October 29, 2005

Feral Hypertext

structuring meaning

In a way, academia has always been blog-like, only at a slower level. A scholar publishes an idea, then some one writes another and references the first scholar, and then more proliferate off of that material, and then some more people go to graduate school and dig up that stuff and write more stuff about all the stuff, agreeing, disagreeing, making FINITE differences, declarations, arguments, assertions etc. Some scholars, like Freud or Plato for instance, are likely to be academically and culturally rehashed forever. They represent some of the foundations of how we have structured western meaning.

When I mentioned Berners-Lee's discussion of STRUCTURING information and meaning, I was also thinking about how we, as scholars and thinkers, keep restructuring what we already know.

Take, for example, another of my favorite conundrums: the dual ideals of the purist starving artist, and the purist artist who is not starving. The hungry guy may well think that a commisioned piece to feed his family is a good thing, and the well-fed fella can afford to turn his nose up at less-than divinely inspired art.

In her paper on Feral Hypertext, Jill quotes Mez Breeze talking about the unmarketable aspect of her work: "It seems evident that various web/net/code artists are more likely to be accepted into an academic reification circuit/traditional market if they produce works that reflect a traditional craft-worker positioning. This "craft" orientation (producing skilled/practically inclined output, rather than placing adequate emphasis on the conceptual or ephemeral aspects of a networked, or code/software-based medium) is embraced and replicated by artists who create finished, marketable, tangible objects; read: work that slots nicely into a capitalistic framework where products/objects are commodified and hence equated with substantiated worth." (2)

This quote offers a not so subtle derision toward a capitalistic marketplace, and makes assumptions about why "conceptual" and emphemeral" aspects get neglected on the web, if they truly do get neglected. Again, it's presented as a dual concept, but nothing is so simple as this or that.

If an artist deliberately creates elusive or intangible work, how can she begrudge a lack of community surrounding it? The web itself began as a conceptual idea, and then had to evolve into tangible system.

But, really, if Mez's work is not intended for sale to begin with, what is, in fact, the issue? "Adequate emphasis" is an ambiguous assessment. Her work is creative, but also a call back to ancient languages, and, is also, overtly experimental. She wants to criticize a capitalistic framework that excludes the intangible, but it is this same framework that enables many artists to earn some income from their work. Breeze's work does not have a large appeal, nor is it really accessible to the mainstream audience. These factors are inherent to so-called "feral hypertext" that do not "follow the standards."

In the same vein, blogs are not really meant for commoditization, just as non-literary diaries are not generally written for commercial purposes.

more discipline.

Walker brings up discipline on page three of her paper and one of the essential issues of the web--regulation. Beyond the text, the web is another marketplace. People publish their ideas, trying to sell them. The web is convenient, but also formed into a replica of the rest of contemporary western life. Even as an information source, the web can connect an idea for you, but you have to be willing to follow. The user still steers the course ultimately.

On page seven Walker discusses Justin Hall's past personal/public blog and suggests that the reader herself can define the extent of his narrative; where did it end being Hall's narrative. Here we are again with the broadly scoped word "narrative." It seems pretty basic to me. Hall wrote what Hall wrote. Anything else that others wrote about his blog, he did not write. Anything that is read by some one has an afterlife beyond the initial text, but that is not to say that the author can claim that "narrative."

Walker goes on to say that in a sense, she is "already trapped by an idea that boundaries are neccessary." Not really. Sure, an individual uses hypertext, and individuals collectively comprise the masses. An unplanned structure is not uncontrollable, neccessarily. And the very nature of the programs and tools we use to access the web ensure that we're not going to exceed the planned activities. The medium is the message? The message is the medium? It's all pretty well contained and overseen quite closely, relatively speaking.

I'm well aware that I might need to give Walker's paper a closer read. This is all pretty off the cuff. Perhaps, also, I'm not convinced that the word "feral" is appropriate for what she is describing. It doesn't resound with the topic in my mind. Posted by wood0072 at October 29, 2005 8:48 PM