Hypermedia Theory

Cinematic Paradigms for Hypertext

I’ve just migrated an essay of mine from 1999 onto vogmae. It’s the first paper where I started to try to put together cinema and hypertext, and came out of the paper I presented at DAC98. So, here it is, Cinematic Paradigms for Hypertext.

A Possible Anthology

Mark is considering an anthology on reading and writing hypertext. Something like this is sorely needed, as the literature has not been collected, and most outside of the very specific hypertext literary community seem to have very poor models for how to read hypertext. So, as Mark’s asking for proposals, if you have something, get in touch with him.

I think we need an anthology of articles about writing (and reading) hypertext. Have favorites? Email me, even if they’re obvious. Have something in your drawer? Email me, too
[From Greco on Hypertext]

An Archaeologist of the Book

What sort of thing is a book? Imagine if an archaeologist from another time (or planet) arrived and wanted to know what it was. What are the sorts of things that you could and would need to describe and explain? What are its qualities or properties? How would you describe its use: what would a manual for a book have to include?

Here’s a preliminary list:
Pages. Bound. Cover. Title page. ISBN number (they’re all registered). Serial. Page numbers. Index. Table of Contents. Has an author/s. Fixed. Margins. Sentences, paragraphs. Header, footers. Footnotes and references, which point to things that live outside of this book and you have to usually visit special buildings to find them. Can’t change its size. Can’t be edited. Can be marked. Gets worn, a patina. Can be found in a book store, a library (where special people classify, store, and retrieve them, a whole priesthood). If you borrow them there are various protocols you have to follow (return them, don’t mark them). Certain legal property rights are attached to them.

Then I suggested that many, if not most, of the same things apply to a record, a roll of film, a video tape. They’re linear, sequential, fixed, can’t be edited or added to, and so on.

Now, think about all the qualities of a blog. If you use the same list that we used for a book which are the same and which are different? (This gets very interesting because virtually everything is now changed). A simple example. We can use common sense to say that there is writing in a book. It is physically in the book. But writing in a blog. It is not physically on the screen, certainly not like a book, everything on the screen is transitory. Any post can be edited, at any time, even after publication. What appears on the ‘cover’ of the blog changes, a lot. Readers can leave notes that other readers (all other readers) can actually see. There is no ‘one copy’. It is stored in a database (in the case of wordpress) and so each page only ever exists if and when it is requested by a browser. The pages have variable dimensions (so they’re not really pages at all, not sure why we even call them pages…). And so on. Finally, they are made up of short bits (posts) so that each post pretty much makes sense by itself. While a book is made up of short bits (sentences) and each sentence makes sense by itself, there is a very strong sense that it gets most of its meaning from what came earlier, and even what comes later. Yet I can read a blog post without having to read the entire blog, which is why it is possible for me here to pull in posts from 70 other blogs and things still pretty much still make sense. Imagine grabbing paragraphs from 70 different books and then expecting the parts, and the whole, to still make sense?

Now, the problem for you all, and you should blog this, is what would have to happen to video and or audio to move from being more or less book like to being more or less blog like? In other words if we claimed that most of our video and audio online is, at the moment, closer to a book than a blog, what would have to be different for it to become more like a blog?

Small Pieces

This is self quotation or possibly self plagiarism. In drafting a post (not published yet) about the sort of media practice my

Storyspace for MacOS X

Mark Bernstein wonders out aloud in his blog about my earlier comments on Storyspace for OS X:

Tinderbox does give you more export options, though, and the presence of those export options might in fact be a hurdle. Knowing that you might be destined for HTML can lead to to start working on graphic design too early, before you really get down to writing, perhaps before you’re certain that there’s something to be written. More than once, I’ve been left with a nice design for a project that didn’t pan ou

