Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Hyper-Feet 1

Last night I met up with Frode in The Blue Room in Broadwick Street for a brief chat about his project proposal. I explained why I think interactive text is less like "having feet" (which after all most of us have from birth) than suddenly having a new device that enables a limited set of opportunities to visit an near limitless list of destinations. With this metaphor the opportunity costs involved are more explicit.

In spite of all the problems associated with non-information overload and bad interface design most people are used to muddling through one way or another. However, any system with the word "hyper" in it contains the promise of not having to muddle through, I suggested. It has to clear that it improves the user's situation relative to their situationally scarce resources of time and attention rather than contributing to the overhead. In essence that was the concern brought up by the journalist last week.

In the last few days I have been skirting around the issue of whether it would be possible to develop a media analysis model alternative or complementary to the decompose-recompose approach; one that combines the disciplines of statistical analysis with whatever it is that professors of Media Studies know about.

Such a system would aim to encompass the links as well as the units - offering a dynamic and relativistic view of mediaspace. (Autonomy focusses on logical inference which although it sounds like something that will result in clarity actually muddies things further.)

Of course it's rather easier to conceptualise than formalise! But it isn't entirely unrelated to Frode's problem.

Before we left the cafe he asked me to give some thought to how you could integrate architectural constraints into the interactive text system itself. The best model we are both aware of for this would be Jorge Luis Borges' Library of Babel, though Frode is probably most familiar with Kevin Kelly's more pragmatist interpretation in Out of Control.

The blind old librarian from BA was a famed architect of labyrinths and ease of use was never very high on his agenda. His kind of wisdom is just beyond the reach of rational understanding. I have got stuck in that one before, so before going back there I will pursue another line of association that has gripped my fancy lately. More on this later...

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