Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hypertext Is Still Language, Wed section

Lev Manovich argues that hyperlinking eliminates hierarchy. She asserts: “But in the case of hyperlinking as implemented by HTML and earlier by Hypercard, no such relationship of hierarchy is assumed. The two sources connected through a hyperlink have equal weight, neither one dominates the other. Thus the acceptance of hyperlinking in the 1980s can be correlated with contemporary culture’s suspicion of all hierarchies. (76). I think, however, that Manovich overlooks the fact that language is inherently hierarchical. We read in a linear fashion. Also, in every sentence that we read or write certain words are given more emphasis than others. For example, if I were to write a list of attributes, we would see that certain words are given more importance than others: “Sam is cute, funny, tall, charming, talented, and modest.” The word “cute” in this sentence dominates “tall” or “charming.” Perhaps, one could even argue that each word as we read the sentence loses more and more emphasis. Grammar, furthermore, structures that hierarchy. We still maintain then the basic distinction between content and form in our everyday speech and communication.

If language is culture then it also is an ideology, and as much as interfaces change the way in which we conceptualize culture, they cannot alter it. Don’t you think that the content remains the same even if we can perceive it differently? Hypertext is still text, and as long as we read it as we do all other language we are perpetuating a hierarchy. Is this too cynical?

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