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Re: <nettime> Hypertext pre.0.1
noah wardrip-fruin on Sun, 6 Oct 2002 15:34:06 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Hypertext pre.0.1


At 4:50 PM +0200 10/3/02, Adrian Miles wrote:
>this practice is extremely common amongst those who dismiss 
>hypertext, largely because they base their understanding of 
>hypertext on 2 books written before http existed, when there was 1 
>major extant hypertext system commonly available, and so remain 
>completely unfamiliar with the literature. it is like reading film 
>theory from 1920 and on that basis declaring that any medium that 
>lacked colour and sound just wasn't going to make it.

Another common practice - which unfortunately is far from limited to 
those who dismiss hypertext - is to *fail* to read the rough 
equivalent of "film theory from 1920." Hypertext isn't something that 
started in the 1990s (with Bolter or Berners-Lee) but something that 
started in the 1960s with Ted Nelson and Doug Engelbart. People who 
theorize hypertext now without grappling with Nelson and Engelbart's 
work strike me as similar to those in the 1950s who decided that 
Stalin's work constituted a definition of communism, leaving no need 
to grapple with Marx or Lenin. In Nelson's work, for example, 
node-and-link hypertext (what he named "chunk-style hypertext" in 
1970) is just one example of a more general category: hypertext. 
Adrian is right that the ACM Hypertext conference is the most common 
place to find presentations by those aware of both hypertext's past 
and present - its proceedings are a place students need to look 
early, rather than late, in their exploration of the literature - but 
even there a fallacious "node-and-linkness" can permeate.

Noah

PS - As a side note, I think HTTP predates the publication of both 
books (though given the speed of book production it may not predate 
their writing). http://www.w3.org/History.html

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