Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Stranger’s Memex: Hypertext and Confusion

Sorry for the double post. Here is the proper posting of my response. I'd like to think of myself as somewhat internet savvy, but apparently that is not the case.

While reading patchwork girl I couldn’t help but notice an obvious parallel to Bush’s memex. Much like the memex patchwork girl mapped connections between different pieces of information, but there was a key difference. Instead of producing clarity and a strong sense of history, patchwork girl caused confusion and disorientation. I found it interesting how this was completely contrary to Bush’s vision of a memex “trail.” It was as if patchwork girl was a stranger’s memex trail. This highlights a key flaw in the concept of the memex as a source of elucidation: Only the owner of the memex would have the ability to understand the path that he had created. Anyone else reading the memex would never be able to fully understand the logic for moving from one connection to the next. The trail could never become completely transparent to anyone except its creator. Much like patchwork girl the memex would become a source of confusion. It would send timelines into disarray. Rather than making history clear and preserving it for the future it would blend all time into one stream of consciousness.  It is unclear whether this would further scientific progress or hinder it. In the world of the memex time would appear as it does to the tralfamadorians of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five: non-linearly.  Non-linear time perception is often connected to higher forms of life in fictional stories (i.e. The Watchmen and the previously mentioned Slaughterhouse Five), but could the human mind really handle this? Or would the dawn of the memex and hypertext age throw the world into a confused anarchy. It is impossible to say, but perhaps the Internet can become a similar force. As connections on the Internet grow and time becomes more blurred perhaps it can lead us to our non-linear future of higher intelligence, or reduce the world to a nihilistic free for all.  

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