An extension of thoughts or “virtual intelligence”

Posted on January 9, 2009 by

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The spring semester is days away and I’ve been tossing some ideas about in my head as to how I want to approach the hybrid practicum/thesis project that I will be developing. I think I’ve refined my original objective and am ready to move forward on Monday. Keep in mind, my current program is Technical Communication, though I have wrapped it tightly around my background in history.

Throughout the program, I have considered history-focused narrative on the Web as hypertext non-fiction (although, I have to say, a spring 2008 course in hypertext theory really served as a major boost in this thinking). Tying that together with my thoughts in the wake or reading works by Jay David Bolter, Marie Laure-Ryan and others, and with some of the theory that I’ve just read in First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, I think I have a better idea of the direction in which I want to take my thesis.

As opposed to the book, that which is placed on the Web does not have to remain static. It can be static, but it doesn’t have to be (I suppose it’s all a matter of how a page author wants to interact with the public). Narrative on the Web can be “living and breathing;” it can be ongoing; it can be dynamic, but if the presenter/author wants the content/narrative to remain “alive,” it takes regular care to keep it from becoming static, and even stagnant. It sort of goes back to my thoughts on webpages… how many webpages are like headstones? They say what they say, but they have severe limitations on the level of engagement and interaction (especially modern headstones… BORING!… but that’s another topic altogether). 

Thoughts “dropped” into a blog are not motionless and they continue to interact with readers even when the author is no longer signed-on. Granted, books also interact without the author being present, but to what degree? Thoughts placed in a book seem to be more conclusive, while thoughts placed on the Web seem to be more fluid. It just takes continued work by a blog author (especially one who discusses theory or concepts) to sustain that interaction. Posts are extensions of thoughts. They are part of the thought process, but because they can stand alone, even for just a little while without the presence of the author, they are a form of “virtual intelligence.” Monitoring visitation and readership of a blog is a part of what is necessary to keep the narrative alive.

Ah, well, that’s enough “thinking out loud” for now. It will be interesting to see how this all lays out as I develop the thesis. Of course, it all ties back to digital history as a practice.

Otherwise, on the academic front, I’ll also be busy with two courses over the semester; 1) Digital Rhetoric and 2) XML (including XSLT)… and graduation is a mere four months from tomorrow!

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Posted in: Digital History