hypertext city

Hypertext and the City

As a conceptual framework, Hypertext provides a specific means of configuring issues sourrounding the confrontation of cyberspace and the city. It does so by embracing the advent of the electronic realm and the proliferation of networked links while at the same time interpreting these technological transformations as part of the project of writing. More specifically, studies of hypertext have focussed on the history of writing as technology, on the potential for hypertext to change the relationships between reading and writing, to alter the demarcations between the inside and outside of the text, and to change the nature and role of narrative. For its proponents, hypertext is the mode of writing that articulates the sociality of the network, that promises democratization and the empowerment of the individual, and that rearticulates themes that writing and the city have been seen to share: in the construction of memory, in the relation between movement and the subject, and in the production of space through abstraction and narrative. 

Historians of technology have often noted the complexities of persistence and change that occur at the transitions between one form of technology and another. In these progressive histories, the forms of an older technology are often taken up by the new one, even when the "logic" of the newer technology may not be well served. Or an older technology adopts some of the features of the newer one has a brief final moment of brilliance. (Examples of these in Schivelbush, Disenchanted Night, for example) Furthermore, cultural forms and typologies persist and structure the directions of technological development. (Ref Colquhoun typology and design method) Is hypertext a merely a transitory moment between printed text and post-print electronic multi-media?

There is a general sense that the era of print technology is coming to an end. What will happen next? A return to more oral kind of culture, the "global village" predicted by McLuhan? An end of literacy? Loss of high culture? 

There is a parallel question in architecture, which faces an apparently inexorable drive towards dematerialized information technologies, resulting in either the thematicization of architecture or its elimination in favor of neutral containers for electronic devices. . 

Increasing understanding of the complexities of technologies: more refined understanding of impact of physical techniques of writing / printing / dissemination and culture in which they occur. Broader understanding (esp. from Foucault) of technologies as social techniques. 

Brief history of hypertext:

see hypertext Vannevar Bush: "As we may think"
Ted Nelson Literary Machines
(Eastgate School of literature--interesting conjunction of software design, 
manufacture, genre, and literary group ) 

how is hypertext spatial?

In a a certain sense, hypertext does not seem spatial at all, at least not in three dimensions. It is not meant to be anything other than text on the screen, and it shares two-dimensional design issues (eg: typography) with word-processing programs, the history of which can be traced from manuscript production to the printed book. Unlike word-processing, however, where the computer is fundamentally being used as typewriter, and where the ultimate product is meant to be a printed document, hypertext applications are meant for computer display only. The monitor display often appears as a number of overlapping boxes, similar to any display of more than one open document. The fundamental unit of text in hypertext has been called a writing space (by Bolter), but other theorists of the medium call it a lexia, borrowing the term from Roland Barthes. The writing space itself appears as a "box" both literally and metaphorically. It is a variable sized rectangle, which generally resizes text to fit its proportions, and serves the function of boxes: to store and make retreivable its contents within a generic and neutral container. The writing space can also be thought of as a "room" 

christian hubert: design of the "American Century" Exhibition. Whitney Museum of American Art, 1999-2000.

The way in which hypertext differs more radically from printed text is through "links". The spaces, or fragments of text within them, can be linked to other bits of text, and these links can be followed through some simple means such as double-clicking on the mouse.The links are established by the author / reader, and remain attached to the text, even when it is moved around. The experience of this instanteous movement is what makes hypertext more convincingly spatial and provides the basis for the metaphor of navigation within the space of the whole document. The most common textual basis for such links is as cross-reference in non-fictional documents and as part of the narrative in literary ones. (relate to film examples of narrating a journey by movement on the map, except here the map and the territory are one.) Thus reading is transformed into itinerary, with landmarks, and intersecting paths. 

Hypertext as the world of the net. Each hypertext, with its nodes and links, has the same structure as the Internet, and is, according to its proponents from Nelson to Landau, the logical form of writing in the networked world. 

what difference is being suggested between text and hypertext? A kind of souped-up powertool: Landau: technology of hypertext enables reading / writing practices that deconstructive criticism calls for but cannot enact. According to Landau, "hypertext creates an almost embarrassingly literal embodiment" of the concepts, of de-centering as expounded by Derrida and of Barthes's conception of the readerly versus the writerly text.For Landau that raises questions about them and their interesting combination of prescience and historical relations (or embeddedness).Not quite techno-prophecy of dream coming true, but suggestion that these concepts can be tested, become practices of a community (stress on multi-authored documents--make cultural practice more like scientific practice?) 

Could philosophy exist in hypertextual environment? Eg. Foucault, Kant..
Would you ever know if you had read the book? Hypertext as a kind of MTV of the attention span? like sound bytes

reading / writing:

priveledging of non-linearity. What about rhetoric of sustained argument? is this simply repressive? 

relation between hypertext and other hyper-or multimedia:

The proponents of hypertext subsume other hypermedia into hypertext. They consider the inclusion of images, of video segments such as quicktime movies, as part of the writing project. As theorists whose allegiance is to Barthes, and Derrida, they believe in a literary culture and the continuity of its project. 

why would architects be interested in hypertext?

Parallel to sense of change in text culture. Discipline of architecture haunted by threat of competition /demise by cyberspaceIdeological reason for architectural theory. Has become so text oriented. Hypertext preserves that literary/philosophical ambition, but translates it into a more contemporary technological dimension, perhaps even allowing it to become hypertextual, by further instrumentalizing textual qualities. 

practical applications?

My own experiences of reading / writing hypertext. First readings: sense of being lost, later overcome, interest in moving around, keeping track of my own path, some irritation at having to stay on paths made by others. Dumb computer problems: eye strain, use mouse to read? 

Writing: Weird Storyspace document: an extremely useful halfway step between reading and writing. My own use, in fact, closely parallels Vannevar Bush's description of the "memex". It is a kind of extended note taking stimulating associations, fragments of writing, and a prosthetic supplement to my own weak memory. A personal writing environment which grows in a kind of autopoetic way. 

what relation to the city?


Primarily analogical? 

History of mobile observors: Benjamin's account of the Flaneur, the detective and the film noir , the dérive. 

city as producer of text with no overview. Ruined Map of Kobo Abe. demise of aesthetics of the hero. City always engulfed, always more to understand. city represented by its derelict frings. Woman creates vertigo around her. Narrative unfolds too fast, 
Engel's promenade in Manchester 
Giordano Bruno walking in London, in Frances Yeats in Bruno and Memory Tradition. 
city as text? Zone 1-2 (Sanford's last words on Sant'Elia?) Jameson ? Pierre Bourdieu on Sentimental Education in sociological journal Miller in representations Dickens and Panopticism, Jonathan Arac Dickensian Foucault
Steven Marcus in Victorian City

Demise of the idea of the overall plan. If the hypertextual environment supports both hierarchical organization (?) and the proliferation of webs and links, it offers a model for the contemporary city, a city in which both physical and electronic place have been reconfigured.