Keynote from Ted Nelson
Talking about electronic literature for over 20 years. Felt alienated from the web because of ‘what it is not’.
Starting with the question – “what is literature”? For TN – a system of interconnected documents. But the web supports only ‘one way links’ – jumps into the unknown. Existing software does nothing for the writer to interact with this concept of ‘literacture’.
Constructs of books we have recreates the limitations of print – separate documents. Standard document formats – individual characters, scrambled with markup, encoded into a file. This thinking goes deep in the community – and TN contends this is why other ideas of how literature could exist are seen as impossible.
For the last 8-10 years, TN and colleagues working on a system that presents an interconnected literature (Xanadu Space). Two kinds of connection:
- Links (connects things that are different, and are two way)
- Transclusion (connects things that are the same)
TN illustrating using example of a programming working environment – where code, comments, bugs are transcluded into a single Integrated Work Environment.
- We shouldn’t have ‘footnotes’ and ‘endnotes’ – they should be ‘on the side’.
- Outlines should become tables of contents that go sideways into the document
- Email quotation should be parallel – not ‘in line’
Vision is a parallel set of documents that can be see side-by-side.
History is parallel and connected – why do we not represent history as we write it – parallel coupled timelines and documents.
Challenge – how do you create this parallel set of connected documents? Each document needs to be addressable – so you can direct systems to ‘bring in text A from document B’. But challenges.
TN as a child was immersed in media. Dad was director for live TV – so TN got to see making television firsthand – his first experience was not just of consumption but as creation of TV. At college he produced musical, publication, film. Started designing interactive software.
How did we get here?
- Douglas Engelbart – NLS
- Ted Nelson – what became Xanadu (1960)
- Hypertext Editing System – TN sorry he worked on it – it led to ‘one-way links’
- Neil Larson – various projects (mentioned http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_web_browser)
- and today we have WWW as envisaged by Tim Berners-Lee – one way hyperlink
TN describing current realisation of the ‘translit’ approach – Xanadu. Several components:
- Xanadoc – an ‘edit decision list format’ – generalisation of every quotation connected to it’s source
- Xanalink – type, list of endsets (the things point at) – what to connected – exists independently of the doc?
What to do about changing documents? You copy & cache.
TN and colleagues almost ready to publish Xanadu specs for ‘xanadoc’ and ‘xanalink’ at http://xanadu.com/public/. Believes such an approach to literature can be published on the web, even though he dislikes the web for what it isn’t…
WYSIWYG – TN says only really applies to stuff you print out! TN aiming for ‘What you see is what you never could’ (do in print) – we need to throw off the chains of the printed document.