Harpold 2009

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Harpold, Terry. Ex-foliations: Reading Machines and the Upgrade Path. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

"A Future Device for Individual Use"

Ted Nelson's definition of hypertext (15) -- "hypertext is, then, first a practice of composition: hypertexts comprise other textual objects" (15/1.03)

"In Nelson's initial formula, hypertext begins by being spread over the gamut of prior and possible textual practices as a boundary phenomenon: joined to and depending on existing habits of writing and reading -- especially those derived from print and marked by its discontents -- and reaching beyond them, into conjectural habits of a new technical regime, more fluid, more varied, and more extensive than its precursors." (16/1.04)

hypertext often defined negatively against print ("Hypertext is a kind of text inconveniently realized in print." (17/1.06)) but readerly practices differ (17/1.07)

Memex -- close reading of its illustration of readerly practices, its connection to traditions of Wunderkammer, automata, Antonello da Messina's painting of Jerome, etc. -- "new kind of mental furniture" (28/1.26)

bijection: "we might have anticipated this orientation of the archive -- toward, if not irreversibly an interior, then toward, somewhat irreversibly, a medial projection that implies and inside and an outside." (29/1.28)

connection between war machines and Bush's archival devices

"It is in this context that the real basis of the archive, despite its repression in the figure of seamless conversion, returns from repression." (33/1.36)

inside/outside in the archive (34-4/1.38) -- interiority of the Memex desk, exteriority of its trails leading outward (35-6/1.40-1)

Memex II -- a more "intimate" device; "supplementation has crossed into prosthesis" (40/1.50)

  • trail and image are "functually homologous, each considered in its own right and sustained according to closely related economies of manipulation and transmission" (42/1.53)
"the later Memexes are in this respect less models for a new kind of mental furniture than tropes -- for memory, for textual fields, for ill-defined points of contact between them, in the shape of furniture." (41)

Historiations: Xanadu and Other Recollection Machines

Ted Nelson, Xanadu -- both temporal and differential (48/2.07)

"Across this site of bijection, Xanadu orients into clusters or knots otherwise dispersed units of text, each with a history that pertains to it and the ensembles to which it may have belonged or may yet belong. Moreover, the user interface has to model the ways in which the reader finds herself carried forward by effects of those histories, generating -- and, equally significant, imagining -- new ensembles on the basis of new juxtapositions of elements of the reading surface." (49/2.09)
  • how to do this without it devolving into "a mere series of snapshots of document states?" (49/2.09)

reading of Lacan's revision of Saussure's classic diagram of signifier/signified (49/2.10-51/2.13)

Lacan: signifier as polyphonic, chained (53/2.18)

"Each moment of the reading encounter is the inconsistent aggregate of other moments, stimulated -- consciously and unconsciously -- by marks and patterns of marks (and relations of marks too inchoate and variable to be qualified as 'patterns') that evoke others and thus generate meanings that are specific to the encounter. I propose to characterize these operations, which are bound to, and capable of anticipating and generating new responses to, visual-textual traits of the reading surface, by the term historiation." (56/2.24)
  • historiated initials, medieval illuminated manuscripts, marking divisions and intertexts

Nelson, TextFace (58/2.30-61/2.37)

memory palaces (63/2.41-65/2.45)

"The product of memory as a media technic is not, then, the docuverse as it is now, but that which could be recollected of it in the future: the future anterior of what it will have been, given that which it is in the process of becoming. The threads of the tangle cannot be divided neatly; they are too many; you could not distinguish them all, or follow all their divagations -- isolating them in this way would distort them." (70/2.55)
"So you need a program that tracks what matters -- out of all of it, for all of it matters to what matters -- and a suitable container in which to put it, like an expanding desk or a unlimited store on the back end. And: a procedure to recollect it all, in case something should happen to the container. Thus is the text, in the broadest possible sense of that term -- the 'text-archive-object,' always-already a textbase (only a set-theoretic mathematics seems applicable here) -- pinned to the scene of historiation." (70/2.55)

Freud, memory, media

Revenge of the Word: Grammatexts of the Screen

GUI: design philosophy of "direct manipulation" (81/3.01); yet there's a "technical and medial complexity of the screen surface" (82/3.02

Michael Joyce, "Hypertext is the revenge of the word on television."

word-image relations in new media; back-end driven by words (command line), front end an odd tangle of words and images the do and can be done (83-4/3.03-05)

reading Moulthrop's "Victory Garden" in light of Michael Joyce's quote; how hypertext is/isn't like television

inscription vs. blank space (88/3.13)

Lapcherie, grammatextual genres (89/3.15):

