Saturday, October 22, 2011

Assignment 5: New Media Reader Ch. 48 + 49

You Say You Want a Revolution?

-Stuart Moulthrop

-"all distributed computing systems are hypertextual, since they deliver information dynamically in response to a user's demands"

-Moulthrop seems to get at the question of why hypertext hasn't really taken off as a big thing, despite how great it is. He points out that while there is in fact a general consensus of "we need a revolution" relating to the current (written in 1991) system of information, the problem may very well lie within the fact that people don't seem to understand what it is that they're asking for exactly, through the scope of a misunderstanding of technological history.

-Relates back to Nelson's Xanadu, proposing that it would in fact (after being actually realized), help the desired paradigm shift of the information infrastructure: how it is accessed, changed, etc.

-Nelson's hope lies mostly in returning to literacy, as a "cure for the television stupor".

-Populitism: combines "populism" with "elite". Points to the idea of equal access of information to all.

-Looking at Hypertext through the scope of the four basic questions:

"What does Hypertext enhance of intensify?"
Being what it is, Moulthrop argues that hypertext in fact naturally augments peoples' ability to make and recognize patterns. Moulthrop also likens this awareness of a bigger picture to Pynchon's take on "paranoia", which stems from the realization of everything being connected.

"what does Hypertext displace or make obsolete?"
It is stated that the book might seem like the obvious answer. This is somewhat true, insofar that it seems that an ideal hypertext might in fact need to be digitized as opposed to printed, simply for ease of navigation. Thus, hypertext doesn't seek the obsolescence of literature or literacy, as much as what Moulthrop refers to as post-literacy, in other words, the television.

"What does Hypertext retrieve that was previously obsolete?"
As pointed out in the previous question, Moulthrop goes on to state that Hypertext is a very literacy-based system, wherein people will need to actively write and interact with one another as opposed to say, passively sitting and receiving everything that comes out of a TV.

"What does hypertext become when taken to its limit?"
"every form, pushed to the limit of its potential, reverses its characteristics". Thus, one possibility that is pointed out: "an empowering technology turned into a mechanism of cooptation and enslavement". Nelson's perspective combats this, with mention of a negotiated consensus, compared to the idea of a consensual illusion. -Nelson claims that people would in fact go out of their ways to make their voices heard and actively partake, discuss, and compromise as necessary, as opposed to there being those that would simply follow and join something that they think is already set in stone.

The End of Books

-Robert Coover

-Coover starts by pretty much saying that in this digital age, the printed book is slowly but surely nearing its last days.

-Believes the power of the line within conventionally written books to be oppressive. Hypertext of course, is the answer!

-Hypertext provides multiple paths between text segments, or "Lexias".

-It is pointed out that hypertext may be something a bit difficult to fully perceive, with its lack of starting points, boarders, boundaries, etc.

-Taught a Hypertextual writing course. Points out that naturally, some fear the erasure of their known structures, while others embrace venturing into the unknown.

- Coover believes that despite advances in technology, the basic framework of hypertext will stay the same. It will however be difficult to maintain/migrate some hypertexts because of the constant advancement, so there are are some issues with compatibility.

-Navigation also proves to be something of a problem. Coover asks: "how do you move around infinity without getting lost?".

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Assignment 4: Oulipo, Prose, and select demos

First things first: Nelson and Hypertext revisited (briefly):

"Hypertext is text which contains links to other texts. The term was coined by Ted Nelson around 1963 (but an article using the term was published term in 1965).

The prefix hyper- (comes from the Greek prefix "υπερ-" and means "over" or "beyond") signifies the overcoming of the old linear constraints of written text.

The term "hypertext" is often used where the term "hypermedia" might seem appropriate. In 1992, author Ted Nelson – who coined both terms in 1963 – wrote:

    “By now the word "hypertext" has become generally accepted for branching and responding text, but the corresponding word "hypermedia", meaning complexes of branching and responding graphics, movies and sound – as well as text – is much less used. Instead they use the strange term "interactive multimedia": this is four syllables longer, and does not express the idea of extending hypertext. — Nelson, Literary Machines, 1992”

The Oulipo:

- a group interested in examining and creating "potential literature".

-potential literature is something meant to analyze and synthesize the constraints put forth (according to Lionnais) by ordinary literature, including but not limited to vocabulary, syntax, dramatic convention, etc.

-techniques by which this would be achieved include the lipogram and the palindrome.

-"choose your own adventure" as a hypertext, comes up as an example of such boundary breaking as well.

-The main example here though is the featured A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems. It even comes with a very specific algorithm on how to go about rearranging the poem to make a new one, as many times as the reader would like, creating an interactive reading experience.

Brief History of the Oulipo

-founded by Francois Le Lionnais, first met on November 24, 1960.

-Met with the original intention of sitting around composing poems.

-Originally called themselves SLE -roughly translated/expanded to seminar for experimental literature.

-ou-li-po derived from ouvroir, literature, and potential.

-claim (and i guess demonstrate) that language, like a science, is an operable concept, which eventually relates back to the idea of experimenting with the already constructed conventions of literature.

-came to the conclusion of two lipos:
analytic - delves into the text for existing possibilities and meanings that may be unknown to the author himself.
synthetic - creates new possibilites.

Prose and Anticombinatorics

-by Italo Calvino

-discusses the use of computers as an a way to build on a limited number of structures initially put forth by the author, with exponential possibilities.

-Calvino himself discusses his idea of a story in the style of a murder mystery, where the reader is given set number of choices, each within certain categories, that will often lead to different experiences.

-Discusses the algorithms that would need to be in place in order for the story to be made feasible, and outlines a good number of potential outcomes.

-Makes me think of it as a much more intricate choose-your-adventure story.


1. Blockhead - The Music Scene

-I found this video to be particularly interesting mostly because it definitely left an impression on me the first time around, as it had this sort of overwhelming quality to it. Just trying to wrap my head around all that was going on, with all the color and the fluid transition from one scene to another was an experience in and of itself. On top of all of this, you realize that the intricate animation is in fact coordinated with the sound, which makes it all the more mind-blowing in my opinion. One all of that settled in, it hit me that someone sat their and actually drew all of this, in all of its intricacy. Thus, I guess what I have to say is that I appreciate both the sensory overload as well as the faint idea i have of how much work must have gone into it.

2. Reactable

- A demonstration of a new very hands-on electronic music-making interface.

-Basically, it seems to be a table-top computer with some sort of input capability in the screen, which allows it to interact with small blocks, each representing a different sound/loop/modifier.

-Its incredible to see how basic loops can be put together and manipulated to create something seemingly so much greater than the sum of its parts.

3. Music Maze

- A website that allows the user to search for an artist, after which it suggests other artists to listen to, based on the previous. It does this over and over.

-What I found most interesting about this was
a) being able to look up someone I liked, and subsequently end up following a trail of artists that I'd already known and liked. -It was fun to see how certain artists were related to one another
b) being able to branch off into something new that I might like as well.