Category: READINGS


reading 1: barabasi 80/20 rule:
-the 80/20 rule : four fifths of our efforts are largely irrelevant
-the distribution of links on various webpages followed “power law”

heyyy I found this graph on the internet and it seems to explain what I’m reading…now to learn how to read graphs…

“power laws mathematically formulate the fact that in most real networks the majority of nodes have only a few links and that these numerous tiny nodes coexist with a few big hubs, nodes with an anomalously high number of links..the few links connecting the smaller nodes to each other are not sufficient to ensure that network is fully connected”

I’m going to be honest in saying that I genuinely could not engage with anything in the first couple pages of this reading because it was so scientifically worded, and something in my brain automatically shuts down at the mere mention of scientific terms. I did however take away the greater underlining philosophical question – How does order emerge from disorder?  Because I largely skimmed through the first few pages, struggling to stick with any one point being made, I’m not entirely sure how this relates to networks or power law, but this quote seems to sum it up nicely…
“the theory of phase transitions told us loud and clear that the road from disorder to order is maintained by the powerful forces of self-organisation and is paved by power laws…power laws are not just another way of characterising a system’s behaviour” 

I suppose all of the scientific background to power laws and the theory of order and disorder in this reading leads up to the question “are real networks in a continuous state from disorder to order?” or even “how does nature spin its webs”. the reading is attempting to find some scientific pattern of understanding why the network functions the way that it does, and if I’m totally honest, I don’t think I understand it any better having read this…



Michael heim defines hypertext as-

“printed text as a basis for a techonlogy that considerably extends writing’s reach and repetoire by removing text from the single dimension it has on the printed page”

after reading this quote and doing this week’s readings on hypertext, a book my sister was showing me a few weeks ago instantly came to mind. while the book is classed as ‘post-modern’ fiction, I immediately thought of it after reading the definition of hypertextual narrative. but I’m not going to tell you why. I’m just going to show you-

while postmodernism and hypertextual narrative might not be the same thing, jay bolter states in literature in the electronic space that “hypertext is a vindication of postmodernist literary theory“. there are obvious connections between postmodernism and hypertextual narrative and while they may differ when you come down to specifics, mark danielewski’s house of leaves sure looks, feels and sounds to me like a hypertextual narrative. it plays with the written form itself as well as having stories within stories, interwoven narratives, segments, other type of texts like images and poems within the story, etc and ultimately looks like a headache to read. there are even entire segments which appear like ‘windows’ in the middle of the books, showing the text backward… are you really going to sit there with a mirror and read the backward text? ain’t nobody got time for that. personally, I am in two minds about this form of narrative, and by extension hypertextual narrative. the student and artist in me wants to say ‘oh how original and brilliant, what a challenging yet rewarding way to experience a narrative’ and respect the sheer expansiveness that this sort of a medium offers…
the other (more cynical) part of me wants to say, in a nutshell, what this person has so eloquently written in a review of house of leaves-

“I wish there were some way that a sigh could count as a book review… I think it’s a really great story. However, House of Leaves is the perfect definition of bullshit… This book looks at you with this smug fucking smile on it’s face, daring you to say that you don’t like it, knowing that masses of people are going to go along with it because they don’t want to look stupid. That’s what this is. It’s the fucking Radiohead of books. Well, House of Leaves, I am not stupid and I’m calling your bullshit. Fuck you.”

…and to be honest, the guy kind of has a point. hypertextual narrative is a little bit pretentious. it almost seems like an excuse for authors to churn out pages upon pages of meaningless dribble in the name of ‘art’. it puts pressure on its readers to make associations and understand greater concepts or ideas and, by extension, makes them feel stupid if they can’t engage, or just don’t ‘get it’. did it come to be just because author’s got too lazy writing stories that were engaging enough in their normal format? maybe I’m just being too skeptical. maybe I am thinking more about postmodern literature than hypertextual narrative. after all, the two aren’t necessarily the same thing (even though the definition of hypertextual narrative seems to describe “house of leaves” down to the last letter). maybe there is some big difference between the two that I’m not getting (and my guess is I’m going to get a comment on this sooner or later explaining what that is) either way, here are some point form notes from the readings –

the digital word and image, even on the web, does not inevitably produce hypertextual narrative

hypertext is as much a concept in itself a technology

“veer toward a narrative…not entirely dependent on linearity, causality, and probable characterisation” – Tom McHarg

“a fictional text must be stretched, skewered, and sliced if it is to exploit the freedoms and accept the responsibilities offered by hypertext technology and its new writing spaces”

can be one main narrative or narrative segments and entirely fictional stories which are weaved together by these

1. reader choice intervention and empowerment
2. inclusion of extralinguistic texts (images, motion, sound)
3. complexity of networked structure
4. degrees of multiplicity and variation in literary elements such as plot, characerisation, setting

hypertext calls into question
1. fixed sequence
2. definite beginning and ending
3. a story’s certain definite magnitude
4. the conception of unity or wholeness associated with all these other concepts

hypertext as a lens or agent of new perception, to reveal something previously unnoticed or unnocticable

authors can write in such a way to provide the reader with informed choices

the authors either prefer authorial power, readier disorientation or both

doing away with a fixed linear text does away with all linearity or removes formal coherence

parataxis > repeitition rather than sequence

Bolter says of Joyce’s interactive hypertext “there is no single story of which each reading is a version, because each version determines the story as it goes. we could say that there is no story at all: there are only readings”

how can hypertext have a beginning when the novel follows from the beginnings each reader chooses?