  • two levels of inscription: letter and page
  • four degrees of figuration: iconic, ideogrammatic, diagrammatic, and alphabetic
"A grammatextually sensitive reading of the screen frees us from tghe worst effects of this feedback loop" (of seeing print as less than hypertext, etc.) (92/3.23)
"A grammatextual model of the screen that accounts for its difference form the page must consider not only semiotic relays effected within formal units roughly homologous with the page -- the contents of windows and controls -- but also those relays that are effected in continuous and discrete fields that are actively interleaved on the screen." (94/3.26)
"Because they remain open to user- and program-driven change in the visual context in which they are encountered, graphemes of the screen are in general more polygraphic than corresponding forms of the printed page." (94/3.28)
"A rigorous grammatextuality of the screen would incur readings that cross both localized operations specific to a program and general operations that reach beyond it. To the extent that these crossings may be conceived of as serially realized -- one or more moments in the loop of the user's day before the screen -- it must also be understood to be closely joined to structures taht parse and order the screen in multiple, extra-serial ways." (97/3.33) -- shared with illuminated manuscripts and graphic novels; richochet of eyes, saccadic movements of reading

polygraphy on the page "may have different meanings, but their operational significances are usually commensurate"; on the screen, polygraphy "often encodes different functaionl contexts and significances pertaining to each writing system involved" (97/3.34)

"windows" and "desktops" as ideograms of windows and desktops (98-9/3.37-8)


Nelson: page of text as glass sheet -- can see what's beneath it, but stepping below the surface is also entering a new work

superficiality of the digital field "the manner in which the screen, regardless of the fictions of depth it appears to sustain, also screens in the way of an obstruction -- and in this is able to sustain satisfactions that an actually limitless depth (if such a thing were possible) could not" (122/4.20)

"We may detect here the effects of a general principle of media: the infinity of every mise en abyme must terminate, materially, in the finest grain of the medium in which it is present. ... a fantasy of continuing recursion on the part of the reading or viewing subject remains possible, but it must be founded on a real limit that from another point of view appears to be the merest caprice." (122/4.21)
"Every reading is, strictly speaking, unrepeatable; something in it, of it, will vary. Recollections of reading accumulate in relation to this iterable specificity; each takes its predecessors as its foundation, each inflects them with its backward-looking futurity." (125/4.27)
"We encounter here a characteristic of visual media that appears to be a contradiction, but is really a hallmark of their operation: they are composed of aggregates of interleaved surfaces." (130/4.36)

reading of Octavo's digital editions of rare early printed books (132-3/4.41-3)

perforations -- "the form of a rim, a circuit around a site that its locus cannot touch upon" (134/4.44)

  • the navel

appropriation of codes iconography in new media (136/4.47-8)

[each term has examples to it] "Erasure; folding; peeling; perforation; plucking; shuffling; and so on: all are varieties of a crisis of surfaces that reading represses and memorializes, and that rereading, especially close, critical reading, must repeat. I propose the term ex-foliation for a loosely grouped set of procedures for provisionally separating the layers of the text's surfaces without resolving them into distinct strata or hierarchies, with the aim of understanding their expressive concurrencies." (137/4.50)

"Subscribing to a myth that inefficiencies of the book may be somehow corrected, many designers of new media appear to seek, in contrast to projects such as Earls's, to turn the digital artifact into a pure fetish-object, in what I would term a restricted economy of perversion: a phylactery, a reliable guarantee against the vicissitudes of reading, a meaning-making thing stripped of its ambiguity, contingency, and its fundamental, real insecurity. Rather than recognizing that the ramifying network exposes one to evidence of the farces of satisfaction, apologists of the new reading machines seem to hope that a well-designed electronic page or book wills ave us from the vicissitudes of the papered sign, on which the page's grammatextual registers insist in any reading. Earls's achievement reminds us that we should, instead, look at these surfaces, paper and screen, not through them. Designers and users in the digital field may need to be reminded of this, so that the late age of the book should not be accompanied by a forgetting of all that the word, line, and page can effect upon us." (141-2/4.58)

Lexia Complexes

Landow (mis)uses Barthes' term lexia to define hypertext

  • "Barthes's lexia is a virtual structure of the reading situation. Landow's lexia is a concrete segment of the textbase." (144/5.02)

for Barthes, "this mapping of signifiers to practices and techniques -- even when anticipated by the text's or image's author -- is specific to the reader; it is multiply oriented; it may even be internally inconsistent." (145/5.05)

  • cutting apart, rearranging, starring the text
  • "arbitrary, performative character of the reader's attribution of meaning to the text" in Barthes (149/5.14)

"Reading is one of the sciences of combinations" (152/5.20)

reading of Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl

"Reorienting the concept of the lexia away from a purely node-based segmentation of the text to parsings that are more variable and opportunistic, and including within the lexia's purview grammatextually activated expressions that may have no direct relation to the text's on-screen chunking, means that objective characteristics of the text will necessarily be bound to elements of a subjective reading encounter." (172/5.62)
  • possibility of hypertext infiltrating how we act as literary critics -- not enclosing a literary commons but constructing pathways out of them, or through them

