Philobiblon: Really modern texts

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Really modern texts

I was about to start by saying that in spite of new technology, print materials in their content and layout have changed astonishingly little in the past 20 years, when this news arrived in my inbox:

The current issue of _National Geographic Traveler_ presents a novel fashion in captioning. The rather long captions of a photographic feature are broken into "paragraphs" indicated, not by indentation or by a line of white space, but by a red paragraph symbol."

OK, not earthshattering, but interesting nonetheless. (From the wonderful CEL-ery.)

But, such rare and minor exceptions apart, "literature" or "art" harnessing the power of the web and its technologies has not even reached the avant-garde stage, let along the Amazon best-seller lists. Yet Hayle, in the book on which I posted yesterday pointed me to an interesting example, Lexia to Perplexia, by Talan Memmott.

It is written in a creole combination of English and computer code, and explores these from the stories of Narcissus, Echo and Minoan funerary myths. But it really is rather fun, I promise. (Although you probably need broadband.)

No, it is really not so "difficult" as it sounds. e.g.
"From out of NO.where, Echo appears in the private space of Narcissus.tmp to form a solipstatic community (of 1, ON) with N.tmp, at the surface. The two machines -- the originating and the simulative -- collapse and collate to form the terminal-I, a Cell.f, or, cell...(f) that processes the self as outside of itself -- in realtime."

(Hayle helpfull explains that n.tmp is the name usually given to a function that will be replaced by another, "solipstatic" - the state of mental isolation denoted by solipsism is conflated with static; I-Terminal is "I". "Realtime is a phrase programmers use to indicate that the simulated time of computer processes is running, at least temporarily, along the time experienced by humans.")

A lot of it is more graphic, e.g.

face >> to << face

... which then swaps to ...

other << to >> other.

And to prove there can be many different forms of texts, check out the fun Geek-T, "Geek History Through T-shirts". (There must be a paper in that for any historian of the 20th century out there.) Hat-tip to Memepool.


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