates
    >that bad reading practices cut across various modes of delivery.)
    >I am concerned with your claim that the hypertext medium is qualitatively
    >different from traditional modes of presentation. Hypertext links are no
    >more than modern implementations of the references that the glossators
    >placed in margins of the Code of Justinian or the masora in the Hebrew
    >Bible. Rather than relying mastery of a large body of textual material,
    >the modern user can access the information pointed to by a hyperlink.

    I need to question this, on several fronts. (sorry for the brevity but i've
    got a lot of things that need doing.)

    1. the web is one particular hypertext system, but it is not hypertext in
    the manner of being all there is.

    2. many hypertext systems can hide or show links based on numerous
    conditions (hypercard, storyspace, the use of some additional systems on a
    http server). these conditions might be based on who you are, or your
    reading history, or a combination of both.

    3. many hypertext systems can generate random links, random content, or
    variable content and variable links.

    4. some hypertext systems allow a link to have multiple destinations
    (storyspace). this is different to traditional humanities writing: no
    longer single footnotes but one key term may in fact offer the reader the
    choice of 6 destinations.

    5. most hypertext systems outside of the web tend not to recognise
    'footnotes'. each node is more or less equivalent and it is common to link
    out of 'footnoted' text to other parts of other texts.

    6. readers regularly can and do change the sequence of presentation. for
    instance publish a journal, provide a search engine, let reader search for
    term "x", the hit list that is generated that they then read is the
    reader's production of sequence through a body of work that is quite
    independent of editorial or authorial intention. this is made much more
    evident if the web journal is written around a theme (so that searching on
    a key term will generate relevant material from different essays), and it
    is written as a hypertext (smaller nodes)

    7. this is not bad reading practices. it is only 'bad' if one assumes that
    a singular linearity remains the privileged term for argumentation.

    8. students who write in systems such as storyspace do start to produce
    different forms of argumentation and content in academic essays. a simple
    point of difference is that visual presentation of links and nodes within
    the program is nearly always used by students as a form of additional or
    meta-commentary on their content. Similarly they colour their nodes for
    similar reasons.

    9. hypertext theory wants to argue that repetition is important, this isn't
    just reiteration of a key point but returning through a previously visited
    node or sequence or nodes. the model is, if you like, musical. in addition
    hypertext is based on a model of redundancy where readers routinely return
    to known content. the next thing being considered in terms of academic
    writing practice (common in film and television as disursive systems) is
    how to write material that can then be used in multiple ways in a single
    essay. for instance you have a node that discusses idea x, and this idea
    and its analysis or description or may in fact occur on several different
    paths through the essay. the question/problem is how to write this node so
    that it is intelligible and relevant in terms of several different pathways
    through an essay.

    10. there is much work that is exploring the visualisation of semantic
    relations in hypertext systems. if a system produces a three dimensional
    visual representation of an argument (for instance this could be done using
    MAPA - see below) then linearity becomes moot.

    11. the point is not that its the same, or different, but that if we use
    hypertext to write the same and simply facilitate that, then that's fine,
    but it is an error to think that this then exhausts or has defined what
    academic hypertext is, might be, or will become. in relation to students, i
    teach hypertext theory and practice to undergraduates, using storyspace.
    students are required to write academic content that is multilinear. as an
    academic with some interest in online teachign and learning i have major
    problems with some pedagogy that wants to use the web but wishes to
    maintain the hegemony of the essay. (see my notes on this for a staff
    seminar at http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/essays/solstrand/, in particular
    http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/essays/solstrand/advantage.html and
    http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/solstrand/disadvantage.html). in the list
    below also note David Kolb's _Socrates in the Labyrinth_ a hypertext about
    philosophical argumentation in hypertext.

    see for instance:
    Bernstein, Mark. "Patterns of Hypertext." Proceedings of the Ninth ACM
    Hypertext Conference. Pittsburgh PA: ACM, 1998. 21-9.

    Burbules, Nicholas C. "Rhetorics of the Web: Hyperreading and Critical
    Literacy." Page to Screen: Taking Literacy into the Electronic Era. Ed.
    Ilana Snyder. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1997. 102-22.

