An environment changes the presentation of a work (the algorithm), not the work's content (data). The medium is the message in this case; the message is DIGITAL. The writer writes content, the writer organizes algorithms for the display of that content.
Storyspace is not a typical writing environment — no spell check, an inability to quickly see all lexias, and a cumbersome, older UI. On a second look, what separates this from any other writing program? What is the difference between writing in Storyspace, HTML, Twitter sms messages, or even the Eclipse IDE? They all involve text, but an internalization of the digital nature of the work pervades, even retrofitting itself to older writing forms like pen, paper, and press (e.g., Neuromancer). I tend to automatically write long paragraphs in my text editor (TextWrangler) — bits of cinema, programming, music, and anything else a post-modern cultural work entails seep in through my words.
A writing the hypertext community will see as breakthrough will not be written in Storyspace, but displayed in Storyspace. The mind writes out in digital form already- we are pastiche culture of algorithms, binary switches, and informatic control. Asking somebody to write in Storyspace is like asking somebody to write inside of the Eclipse IDE . . . that's not why digital writing is important. What changes is the interpretation of writing by the reader through the structures of the piece: Storyspace's multiple windows, Processing's single window applet, Storyspace's click on a word links, Processing's click on anything and key input methods. This is where digital writing happens and differs itself from environment to environment. People who love classic literature will not like truly digital works if they still expect non-digital paradigms. When we read a programmaticaly generated and displayed text, or any digital text for that matter, do not expect to read something that fits well into our Western canon. A true digital work is something else- it is gibbly gook, it is random, it is a new experience each time. Classical texts need not apply. In that sense, my writing of "All Hail Fort Worthless" appropriates elements of classic writing, and then attempts to explore that data through the algorithm of Storyspace (a program that often years for classic writing) and Processing (a program that couldn't care less about the literature of the past). What they do share is a digital style. What they don't share is their approach to specifics within organizing content structure. You may like Storyspace or Processing as a writing environment, and that depends on personal choice. Just do not read the biases of one program into the other program as weakness when it is in fact a difference.
Take into account links. Links are a form of semantic control. Having one link (HTML) differs from five links (Storyspace), differs from twenty-five links (Google), differs from sentences *constant links (Java), and differs from infinite links (Touring machine). For my project, each Storyspace lexia contains 4 links while each Processing lexia contains the number of lexias * number of sentences links. Does this make Processing a better piece since it contains more links or approaches links in a different way? Not necessarily. Links are informatic. They are not data. Adding links to new lexias or taking links away from lexias does not alter a piece to the extent of altering the actual data linked to it. This sets up links as a continuum with people searching for a "sweet spot" in terms of the number of links to use. Some have ventured to say the ultimate linking structures are infinite structures (e.g., the rhizome). Others have proposed linking projects on a smaller scale but that have mathematically determined sources (Google). I have a hard time thinking that two links, three links, or n links add meaning- what is important is the fact there exists a link in the first place.
I created my lexias as independent pieces, but they all contained an inherent linking voice. I randomly chose the links on each lexia in Ssp because I knew that whatever I linked to did not depend on an exact ordering structure. My writing has internalized the digital. Jump from a diatribe on commercialism to the commodification of art to the genocides commited by Fort Worthians in WHATEVER ORDER YOU PLEASE. I just randomly created a path in Storyspace I could have just as easily made all the links random in SS, but the SS reader expects one to one, or one to many links . . . not one to infinite (although this could be emulated through the use of keywords). On the other hand, one to infinite links isn't supreme either. Having the link to one or two other lexias helps the user mentally navigate a literary structure in a different manner than with infinite links. We feel more connected at times, like we are deciding our path, when in all reality it could have just as easily been dropped from the sky.
Should we be looking at how many links we can make in a document, how we can link, or what we should link to? To an extent, but this is all a part of the overarching scope of the digital that engulfs these literary works. My project in Java shoves that fact in your face while SS eases the user into a gentler notion of digitally controlled text.
Last modified 1 April 2008