"Inventing the Medium" by Janet Murray sets up humanity at a loss for understanding:
"But as important as Tim Berners-Lee's technical work is his role as culture hero of the information age. Instead of commercializing his invention, Berners-Lee established an open Web standard, administered in the interest of uniting all the worlds' information sources into ever larger and more coherent units. Berners-Lee's grand gesture of renunciation (as it is often described) is a counter-fable to the one with which this anthology begins. The spy in the forking garden is a tool of the meaning machine, bound to transmit messages at any cost (messages that carry no meaning to him) in obedience to the prevailing social order, the order of competition to the death. The Berners-Lee fable, on the other hand, celebrates a refusal to commodify the message, an affirmation of meaning over money, of world cooperation over global competition. It offers a way out of the pullulating, paralyzed consciousness of meaningless. It offers a fulfillment in part of Bush's vision. In the world of structured Web pages, we agree on metadata that will link one bit of information with its counterpart across the globe, annotated by another hand. We make multiple patterns and change them kaleidoscopically to express many views of the same data, the same object, the same event. The promise of the Web, not as it is, but as it could be, is like that of the book before it: it will allow us to say more complicated things to more people with greater understanding. The promise is that we will not be crushed by our own knowledge, as the writers at the beginning of this period anticipated, because we will organize it together in a vast distributed and synchronized effort. We will not be mere prisoners of the labyrinth, nor even trail-blazers: we will be the makers of the labyrinth, the gods of our own machines."
Children rest in the graves of mechanized killing fields, theory ruthlessly exposes ideologies in seemingly benign facets of life, and the meaning of the signifier and signified "slips away." Life on the Post-WWII Earth enters the postmodern age; the time period when humans have outlived themselves. The search for truth doubts not if there is truth to be found, but if the search itself is warranted in the first place. The search for truth screams, "What is a search?"
We have two key players in this quest to save humanity in the digital age: Borges's humanist in the "Garden of Forking Paths" and Vannevar Bush's Memex scientist. One can see Borges's hero, the pessimistic thinker, hopelessly brooding over old metaphysics treaties outside a Parisian cafe. One could also imagine Bush's character, the naive do-it-yourselfer, attempting to assemble a cold fusion device with parts from Radioshack. The humanist reeks of apathy and relativity while the scientist inadvertently declares war after every new technological advancement. These potential savers of humanity could not be any more different; however, our only hope depends on their combined forces.
Janet Murray proposes her humanist/engineer as an end-game move for the postmodern conundrum: we will find meaning in Borges and Bush's fantasyland of new media. Combing automated computers and cultural analysis together can create networks of truth. With the concept of Deleuze's rhizome, we have a chance to make meaning in the postmodern world- the networks of reality are for us to explore. Humanist/engineers such as Tim-Berners-Lee, willing to face the establishment and deploy the rhizome vis-a-vis hyperlinks, create the foundations of new media as a technological cure for lack of meaning.
5 Questions for writing nonfiction in electronic space
How much technological knowledge does the new media artist need to write well in e-space?
Can we lose the meaning of words when using hyperlinks? Are we dependent on corporate technologies when writing for e-space?
If we preserve meaning with hyperlinks, what is the job of writer in e-space in relation to those links?
How can we map nonfiction to hyperlinks?
Last modified 1 February 2008