I'm near the end of Dr. Craig Baehr's 5365 course at Texas Tech, Studies in Composition: Internet Writing, and I want to note some of the many interesting topics raised in that class that deserve further review:
* Othermindedness, hypertext and networked writing forms, prompted by Michael Joyce. Joyce is a creative and provocative author (and, in essence, I think, a futurist) who can see the potential for new writing forms emerging in our networked technological environment. If, as I believe, the human experience is a narrative experience, Joyce pictures that sort of paradigm as a free-flowing and abstract series of connections that each of us uniquely can make, ever so easily, informed by a growing number of channels of increasingly interconnected media. Joyce's disorienting style, mirroring the twists and turns hypertext, could very well be the standard writing style of the future, but it certainly is difficult to go from where we are now, with traditional linear stories, to Joyce's visions, even with a high interest level in exploring that ground. My sense is that some parameters are healthy for a story. I would even argue those parameters are essential for sense-making. Maybe that is the author's role in the future, just to set up boundaries, and characters, and an environment within which to operate? But a completely open-ended story, like surfing the Internet feels, doesn't seem to me to make enough connections to the author, or authors, to qualify. I prefer stories less restricted than, say, Choose Your Own Adventure books, which typically offered just a couple of choices per juncture. But a juncture that offers unlimited choices also is problematic, I think, in terms of engaging with a story. How many choices should be available? What scope should a story have, can it have? It is impossible to generalize, but I think my readings in the future will be looking for more examinations into the story scope and open structure questions.
* New media theories. Dr. Baehr and Dr. Bob Schaller (of Stephen F. Austin State University) recently released a book called "Writing for the Internet," and the second chapter struck me as a provocative overview of the struggle academics are having with the idea of "new media." What is new media? I think I can identify media, as something mediated, but what is new? That seems to be a much trickier question. And what makes "new media" different than "old media"? There are all sorts of attractive entry points in this discussion, including critical theory (which "seeks change in the dominant social order," Littlejohn and Foss, 2008) and who the authors note are considered the "Mount Rushmore" of the field, at least from a mass communication viewpoint: Harold Innis, Walter Ong, Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan. I have read a lot of McLuhan and Postman but only a few articles or chapters by Ong and Innis. Ong, in particular, intrigues me with his concept of Second Orality, because I have been looking for a way to connect orality with mobile devices. If you have any other suggestions of places to look, please comment and let me know. Technological determinism, or the idea that technology inherently shapes our culture and society, also is a profound path to follow.
* The Sociosemantic Web by Peter Morville. While I have been aware of meta-tagging for a long time, I didn't think there was much importance to it, until I considered the ramifications outlined by Morville. The concept reminds me quite a bit of Clay Shirky's description of Wikipedia, and how the collective work of millions, mostly little by little, can create an invaluable resource for all of humankind. Tags, placed on data by anyone, can help us all tap into the collective wisdom of the world, and build toward the fabled semantic web. These self-regulated folksonomies do a job that no company could ever afford, to make sense of and give order to everything on the Internet. This is particularly helpful in the less capitalistic areas of information, places where people are enjoying knowledge just for the simple sake of knowing things about what they are interested in, or toppling the information monolith. More power to that!
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