Allographs: Windows of Afternoon

reading of Joyce's Afternoon

"the most unadorned text will be subjected to the illocutionary influences of icons, buttons, menus, windows, and other interface widgets. It will be caught up in paratextual and grammatextual structures on its periphery: borders and control of document windows, the overlapping or intersection fo these elements with others on the screen, like and different from them, audio and visual feedback. 'In short, all the visual, aural, and procedural resources of the 'desktop' apply to the situation of reading in this way. Perhaps more important than that graphic signifiers have been jammed against textual ones -- writing has always been so crowded, programs of the image and text have always knotted in this way -- i s the problem of what their interleavings and disjunctions represent in the present moment of reading." (179/6.05)

challenges [[Hayles 2002] on "first wave" and "second wave" divisions of e-lit; "simplif[ies] relations of technical change to literary change, and obscure[s] intractable but basic problems of the historical currency of much about the new media that is not-quite-new." (178/6.06)

early critical responses to Afternoon: Nelson, Steve Johnson, Espen Aarseth (Barthes, tmesis); revisits them, thinking about how different iterations of the text, on different machines running different OS/software, affects reading experience (Windows user have more freedom to navigate through text searches, resize windows, etc.)

Janespace: lost node in hypertext fiction; "avant-texte or peritext valued by the genetic critic: the trace of material, historical conditions of composition, preserved in a form that may, potentially, be read backward, so as to deduce those conditions" (192/6.37)

  • relation to software watermarks, "Easter eggs"
"Regimes fo grammatextuality are absolute; changes in the visual or material presentation of a text will influence the reader's reception of it." (196/6.47)

instructions for how to read as paratext (200/6.55)

first generation of hypertext criticsm looked at "what the reader was expected to look for -- not at -- in these texts" (102/6.56); ignored technological enframing, etc. -- "material registers of the text"

"necessary to widen the definition of what is taken to be meaningful in the matter of the text and to include in this traits o texts and their operations heretofore neglected because of critics' predisposition to look first beneath the surfaces of texts" (202-3/6.59)

  • "software variants of digital texts and the hardware and software conditions under which they are read are necessary subjects for literary-historical and literary-critical investigation" (203/6.60)
  • "a basic fact of literary production is that it is always ana llographic system" (205/6.63)
"The historiographic problem lies in how we have applied the new tools to the old texts, or in how we have reimagined the old texts in terms of the new tools." (207/6.67)
"Conceiving of digital reading solely or even chiefly as a practice of excavating meaning from the machine's secret registers means mistaking for signs of depth objects that may be best thought of as stuck to the surface of the text: jammed, with the reading subject, someplace among the clattering apparatus of the reading scene." (208/6.69)

Reading Machines

"Golden ratio" of medieval manuscripts; Jan Tschichold, The Form of the Book

books designed to be fitted to the size/shape of the human body

Ramelli, reading wheel; "resituates problems fo circuits and fields by figuring their relation as a system of concentric and intersecting cycles" (215/7.16)

Daniel Libeskind; makes Ramelli's wheel, Camillo's memory theatre and Swift's writing machine from the Academy of Lagado; "each of Libeskind's lessons embodies an extensive semiotic by means of an apparatus that moves texts in multiple directions and with irregular rhythms" (217/7.19)

"The wheel efficiently dislocates the page from simple forms of seriality, but it cannot encompass more general systems of reading, because it cannot account for effects below and beyond the thresholds of the units it circulates." (222/7.28)

Massin's book design for Raymond Queneau's Cent mille milliards de poemes (1961)

Raymond Roussel's Nouvelles Impressions d'Afrique (1932); Fassio's machine to assist in reading it: circuits (Rolodex structure; 224/7.35); folds (225/7.39); machines (226/7.40)

"Textual inconvenience and the risk of forgetting what matters when a textbase projects its operations in ever-greater complexity -- these are recurring concerns of the reading machine. But they are also signs of the machine's potential to generate new and unforeseen field effects." (226/7.42)
"Once again, it is a problem of inside and outside: of the interior and the extension of the reading machine and the archive; of how the former encircles the latter; of how these circles are traced and also brought to an end in accord with the operator's gesture." (227/7.44)

GUI, use of catachreses, dead metaphors of the "desktop"

  • "the screens of the GUI in the present cultural moment sustain an imaginary of unbroken reference and saturated connectivity, and have bound them in popular consciousness to seeming analog correlates, stripped of their mechanical and operational complexities" (235/7.61
  • desktop icon is really ideogram
"Operations of the reading machine erach a limit where the real object is discovered to have escaped these circuits: where the unreadable surface surfaces; when the machine's operations fall short of the textual procedures it enables. ... The unreadable surface is the final substrate on which readability is cast, precisely to the extent that it is neither flat nor deep, but resistant to both conceptions of its presence." (236/7.63)
"The (reading) machine is the structure detached from the activity of the subject." (237/7.65)