Blogs and hypermedia

I found the most recent readings for Networked Media quite tedious. They felt unnecessarily explanatory, providing me with information, rather than providing me with a springboard for further investigation. They seemed laborious and their ‘age’ was evident by way of the innovative technologies they were praising now themselves outdated or outdated. To me, the texts felt inferior to the much richer discussions we’ve been having in class.

But, I’ve realised our discussion is richer because we’ve each done the assigned readings, and have interpreted them in different ways. We are subsequently able to reflect upon them through our own personal lens, and develop individual perspectives, both of which are inherently linked to our own experiences, prior knowledge, and interests.

Despite having felt these recent readings to be mentally taxing, the notes I’ve taken from them are far from bland.

George Landow describes blogs as sets of networked documents, ‘created either to stand alone, as it largely is, or to take part in a larger web’. Furthermore, the networked nature of a blog enables an author ‘wanting to conceive of an argument in terms of networked documents can write a concise essay and link a wide range of supportive evidence’, from which readers can choose what to investigate further, with ‘auxiliary materials becom[ing] paratexts’.

I know this really just describes a blog’s foundational characteristics and its nature, but I found Landow’s concept about a blog being of equal value on its own, ‘as it largely is’, or as a ‘part in a larger web’ oddly reassuring.

He also refers to blogging as ‘the first widely available means on the Web of allowing the active reader-author envisaged by Nelson‘ and other ‘pioneers’. Landow suggests hypertexts encourage an active reader who has the opportunity to both consume and create text, ‘assum[ing] an authorial role and either attack links or add text to the text being read’. Because of this, ‘current terminology does not suffice – hypermedia technology requires more appropriate vocabulary, beyond reader and author’.

As consumers, creators of, and participants in hypermedia, ‘the object one reads [is an] entrance into the docuverse’ of hypermedia documents. With hypermedia we are able to make our mark, or ‘intrude’ on the text itself, rather than making a superficial annotation in say, pen or pencil, that we might to a page of a printed book. The boundaries of the text are wide open, and the (hyper)text is forced ‘to exist as part of a complex dialogue’. However, it is still up to the receiver of this text to engage with the other ‘speakers’ or participants in this conversation. The world wide web has ensured that no stone goes unturned, and that if you’re seeking more information, yearning for more knowledge, or another explanation, all you have to do is follow a link, or perhaps, go back a few steps and follow an alternate route, as Nelson explores.

Most importantly, Landow says that hypertexts emphasise that ‘the marginal ha[ve] as much to offer as the central, in part because it refuses to grant centrality to anything’. It is a ‘democratic’ text, alike a society that values all points of view, ideologies and conversations. Landow says hypertexts edify Richard Rorty’s philosophy of ‘keep[ing] the conversation going rather than [finding an] objective truth’, which I feel is a key component of this course.

Learning is about exploring, taking opportunities and creating possibilities. Education shouldn’t be about shutting down doors and slamming them in people’s faces when you don’t like their point of view. Yes, I like certainty and definitive resolutions, but I value deep discussion, reflection, and considering others’ perspectives just as much.

And, this is what is so great about the internet. As Paul Graham says, the beauty of the online community is that ‘Anyone can publish an essay on the Web, and it gets judged, as any writing should, by what it says, not who wrote it’.

I’d much rather you challenge me on my ideas than my appearance, but remember, everything is constantly evolving.

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