Depth Probe One

As part of my Digital Rhetorics course, we’ll be expected to undertake several “Depth Probes”, exploring the dank deeps of internet, maybe, hopefully, finding something of interest.

As a starting point, the lecturer has added a few links to our online schedule. These can be considered doors, each opening into a different part of a vast maze of online digital text. Rather than notes, I left behind virtual breadcrumbs, enabling me to retrace my delve into the deep afterwards.

Appropriately enough, I began at the trAce website, an online centre for digital writing, where I found a short overview on the State of the Art.

There are lots of opinion on the state of digital writing, including on what it actually is. Maybe it can indeed be as simple as “Any writing that requires a computer to access it.”

The article also provided a generous list of various favourites within the field, including Blogger itself. But instead of following the links, I was caught by an article about Alt-X – the oldest website dedicated to the new ways of expression made possible by the new media.

Among the various parts of alt-X, my whim took me to the blog gallery, that contains a vast list of interesting blogs, including Post Secret, a blog to which people can send in their innermost secrets on anonymous postcard and, an index of popular links, offered and rated by the users themselves, allowing any websurfer to share any of her bookmarks with the entire world. The interesting ones will be recommended and slowly float to the top.

From there, I stumbled onto The Book after the Book, a strangely wonderful mix of text and links. As the book writes at one point:

From any point of the site| you can go back to | The Book after the Book index.|Nevertheless, the index does not send| the reader to all pages.| After all, again recalling Borges,| is there a better place than a forest | to lose a leaf?

Indeed, having made it this far, I began to appreciate the labyrinthine, explorative aesthetic of the websurf itself. The unending hopping from page to page, never knowing what you may find, again and again turning leaves in this digital forest. And as you explore, you slowly get a swimming sensation from considering all the paths unexplored, all the links unclicked, all the texts unread. As you go along, a clot of undigested information builds up in your system, and in the end, each new page passes by in a blur.

As the authors of hypertext novel “Unknown” puts it:

It is, as Borges might write, a ??library of Babel? in which there are so many books all in one place that one is tempted not to read at all.

Again and again, throughout the websites, Jorge Luis Borges is mentioned as the stylistic inspiration and the father of the metaphor of digital writing. To lose oneself in the text, to drown in a sea of ideas and thoughts of millions of people – was all thought out by Borges, long before it became reality (if that, indeed, is the right word).

I saw more, but will stop here. As I write down these notes, I am slowly and belatedly digesting that clot of information, thawing it open, and peeling off the layers, only to find that it has no core.

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thanks for posting this. fantastic stuff. you are taking some great looking classes, and happy b-day too…


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