‘start here’ approach comes from some writer’s reluctance to disorient readers upon initial contact with a narrative

hypertextual fiction should change our experience of the middle but not the beginnings of narrative fiction

you need closure, equilibrium, conclusion when experiencing a text

many points of closure within the text, rather than one definite ‘ending’




the way Nelson describes hypertext reminds me of this video that we had to make in film school a couple years back as a class exercise-

essentially the concept was creating a string of videos that link to eachother, allowing the audience to pick their ending… meaning endings can be infinite (almost) as the number of videos multiply out from each new situation, sort of like a family-tree type situation.

there were a few highly successful advertising campaigns with the introduction of youtube that worked on this principle –

it’s interesting (and I might be digressing slightly off the readings here) what the world has come to in terms of advertising and marketing thanks to the internet and the introduction of hypertext. on this site it goes through some current and upcoming trends for video marketing… it’s almost like in order to maintain the audience’s attention span they need to be fully immersed in the experience, no matter what it may be.



dodgy point form (probably incomprehensible) notes on reading because I have had the most insanely busy week ever and no chance to write properly..

  • “the world has arrived at a series of cheap complex devices of great reliability, and something is bound to come of it” – first reading, iphones/apps/changing devices which are becoming more accessible and less expensive and very widely used
  • hypertext – added meanings created by links, annotations, electronic sticky notes, tags to outside information  (just like our blogs)
  • computers have made it difficult to keep all of the information in one place
  • computer literacy is taught so you learn to be able to access all of this information made available to you (we even were taught in this subject how to tag out, create a sticky post, link to other information)
  • hypertext should become a framework for reunification, rather than overcomplicating or confusing things –
  • should aim towards creating unified personal systems

might revisit this post over the weekend and rewrite/extrapolate



doing the reading late due to doing the reading for the following week instead… this weeks reading about double loop/organisational learning was pretty dense subject matter to push through on a sunday night with a pounding headache… basically I grasped – and I am going to make a loosely related analogy here  –

sing loop learning is like being in a long-term relationship with a partner that is cheating. you have preconceived ideas about the role of your partner and your own role in the relationship. you are so comfortable with that person and because of the ‘label’ you have on your relationship, you simply assume that your partner is on the same page, and will be completely loyal. you don’t think about consequences when you come home from work every afternoon and instead of spending time with your partner, watch television for hours. when you finally discover that your partner is cheating, you break the relationship off and learn from the lesson.
double loop learning is like a progressive ‘open’ relationship. you have no assumptions about the other person and take each day as it goes, without ‘labelling’ the relationship. you treasure the time you are given with that partner and because there is no assumption that you are ‘together’, you try to make their experience with you as good as possible so they don’t feel the need to see somebody else. you make an effort to get to know the person to ensure you are fully compatible before entering into a relationship (so as to save future heartache by entering into a relationship with somebody whose key values are different).

so this is not the best analogy at all. I don’t know where I was even going with that…I’m sure there was a point somewhere in there about prevention rather than cure. put more simply- single loop learning is like a doctor giving you antibiotics when you are sick, whereas double loop is wearing an extra jacket in the winter or taking vitamins so you never get sick in the first place.

there’s also a point in there somewhere about how mode 2 learning is about not ‘defining’ things because with definition comes constraint. if you put a label on something it instantly loses potential – it can only be what it is said to be, and never something more. I agree with this (especially in reference to my terrible relationship analogy). as soon as you begin to put things in neat little boxes they are unable to expand past that boundary.


following on from my previous post, here is my take on next weeks readings (I’ll do this week’s reading next week)

most of what I engaged with relates to this quote-

“Design as a practice never exists in the here and now.”

the idea in the readings that design fiction relates to the basic rule of fiction or ‘what if’ is an interesting and valid point. the discussion of movies that have been formed around the basis of ‘what if’ opened my eyes to the possibilities this question poses. the concept of taking ideas that are present currently and forming a story around subverting this idea (ie. if reality was different) is something that has worked time and time again-

rob schneider is a carrot! loosely relevant…

then there was the concept of constructing ideas through the two opposite notions of ‘utopia’ and ‘dystopia’ – Orwell’s “1984” or “V for Vendetta” are examples which spring to mind for the latter… taking an aspect of reality or life as we know it and subverting it to a point where everything is ‘perfect’ and ‘harmonious’, or on the other end of the spectrum, if everything was to go to shit. the examples in one of the readings of design fiction reflecting ‘utopia’ were the Christina commune (Copenhagen) and The Anarchistic Experiment.

the readings also discussed how experimenting creates opportunities for future realities – there were examples given about how the design student might pitch or create prospective designs that may or may never come into existence… it makes me consider what might happen if the idea of the smartphone was never pitched (if you wish this would happen then maybe you should read my previous post on phubbing) how different life could be if even a couple of the million disregarded ideas every day actually came into existence…