Discussion ideas for Ted Nelson

For those who may read this before this afternoon’s seminar and want to think ahead and/or for reference during our discussion, here’s a few things that feel to me like good starting places:

No More Teachers’ Dirty Looks

This section of Dream Machines was, for me, the most thought-provoking — particularly given that our discussions have frequently touched on our children’s use of technology and that many of our group are teachers (if not directly involved in primary education).

Yesterday, I linked to a Wired article from 2013 about “new” teaching methods — and their successes — that sounded very familiar: leave the students alone with the material and let them flourish.

And as a parent, I’ve got two intelligent kids who both make great grades but have very different approaches and reactions to the delights of the American public school system. My daughter, in 6th grade, thrives on the structured subject-oriented approach, and naturally strives for approval and “the right way” to do things. My son, in 4th grade, despite his good grades, claims nothing but boredom in school. To me, his mind seems to work more like Nelson’s approach — I think, left to his own devices, my son would explore his areas of interest very deeply (or just play Pok√©mon all day).

To the teachers in our group, how does the way you teach–and the ways the university requires you to teach–in a higher-ed setting differ from your personal visions of pedagogy? Is TLOS having an impact for you? Those of you with children in primary school levels, how does Nelson’s vision for technology in education and student independence relate to your child’s experience?


Xanadu, Citizen Kane

In 1995, Wired (I came upon these articles asynchronously, I swear) published “The Curse of Xanadu,” (warning: long read, but interesting) about Nelson’s grand vision of Xanadu and the decades long failure to bring it to reality. See also, Nelson’s response to this “hatchet job.”

What I find interesting is his dismissal of the hypertext web as we know it because it wasn’t his perfect vision of “transclusion” and attribution. His ideas in Computer Lib/Dream Machines influenced so many, yet Nelson remained so fixated on his own Rosebud Xanadu, he struggled to see the iterative progress towards his goal.

“The Web is the minimal concession to hypertext that a sequence-and-hierarchy chauvinist could possibly make.” – Ted Nelson

As my good friend Voltaire wrote, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” Also interesting in light of Engelbart’s insistence on iterative augmentation.

Given that Nelson named the project with a nod to Coleridge, and the immediate media-association of Citizen Kane, how apt, then, his disappointment when the chasms of reality break into our utopian pleasure-domes.

Odds and ends: Fantics / New Media / “Wired” in print / transforming copyright

  • Nelson’s term “Fantics,” bringing the idea of showmanship and presentation to all new media: our contemporary 24 hour news cycle, “video” as content over the written word/youtube “vlogs”, the responsive web across our many devices.
  • The irony of a print publication called “Wired” and the context of the word “wired” in an ever more wireless world. Where does print fit in “new” media — but yet think of what digital desktop publishing has done for print.
  • The transformation of copyright. It’s the idealist in me again, but I find Nelson’s insistence on attribution, rights-management, and payments for content as a required feature of Xanadu to be fascinating. Make the all the information of world immediately and freely available, but pay for it. As an artist, as someone who deals with copyright complaints received by the university, and as a dreamer, it seems to me that our egos and our desire to make money are in direct conflict with noble ideals of the information age “saving” humankind. (Does Picard have to pay a royalty each time he replicates a cup of Earl Grey?)
  • Is it okay to be forgotten? Moving from Coleridge’s Kubla Kahn to Shelly’s Ozymandias, I think there is a question of what (information) needs to/will be preserved. If the inanity of social media (Twitter, Faceook, our seminar blogs), has taught us anything, it is that not all data is information. Bush/Engelbart/Nelson’s vision(s) of everything at your fingertips grows exponentially more massive with each ULTRA-MEGA-SUPERbyte of daily data we create. What then can/should/will be forgotten? Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
  • Ted Nelson’s collection of one-liners, but “Transcopyright 1999 Ted Nelson. Please quote on the Web only by using transquotation strings (TQstrings), which will soon be available for this page.”

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