    Calvi, Licia. ""Lector in Rebus": The Role of the Reader and the
    Characteristics of Hyperreading." Proceedings of the 10th Acm Conference on
    Hypertext and Hypermedia: Returning to Our Diverse Roots. Eds. Klaus
    Tochtermann, et al. Darmstadt: ACM, 1999. 101-9.

    Carter, Locke M. "Arguments in Hypertext: A Rhetorical Approach."
    Proceedings of the Eleventh ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia. San
    Antonio TX: ACM Press, 2000. 85-91.

    Durand, David, and Paul Kahn. "Mapa: A System for Inducing and Visualizing
    Hierarchy in Websites." HyperText 98. Pittsburgh: ACM, 1998. 66-76.

    Eklund, John. "Cognitive Models for Structuring Hypermedia and Implications
    for Learning from the World-Wide Web". AusWeb95.

    1996. Accessed: May 1, 1998.

    Harpold, Terence. "Threnody: Psychoanalytic Digressions on the Subject of
    Hypertexts." Hypermedia and Literary Studies. Eds. Paul Delany and George
    P. Landow. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1994. 171-81.

    Joyce, Michael. "Siren Shapes: Exploratory and Constructive Hypertexts." Of
    Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. Studies in Literature and
    Science. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1995. 38-59.

    Joyce, Michael. "New Teaching: Toward a Pedagogy for a New Cosmology." Of
    Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. Studies in Literature and
    Science. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1995. 117-26.

    Kolb, David. "Discourse across Links." Philosophical Perspectives in
    Computer-Mediated Communication. Ed. Charles Ess. New York: State
    University of New York Press, 1996. 15-26.
    ---. Socrates in the Labyrinth. Computer software. Eastgate Systems, 1994,
    Macintosh Software.

    Landow, George P. "Hypertext as Collage-Writing." The Digital Dialectic:
    New Essays on New Media. Ed. Peter Lunenfeld. Cambridge: The MIT Press,
    1999. 150-70.

    Miles, Adrian. "Hypertext Syntagmas: Cinematic Narration with Links".
    Journal of Digital Information.
    http://jodi.ecs.soton.ac.uk/Articles/v01/i07/Miles/ 2000. Accessed: January
    16, 2000.

    Morgan, Wendy. "Heterotopics: Towards a Grammar of Hyperlinks". Messenger
    Morphs the Media 99. http://www.wordcircuits.com/htww/morgan1.htm n.d.
    Accessed: September 15 2000.

    Moulthrop, Stuart. "Pushing Back: Living and Writing in Broken Space."
    Modern Fiction Studies 43.3 (1997): 651-74.
    ---. "Rhizome and Resistance: Hypertext and the Dreams of a New Culture."
    Hyper/Text/Theory. Ed. George P Landow. Baltimore: The John Hopkins
    University Press, 1994. 299-319.

    Ricardo, Francisco J. "Stalking the Paratext: Speculations on Hypertext
    Links as a Second Order Text." Proceedings of the Ninth Acm Conference on
    Hypertext and Hypermedia: Links, Objects Time and Space - Structure in
    Hypermedia Systems. Eds. Frank Shipman, Elli Mylonas and Kaj Groenback.
    Pittsburgh: ACM, 1998. 142-51.

    Taylor, Mark C., and Esa Saarinen. Imagologies: Media Philosophy. New York:
    Routledge, 1994.

    Tosca, Susana Pajares. "The Lyrical Quality of Links." Hypertext '99.
    Darmstadt: ACM, 1999. 217-8.
    ---. "A Pragmatics of Links." Proceedings of the Eleventh ACM on Hypertext
    and Hypermedia. San Antonio (TX): ACM, 2000. 77-84.

