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New (Social) Structures for New (Networked) Texts

notes

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 [1] The commentable draft of this article remains available at http://new.plannedobsolescence.net. Thanks are due to Bob Stein, Ben Vershbow, Jesse Wilbur, and Eddie Tejeda, for making the technology available for this experiment, and to Bob, Ben, Dan Visel, K.G. Schneider, Mark Bernstein, Richard Pinneau, and Sebastian Mary for their helpful comments on the draft.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 [2] For more on the history of Voyager’s Expanded Books project, one might begin with the Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expanded_Books); on the dotReader platform, see http://www.dotreader.com.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 [3] Moreover, the attempt to imagine such alternatives often results in a profound anti-technological backlash; one might see, for instance, Alvin Kernan or Sven Birkerts, among any number of other such sources.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 [4] Thanks to Dan Visel for this insight; see “Horseless Carriages.”

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 [5] See as well George Landow’s argument that “hypertext promises to embody and test aspects of theory, particularly those concerning textuality, narrative, and the roles or functions of reader and writer” (2), suggesting hypertext’s more thorough fulfillment of earlier arguments about print-based texts.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 [6] Mark Bernstein of Eastgate left a comment on the draft of this paper noting that “[a]ll Storyspace hypertexts will soon be available today for MacOS X. And, of course, they run fine on Windows XP and Vista.” This is of course excellent news, though news that does raise an additional conundrum for electronic textuality more generally: it’s rare that one needs to pay for an upgrade, in the codex realm; a new edition might have corrections or features that a reader might prefer, but the old edition rarely stops working. Moreover, the codex is platform-independent; it’s all but impossible to imagine a circumstance in which readers of the hardcover are left behind while the paperback remains up-to-date.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 [7] There are two obvious points to make here, each of which significantly complicates the assertion above: first, the proprietary publisher, Eastgate, bears most of the responsibility for the stuckness of such early hypertexts, indicating that one of the dangers in translating traditional publishing industry models to the digital realm is precisely the problem of remaindered texts; while a book that has gone out of print, released by a publisher that has gone out of business, remains readable in such research libraries where it may be housed, a digital title that loses currency runs the risk of becoming technologically illegible. As Robert Coover pointed out in the early days of hypertext, “even though the basic technology of hypertext may be with us for centuries to come, perhaps even as long as the technology of the book, its hardware and software seem to be fragile and short-lived” (Coover). The second point arises in no small part in response to that first: the Electronic Literature Organization has of late put significant energy into the preservation and protection of texts such as these, through its committee for the Preservation, Archiving, and Dissemination of electronic literature. See Montfort and Wardrip-Fruin and Liu et al.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 [8] What follows is a series of wholly inadequate attempts to summarize a vast field of work, in the service of a particular point about the social networks involved in reading; please see some of the sources cited for more thorough, and no doubt more accurate, explorations of their arguments.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 [9] See Anderson and Habermas. There are certain obvious criticisms to be leveled at both theorists, most notably that the public sphere that they describe somewhat overstates its universality, given that only those admitted to the coffee houses — white men of a certain economic standing — were able to become part of that public. It is nonetheless key that the technologies of reading played a crucial role in developing that public’s sense, however faulty, of itself.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 [10] See, in addition to Price as cited earlier, Darnton: “Reading itself has changed over time. It was often done aloud and in groups, or in secret and with an intensity we may not be able to imagine today” (78).

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 [11] See Carla Hesse, who in “Books in Time” ties the individualism associated with the book and its author not to the technologies of print or the codex but rather to the philosophical and political debates of the Enlightenment, which were staked upon understanding the individual thinker as the origin of knowledge.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 1 [12] There of course remains a place for the individual author and the individual text, even within such a networked environment; as Sebastian Mary commented on the draft of this paper, “I’d argue that the net makes visible the activity that takes place prior to a text being enshrined in a form evoking the tradition of the book. Hence, dynamic community-based net activity doesn’t replace in-depth, fixed, authoritative scholarly work but rather facilitates those aspects of scholarship that are plainly more fluid and mutable, speeding up conversation and removing the shackles of Authority from kinds of print that chafe under its yoke. Or, to put it another way, I think there always comes a point where you want to write a book — but not everything works best when published that way.”

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 4 [13] So argued Howard Owens recently on his blog: “Blogs are arguably the first web-native publishing model, so it only makes sense that blogs would provide a template for how to publish online” (Owens), as did Michele Tepper well before that, in the September 2003 issue of netWorker, describing blogs as “perhaps the first native publishing format for the Web” (20). This point always seems to be made with “arguably” inserted, as I have done, which suggests that the idea has managed to enter the conventional wisdom without anyone ever having done an empirical study to back it up. Interestingly, I posed the question of support for such a statement on my own blog, and provoked in return a compelling discussion about what the true value of blogging’s “firstness” would be and about the erasure of Usenet from histories of the digital in the wake of the web. See Fitzpatrick, “Again with the Blegging” and Fitzpatrick, “Blogging.”

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 [14] See Fitzpatrick, “MediaCommons.”

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 [15] “Doing the comments this way (next to, not below, the parent posts) came out of a desire to break out of the usual top-down hierarchy of blog-based discussion” (Vershbow, “GAM3R 7H30RY”).

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 [16] Thanks to Ben Vershbow and Bob Stein for their additions to my thinking about the issues revolving around discussion of these two projects.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 [17] See “University Publishing.”

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 [18] Thanks to Shana Kimball for sharing this observation with me.

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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/cpfinal/notes/