Thursday, February 7, 2008

ELF to the writer

While reading Nelson's “A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing and the Indeterminate,” I was struck by how much files and filing meant to Nelson. As someone who basically grew up with computers, finding a system of filing electronic materials never even entered my mind as something important, something to be pondered over. I frequently found myself comparing his ideas with what is available now on Microsoft Word: how one is able to save many files or copies of files in different folders, how one CAN perpetually save different stages of documents so that no change is ever lost, even linking documents together. Nelson argues that his system will make the job of the writer easier, that it will mirror the writer's thought processes and linking together of information. Yet, as a writer myself, I don't feel like our current system actually allows that. I recently had to rearrange the sections in half of a short story that I had written and realized that it was not something that I could do on the computer. To actually get a sense of the shape of the story, I printed out the original, cut out the sections, and then rearranged them manually. When one is cutting and pasting from a document, they can only work with one section at a time and the effect feels a lot more final. There are no random scattered pieces to be inserted from off to the side. There is no limbo state for the paragraphs, between the original copy and the revised copy.

I suppose then, that Patchwork Girl is a better example of Nelson's system of zippered lists and files because of the way it skips around and the fact that most people's thoughts only REALLY make sense to themselves. The readers just find themselves comprehending the general theme, what links what to each other. But then one would assume that everyone's system would then be different from any other person's, a unique tailored system that mirrors the way they think. This, though, is impossible (unless everyone creates their own) so I suppose we'll never quite achieve what Nelson envisioned.

Sorry about the lack of quotes, btw. For some reason, the server with Nelson's article seems to be down.

No comments: