/1/Ong's lifework was the exploration of the history
of language technologies, from primary orality, to chirographic or manuscript
culture, to typographic or print culture, and then to our own time and the
secondary orality of the Electronic Age. In acknowledging my debt to Ong,
I simultaneously acknowledge the host of scholars whose work Ong synthesized,
chief among them perhaps Albert Lord, Marshall McLuhan, Eric Havelock, Jack
Goody, and Ruth Finnegan.
/2/Many similar titles are appearing these days
(Barrett, 1989; 1992; Delany
and Landow; Harnad; Landow
and Delany; Tuman), but
these three are superb and highly recommended. Bolter, Lanham, and Landow
have not only written about hypertexts, but have also produced them; all
three books come both in print and hypertext forms. Bolter and Landow have
also been heavily involved in the development of hypertext software.
/3/Ted Nelson is one of the three godfathers of
hypertext, along with Vannevar Bush and Douglas Englebart (Bush;
Nelson 1987; 1992; Fraase).
/4/If, as Lanham
observes, "digitization has made the arts interchangeable" (1993:130),
then the implications are staggering. To consider only higher education,
as an English professor, a composition teacher, and a student of the history
of rhetoric, Lanham believes that college students today need to be taught
a "digital rhetoric" suitable for a networked, hypertextual, Electronic
/5/World Wide Web was developed by CERN, a high
energy physics laboratory in Switzerland. Mosaic was developed by NCSA,
the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Macintosh and Windows versions of Mosaic are
available free from NCSA's FTP server, "ftp.ncsa.uiuc.edu"; 126.96.36.199.
/6/At the 1993 AAR/SBL meeting in Washington,
in the Computer Assisted Research Group exhibit, a person could log onto
the Internet, "go" to the Library of Congress electronic Dead
Sea Scrolls exhibit, and open up a WWW guidebook for the exhibit. When the
guide refers to a particular scholarly treatment of the scrolls, available
on the Internet somewhere in the world, the user clicked on the reference,
and the Mosaic software communicates with the computer in Jerusalem, Oxford,
Claremont, or wherever that electronic resource is stored, and instantly
the resource (text, photo, video, etc.) appears on the computer screen.
/7/Computer mediated communication, or "CMC,"
is an increasingly common term used in analyses of the social, political,
ethical, and economic ramifications of computer networking. Internet Relay
Chat, or "IRC," is online, interactive conferencing. Multi-user
dungeons [or domains], or "MUDs," were originally developed for
"Dungeons and Dragons" and other online role-playing fantasy games,
but can just as easily be used for an online meeting of a corporate board
of directors or of a scholarly seminar. With a graphical user interface,
such as the Macintosh or Windows systems, a MUD mutates into a MOO, a "multi-user
domain, object oriented". For more on all of these topics, see Rheingold
Also mimicking many aspects of primary orality are the more exotic computer
simulations, modeling, and virtual reality (Rheingold,
/8/As Stuart Moulthrop observes: "Hypertext
is all about connection, linkage, and affiliation. Formally speaking, its
universe is the one Thomas Pynchon had in mind when he defined 'paranoia'
as 'the realization that everything is connected, everything
in the Creation--not yet blindingly one, but at least connected.'"
/9/The following section is an abbreviated version
of a description of the features of hypertext in Fowler
/10/For examples of hypertext fiction, see the
growing catalog of titles distributed by Eastgate Systems, Inc., 134 Main
Street, Watertown, MA 02172, 1-800-562-1638.
/11/If the Homeric bard and his listeners are
partners in the same experience, one might just as well identify the electronic
reader with the Homeric bard, as does George Landow:
In a hypertext environment a lack of linearity does not destroy
narrative. In fact, since readers always, but particularly in this environment,
fabricate their own structures, sequences, and meanings, they have surprisingly
little trouble reading a story or reading for a story. . . . this active
reader-author inevitably has more in common with the bard, who
constructed meaning and narrative from fragments provided by someone else,
by another author or by many other authors. (Landow:117;
/12/I borrow the "frontier" metaphor
from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which likens the cultural upheaval
prompted by the electronic media to the days of the American frontier, when
it was uncertain what kind of civilized society, if any, would emerge from
the chaos on the frontier. The EFF champions the preservation and translation
of American constitutional rights of free speech and privacy into the political
and economic structures emerging in cyberspace.
/13/Barlow believes that authors will no longer
be paid for producing and distributing a physical object, a book,
because in cyberspace texts no longer have a physical existence. Rather,
authors will be compensated either for performance or service,
economic models which, of course, long predate the manufacturing model
"One existing model for the future conveyance of intellectual
property is real-time performance, a medium currently used only in theater,
music, lectures, stand-up comedy, and pedagogy. I believe the concept of
performance will expand to include most of the information economy, from
multicasted soap operas to stock analysis. In these instances, commercial
exchange will be more like ticket sales to a continuous show than the purchase
of discrete bundles of that which is being shown.
The other existing, model, of course, is service. The entire professional
class--doctors, lawyers, consultants, architects, and so on--are already
being paid directly for their intellectual property. Who needs copyright
when you're on a retainer?
In fact, until the late 18th century this model was applied to much of what
is now copyrighted. Before the industrialization of creation, writers, composers,
artists, and the like produced their products in the private service of
patrons. Without objects to distribute in a mass market, creative people
will return to a condition somewhat like this, except that they will serve
many patrons, rather than one" (Barlow:128).
/14/As I write this in late September, it appears
that the current session of the U. S. Congress will end without a dramatic
rewriting of the nation's telecommunications laws. Stay tuned for further
developments after the fall 1994 elections.
/15/See the remarkable account of "A Rape
in Cyberspace," by Julian
Dibbell. The "rape" took place in a MUD and precipitated a
crisis in virtual community building.
/16/On crime in cyberspace, see Karnow.
/17/"By the late twentieth century, our
time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids
of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs" (Haraway:174).
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