[-empyre-] Books And pixels

John Haltiwanger john.haltiwanger at gmail.com
Wed Jun 9 22:41:10 EST 2010

On Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 5:14 PM, Joost Kircz <j.g.kircz at hva.nl> wrote:
> Dear Colleagues,

> In fact the old discussion on hypertext is back on the agenda. Now the
> technology is creeping into the right direction (though we still don’t have
> bidirectional links in XML), see my (and my co-author Anita de Waard) at:
> http://elpub.scix.net/cgi-bin/works/Show?234_elpub2008

>From the paper:

"Our work rests on two main theoretical principles: the concept of
modular documents, consisting of content elements that can exist and
be published independently and  are  linked by  meaningful  relations,
 and  the  use  of  semantic  data  standards  allowing  access  to
heterogeneous data."

This sounds like research that would benefit the humanities
significantly. Has there been much cross-pollination with your
research into fields outside of the physics/computer science/cell
biology that you mention in the end of the abstract?

> In that sense, my interest is the question”What communication demands what
> technology”and explicitly not gee look Msword 2020 will be able to show the
> coding just as Wordperfect does.

I was wondering if you could follow this line of thought a bit,
perhaps with more details of what fits where, and how to decide?

Have we already developed the ideal grammars of typography for dealing
with long-form prose (essays, books) through our experience with
printing ink on paper? Or does the screen offer space for new grammars
that we are still to encounter?

> 3)- A nagging question “What is a book”
> Because we call everything between two covers a book and the whole trade
> organised along those lines, this doesn’t mean that it is a book in an
> electronic environment. A telephone directory is not any more a book, an
> encyclopaedia is not any more a book. But a novel or a text book is. I’m
> working on a discussion paper on this subject. I tend to define books as
> that creative product that, in principle, has a story line that must be
> followed from a starting point to a conclusion (though as in hypertext and
> games, we might have more outcomes).

Is there a time/space component to this? For example, serialization:
Is it a book if it hasn't finished yet? What about a (hypothetical,
afaik) collaborative text in which the story is intentionally
changing, piece by piece? In other words, does book imply a certain
stasis, perhaps a physical embodiment? The "two covers" could be the
top and bottom plastic of a game DVD, a first and last blog post, or
the beginning and end of a PDF file's structure. Both these imply
finished products, or at least a static existence. Could "unchanging"
be a formal attribute of what we expect in a book? (This is with the
understanding that books change, but with the attitude that a new
edition is a new incarnation--the elements of the old edition do not
change automatically to match the new one (yet, at least; I would
argue that this feature is not necessarily a good thing)).

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