Diamond theoretical reflections on hypertextualityFULL TEXT
Xanadu is still not yet realized. Nevertheless, it is appropriate, not only to understand its principles and its radical difference to established Web hypertext and multimedia, but to try to think and design even more advanced concepts of non-traditional interactions. One interesting extension of identity-oriented thematizations is opened up by polycontextural, kenogrammatic and diamond approaches to text theory; proposed recently as textems or textemes. Textemes are based on the interplay of anchored semiotic diamonds and are delivering necessary environments for transclusions. Transclusions and transjunctions are modeled additionally in a polycontextural setting. The characteristics of ‘electronic’ text in contrast to ‘physical’ paper texts are emphasized.
1.1. Hyper-textualitySince some decades, everybody knows Xanadu and nearly nobody ever has seen it working.
Most people think of it as a special kind of a hypertext project with two-way links and connected with projects like Hypercard. Hence, the focus is on the machinery of links.
Personally I had a similar perception and therefore wasn’t specially interested in it.
But there is a very crucial distinction at place which makes a profound difference to all kind of linking systems. It is Nelson’s insistence on the difference of ‘physical’ and ‘electronic’ documents. At the first glance this seems to be obvious and trivial too, but it isn’t at all.
There is a lot of postmodern writing about the virtuality and simulacrum of electronic media. Nevertheless I couldn’t find any conceptually and technically useful elaborations.
With such a change, from the ‘physical to the ‘electronic’ , in the ontological and epistemological status of documents and texts, the whole topic of links (transclusions, deep links, content links, etc.) appears as a ‘natural’ consequence of the new understanding of text ('electronic’., digital’, ‘virtual').
1.1.1 Ted Nelson’s Xanadu
"To Project Xanadu, that means enacting two types of connection: profuse and unbreakable *deep links* to embody the arbitrary connections that may be made by many authors throughout the world (content links); and *a system of visible, principled re-use*, showing the origins and context of quotations, excerpts and anthologized materials, and content transiting between versions (transclusions).
This may be simplified to: connections between things which are *different*, and connections between things which are *the same*. They must be implemented differently and orthogonally, in order that linked materials may be transcluded and vice versa. This double structure of abstracted literary connection -- *content links* and *transclusion* -- constitute xanalogical structure."
"Transclusion is what quotation, copying and cross-referencing merely attempt: they are ways that people have had to *imitate* transclusion, which is the true abstract relationship that paper cannot show. Transclusions are not copies and they are not instances, but *the same thing knowably and visibly in more than once place*. This is a simple point which is remarkably difficult to get across. While copies and cross-reference are workarounds in place of transclusion, aliases and caches are *forms* of transclusion."
Text is not simply text
"Nelson always meant hypermedia when he said hypertext, it's one of the things that people get wrong about Nelson. They think that they've invented hypermedia and he only invented hypertext. He meant 'text' in the sense of corpus, not text in the sense of characters. I know this for a fact because we've talked about it many times (van Dam 1999, interview)."
Hypertextuality in the sense of the Web and its WEB-0.X-mythology, is restricted to a unidirectional exchange of signs as data without environments. Web links are not only uni-directional by definition but they have only two logical states: broken/unbroken.
It would by great to enjoy a more dynamic bi-directional Web connectivity in the sense of transclusions (Ted Nelson). But Xanadu links are postulated as UNBREAKABLE. Does it matter if they are one- or two-way links if they are not qualified to perish? http://www.xanadu.com/xuTheModel/
What’s an ‘electronic’ text?
It isn’t easy to characterize properly ‘electronic’ or ‘digital’ texts and documents in the sense of Nelson’s intentions.
One hint is given by the distinction of “same” and “different” instead of ‘equal’ and ‘unequal’.
” ... connections between things which are *different*, and connections between things which are *the same*."
A further hint to the different epistemological character of ‘electronic’ texts is given by the necessity of ‘orthogonal’ structures.
"They must be implemented differently and orthogonally, in order that linked materials may be transcluded and vice versa.”
Furthermore, ‘electronic’ texts are charactericed by a complementarity of polar distinctions, i.e. by a double structure of ‘content links’ and ‘transclusions’.
"This double structure of abstracted literary connection -- *content links* and *transclusion* -- constitute xanalogical structure."
Some more distinctions might help to grasp the specific character of ‘electronic’ texts.
1. The mainstream understanding of text is still dominated by the sentence-model. A text is a composition of sentences (phrases, statements, etc.). A sentence is ideally a well-formed statement with a clear meaning.
2. Hypertext in the mainstream understanding is a text of a text. As a meta-level, a markup language is constructed to link textual elements of the primary text.
"In a classical node-link hypertext, a graph can be constructed on the set of nodes where each edge is identified with a link and structure discussions typically take place with respect to this graph.” (Neumuller, p.89)
”The Web link is in essence little more than a goto or a jump instruction to the Web browser to retrieve and display a new document.” (ibd., p. 149)
3. And to give the whole thing some meaning, a markup language of a markup language of the ordinary text is introduced. This is the concept of text in an ontology-based Semantic Web.
4. Nelson’s Docuverse, "deep electronic literature”, virtual documents
”...transclusions are hard to formalize in graph theory: are they nodes themselves? If they are, they would transform trees into directed graphs. I have included them in this section, as they seem to mark a breakpoint of graph theory.” (ibd., p.90)
The same at different places, without ‘physical’ representation by copy-and-paste.
"Transclusions are not copies and they are not instances, but ‘the same thing knowably and visibly in more than one place’.” (Nelson)
• Parallel Documents
• The Big three : Transpointing, Transclusion and Transcopyright.
Hence a further aspect of the epistemology of ‘electronic’ texts is the fact that they have to be placed, that they have to take place in a textual space. There is no such thing in classical text theory as a textual place or locus. This shouldn’t be confused with the triviality that in classical text theory all kinds of topologies, hodologies and super-graphs might be used to explain, model and formalize classical texts as complex objects.FULL TEXT