Books without endings…

There’s something incredibly poignant about this prompt. It’s whimsical and it provokes imagination, a kind of ‘what if’ though goes off in my mind. What if I could continue to write a book that somebody else had started? What if the writer thought the book was finished? Can I continue the story in my own way, taking the narrative on a new path? It evokes a real question about whether a story is ever really finished.

The story we live, in our everyday lives, never ends. Some parts of our own personal narrative are more interesting than others, some parts we tell our friends about or blog about or tweet about, but the mundane and everyday continues to continue until we’re here no more. But even after that in ways, our stories continue, through our family, friends, our achievements and the impact that we’ve had on others. I’m reaching a pretty morbid place here, I know, but it has to make you wonder whether a book or a film, or some inception of storytelling, actually tells the narrative from start to finish, or does it just pick up at one point and finish at another. Can there really be a beginning, middle or an end to any narrative we create? Fiction or non-fiction, the stories we tell and we experience always have space.

I use the term space to describe the narrative before the film or book kicks off and after it ends, it’s the area that isn’t explicitly there, but you could easily fill it with something of your own imagination. You could easily write narrative about the life of the character before the book started, and you could continue the narrative after the book ends, even if all of their angst and issues are resolved. Of course it might not be very interesting, and bringing in new issues to their lives might get slightly boring and repetitive (i.e. the majority of crap movie sequels ever made), but there’s still an opportunity there to fill the space on either side of the story. The Star Wars movie franchise is a clear example of filling the space, with films one to three running in sequence, and film four, five and six running in sequence, however if you were to sit down and watch all six movies in a row, for the films to be sequential by time you’d start at four, then watch five and six before going back to one. Star Wars filled the space in front of the first film, and I’m sure there would be potential to fill the space after number three.

The book may finish, but the story most definitely does not have to.

The application of science to the modern networked society

Vannevar Bush’s article, As We May Think, looks at the way science has been used and applied throughout history, and how scientists have focused on inventing things that improve a human’s physical capacity. Science has given us tools, shelter, clothing, food, weapons against disease, and weapons against eachother. A list of things that are becoming increasingly necessary for human survival, and the lengthening of the human life span.

Bush, however, writes about the importance of refocusing scientific studies, and not looking at the ways we can improve physically, but how science can be used to store and share knowledge, to speed up the sharing of information between humans. This piece came well before the creation of the internet, when knowledge was stored in the minds of scholars and on paper. Knowledge was stored physically rather than digitally. In 1945, Bush speculates about a way to improve the human knowledge bank, and I guess you could say that now in 2013, his speculations have become somewhat of a reality with the internet and the networked society. We still have to read or view and then interpret the information at the same pace as humans did in 1945 to absorb it fully, however knowledge is readily available to everyone and anyone who has access to the internet, and knows how to use it. His speculations on a form of dry photography is particularly poignant, with digital cameras allowing for the capturing and viewing of images, without printing or ink.

The access to the internet though, and to this network, the digital knowledge bank, is incredibly exclusive. Firstly you have to access too it, it is not everywhere and for the majority of the World, is not readily accessible. And secondly, you need to have the capacity to be able to use it. Gaps between human beings in term of generations and languages means that it can often be difficult for even those who have access to it, to understand it, and use it too its full ability. Slowly generations are learning, however significant gaps exist between groups of human beings, restricting some from accessing the network. This is the area where I believe science now needs to work in order to improve the networked community, making it more accessible, making it faster. Bush’s article inspired many internet pioneers such as Ted Nelson to create a network of information, and now that we have that, to continue to realise the speculative writing of Bush’s article, the knowledge network needs new technologies to make it more accessible.