    Ulmer, Gregory. Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video. New York:
    Routledge, 1989.

    seeing for going on.

    adrian miles


    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: Mon, 19 Feb 2001 07:30:47 +0000 From: "Tarvers, Josephine K." <tarversj@exchange.winthrop.edu> Subject: RE: 14.0678 function follows form, or not

    Hello Willard,

    This last exchange reminds me of an old _New Yorker_ cartoon, where an inebriated man leans over an obviously-annoyed woman at a cocktail party and exclaims, "'Buzz off' in no way constitutes valid rebuttal." I would agree with the other respondents that it's not the medium of hypertext that is at fault; I _would_ contend that that it's not true that argument has always been taught (or more often learned). My own experience has been that the last several generation of American high school students have learned not that argument relies on valid propositions supported by defensible evidence but that argument is "your own opinion" and "everyone's opinion is supposed to be treated with respect, so that means you can't really argue with anybody"--both direct quotes from excellent students I have taught this year. In a culture awash in shouted opinions--where s/he who shouts loudest/longest is perceived to be right--it's not surprising that even the very brightest students have difficulty distinguishing between expository and persuasive genres. Perhaps your student hasn't made the connection that a lot of those pages out there on the web are trying to get her to do something (think, act, spend, dress, behave a particular way)--i.e., yes, they _are_ arguments. I have learned to spend a lot of time in class on this particular factor--that everything's an argument, even web pages. Since our first year students are required to complete a course in argumentation as well as one in expository writing, we do have some resources online for teaching it, which might be what 'erose' asked about; they're not aimed at literature classes but are certainly applicable. See http://www.winthrop.edu/wcenter/wcenter/argue.htm. The last link on this page goes to a course page I've put together, which does include some exercises in critically evaluating the persuasive qualities of web pages (some I've made, some I've put together). Any additions to this would certainly be welcome, though Francois, I'm not sure our freshmen are up to Heidegger....

    Hope this helps! Jo --*--*--*--*--*-- Jo Koster Tarvers, Ph.D. Department of English Winthrop University Rock Hill, SC 29733-0001 USA phone (803) 323-4557 fax (803) 323-4837 e-mail tarversj@winthrop.edu on the web http://faculty.winthrop.edu/tarversj "My view on current affairs? I'm too busy to have one."---Broom Hilda

    --[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001 07:48:53 +0000 From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> Subject: hypertext and argument

    Emily Rose, in Humanist 14.0678, asked about literature on argument per se. What I have to hand, from my bibliography on hypertext research, are citations to articles on argumentation and hypertext, <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/essays/achallc2000/hyperbib.html#Argument>.

    As the 3 respondents in that issue of Humanist remind us, picking apart the relationship between medium and message, tool and result, is very difficult. What are the characteristics of "the medium itself", how do we determine these? I think about the woodworking tools I have (and of others I would like to have) -- different sorts of chisels, saws, planes. I wonder how I would argue that any one of these is qualitatively different from the others of its kind, how I would demonstrate the difference. How does one get to the *tendencies* in a tool, even when (as, I would argue, with the Web), it's quite clear that with a particular tool certain results are much easier to achieve, others more difficult, so the tool-user *tends* to go one way rather than another, produces characteristic results? Where, exactly, do tendencies exist? It seems to me that the fact they can be ignored -- that the tool can be forced to imitate another by someone sufficiently determined -- is no argument that these tendencies do not exist.

    I find that when I argue for tendencies people often hear determinacies, necessities -- because, I'd suppose, the former are so difficult to locate, the latter so easy to conceptualise. 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?

    What happens in a hypertextual document when a reader clicks on a link to a site not under the original author's control? This is surely different from a citation in a footnote, which supplies coded instructions on how to find something; it does not propel the reader away into a new context.

    An intertextual allusion -- take, for example, "thirst in a dry land", to several unspecified places in the Bible simultaneously, among others -- is simply not the same thing as a hypertextual link to these places, however sophisticated the linking mechanism. The former does not actually "go there", the latter does. An author's purpose may be served only if the reader does not actually follow a reference but only realises it as a reference. What happens in a medium in which references must turn into links, or not, with nothing in between?

    I am centrally concerned with Patrick Durusau's statement that,

    >Hypertext links are no more than modern implementations of the >references that the glossators placed in margins of the Code of >Justinian or the masora in the Hebrew Bible.

    The continuity of practice is important to understand, but I would take issue with "no more than" if by "implementations" is meant unremarkable, seamless, inconsequential retooling. It seems to me that form and content are inseparable -- which is NOT to say that these words mean the same thing, just that we cannot pry them apart, ever. Is this not the old mind/body problem?

    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/

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