I don’t actually have a real answer. I know perfectly well what Mark means, and that I could write an essay in Tinderbox just as easily as in Storyspace. I’m not sure if I prefer Storyspace because that is where I started, and familiarity breeds comfort (and ease), or if it is that very close to the surface in Tinderbox there are lots (and I mean lots) of things that you could do. Add user attributes, color the nodes, write an agent, decide you should add some attributes to help structure things. Before I know it I’m writing a Tinderbox document not an essay. In Storyspace I don’t have this problem. There are links, there are guard fields. If I’m using Storyspace to get to the web then the guard fields don’t even come into it. So it isn’t that I start designing in Tinderbox for HTML presentation but that I start fiddling inside Tinderbox itself. Why? Because it is so close to the surface, I know it is there, I now how to ‘turn them on’. I guess in my hypertext text tool box I have two key tools, Storyspace and Tinderbox, and I keep using them as two separate tools (as any good tradesperson ought).

Media Paucity

Once upon a time there was broadcast media. Broadcast media owned access to a very scarce resource called spectrum, or sometim

Storyspace For OS X.

Mark has announced the release of Storyspace 2.5 for OS X. This is very good news, this is the first real hypertext program I used, quite a few years ago now, and is what I used to teach hypertext theory with in my first full time years. It is software that I am very fond of. I find it very easy to write in, much easier than Tinderbox (which I tend to use to collect information in, but not for writing longer pieces). I’m looking forward to getting this, and once again writing hypertext, hypertextually. (That is, writing in a purely hypertext environment where my practice is concerned with writing, and writing as hypertext. Design, which is what happens when I write in html, can come later. In Storyspace things get pared down, words, links, nodes, link structures, maps.) A return to basics for me, but also to get back into a writing that embraces the nitty gritty materiality of thought and an embedded or embodied hypertextual practice. Where structure emerges through writing, and where the rowdy complexity jostling of my thought is given permission to be rowdily jostled.)

infLect 3

infLect 3 has been published. Work by Lewis LaCook, Sandy Baldwin, John Sparrow, David Clark and Mary Flanagan.

That Moment Might Do

This long post refers to a draft experimental interactive text movie, 40MB at moment to download and play locally (url will be

Near-At-Hand

I’m burning up too many neurones on what is supposed to be a holiday trying to write a book chapter. The book is about time and the internet, or things thereabouts, and I am not sure what I said I’d exactly write, but am currently writing about the temporality of hypertext. It is Deleuze and Bergson inserted in the link, via the sensory motor schema and the link as a Bergsonian interval. It is hard work. Rich with possibilities which will only get sketched since each does appear to be quite dense with possibilities, and my writing style really does suffer from me thinking that showing the connection is enough.

But that’s not the point of this post. In Deleuze there is an idea of the ‘any instant whatever’, from Cinema One. I think I might appropriate this into the near-at-hand which is in some way equivalent to any instant whatever. Any destination, any possible destination (real or imagined, now or in the future) of a link (real or imagined, now or in the future) is, like the any instant whatever, always near-at-hand.

Because: the mouse (insertion literally into the sensory motor schema), because the only distance that matters is temporal (“how long will it take?” not “how far away is it?”), size which might be in bytes is actually translated into bandwidth where again I suspect time is key, so all points are equidistant.

Ok, that’s enough brain splurt for today. Off to the British Art and the 60s show at the NGV.

~hyper~text~log~

~hyper~text~log~ appears to be a new blog that concentrates on hypertext theory. There hasn’t been an entry for a while, so I hope it hasn’t died a premature death. Terra Rose Sullivan appears to be the author, and she is studying Library and Information Science at the University of Washington (hence the goretex clad in the wilderness photo?), there’s a flickr account too.

Morrowind Blog

Peter Bayliss is a student here in Applied Communication who is doing an honours year. I’m his honours supervisor and he’s using Espen’s proposal for an empirical methodology to do what is, basically, a close reading of the latest Morrowind. He’s just beginning to get into the writing and is maintaining a blog.