Hypertextual Happenstance

This blog has been created to reflect upon learning to write and research this electronic medium. These posts use Jay David Bolter's _Writing Space_ as my theoretical guide to describe how I've learned to understand hypertext as the dynamic interconnection of a set of symbolic elements.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Nuts and Bolt(er)s of Blogging

As quoted in Bolter’s Writing Space,
[H]ypermedia authoring can support the emancipation of one’s self and others through the authoring and publication of critical texts that by questioning representations of the self, explain the possibilities for the self in future actions as a member of a community (114).
Indeed, blogging and, more specifically, linking, has emancipated me as this metablog has attempted to recount for you. However, as
Madeline Sorapure asked her students when assigning them Flash projects to “experience the principle of variability,” when writing this blog I had to ask myself, "How did you know when you were done?" Well I had a list of key points about my linking literacy that I knew I wanted to address, yet because of the myriad amount of the links I have included to tell that story, I had to remind myself that “The reader may well become the author’s adversary, seeking to make the text over in a direction that the author did not anticipate” (Bolter 168). Thus, before I send you off on an adventure of hypertextual happenstance, I will conclude here by summing up where I am now as a blogger and where I want to go.

Having moved from Blogger to Blog-City to Writingblog, I have to say that
my third space is where I have found the ideal blend of personal and professional voice. Initially I moved [go here for my first post] for the sole readership of my professor, mentor and bossman, Joe Moxley. Writingblog.org is his pet project, which began in December 2003 and now hosts over 2,800 bloggers, so knowing that he would be reading my posts and following my links gave me the structure that I needed to focus my research interests and streamline my blog’s template. The categories I can create here to list links have helped me organize who and what I read, and the image galleries are an added plus because there is no download required for what other blog spaces call “Premium Features.” A spin-off of Writingblog.org is Researchblogs.org, which describes itself as a site “Established for graduate students, faculty, and librarians involved in the electronic thesis or dissertation process, Researchblogs.org provides a free writing space for the development of ideas and research, linking all in an international dialogue” is a place I might eventually go, but for the time being I am staying put. So much is archived here already and quite frankly, I’m not one who likes moving in any way, shape, or form!

Moreover, I’m learning more and more how I feel about collaboration and perhaps this blog is the best example of my independence as a writer and selfish appreciation for having this space or these multiple spaces as my own. Russell’s essay on Activity Theory has stated, “Writing is an immensely protean tool that activity systems are always and everywhere changing to meet their needs” (56), and each blog I have started has cultivated my writing and using hypertext in different ways. As I mentioned in the first post to this blog, blogging now consumes my academic work and by reading and linking to other
professors who blog has taught me more about the genre than you’ll ever know.

You are who you link

If you read the comments to my previous post on Bitch PhD you’ll see that she has already replied to me after following her site meter statistics to see whose linking her. This is part of the hypertextual power associated with blogging that fascinates me most. Aside from the ability to edit posts and remove comments that you might not like, and even the ability to disable comments all together and “hide” posts, the power of writing online is staggering. It’s still surprising to me when I receive comments or hear in the hallways that people are reading my blog. Even more fascinating to me is the phenomenon of people actually linking to my blog as a result of my linking to their blog. But this is a lesson I learned from Jim Moore at BloggerCon2—the way to become an A-list blogger or a blogger that everyone reads is to read those A-list blogs, leave comments, and link to them so they start returning the favor.

Jill/txt writes about this reciprocity in her essay, “Links and Power: The Political Economy of Linking on the Web” which describes links as “the currency of the Web. With this economic value, they also have power, affecting accessibility and knowledge on the Web.” She describes Google as having changed searching the Web “by using links as the primary method of determining the value and thereby the deserved visibility of a web site.” She continues:
Google indexes links between web sites and interprets a link from A to B as an endorsement of B by A. Links can have different values. If A has a lot of links to it, and C has very few, then a link from A to B is worth more than a link from C to B. The value determined in this way is called a page's PageRank and determines its placement in search results [2, 7, 14].
The use of the term “endorsement” calls to mind political campaigning which is further supported by Walker’s discussion of the economy of links. She argues that after Google, “the economy of links is not product oriented. It is service oriented, and the service is the link. The link is an action rather than an item; an event, rather than a metaphor.” A perfect example to illustrate this discussion is the innovative use of the Internet by Howard Dean’s campaign. (See also
“political blog” at Wikipedia).

Driven by campaign manager
Joe Trippi’s fascination with technology and consulting experience on the Presidential campaigns of Edward Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, and Richard Gephardt (‘88), the Dean for America Internet campaign became, and some experts say still remains, the one to emulate. As Trippi recalls in his book The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything:
People often ask me which came first: the Dean campaign’s embrace of the Internet or the Internet’s embrace of Howard Dean. The answer is that it was a little bit of both. The curtain was rising on the Internet political movement right about the time we made the decision to turn on the lights.
But we almost missed our cue. (85)
He goes on to explain that after suggesting the Dean website put a link to
Meetup.com, which defines itself as “an advanced technology platform and global network of local venues that helps people self-organize local group gatherings on the same day everywhere” (“About Meetup”), he was told that “some people in the campaign didn’t think it was a good idea to put up a link to another website” (Trippi 85). Trippi’s response was, “That’s what the Internet is…a bunch of websites linking together. Just put it up there” (85).

It was this lack of trust in Trippi that many say ultimately led to the downfall of Dean when it mattered—offline; however, I see Trippi’s straightforward explanation of linking on the Internet as the campaign’s first move toward achieving the labels Open Source and grassroots. Walker would approve of Trippi’s logic because she argues, “Links have value and they give power. Power and knowledge are intimately connected.” (Go
here for jill/txt’s posts on Howard Dean).

If we reflect on this connection between power and knowledge, what is especially revealing is the lack of links to other sites on both
johnkerry.com and georgewbush.com, which proves that many are still cautious about “endorsing” other sites. However, as we discussed in the Presidential Bloggers session at BloggerCon2, this is more harmful to their campaign because it shows that they are not using the Internet as a way to learn or open the dialogue to views other than their own. As such, the Internet is not “the electronic agora” Howard Rheingold described in his book The Virtual Community. Walker closes her essay with the following which I feel best sums up the value of links:

There is no moral high ground here where we can ignore the political economy of links and remain pure and clean, thinking only of the felicity of links, their usability or functionality or beauty. We are participants in this power structure whether we like it or not. We can criticise it, reflect upon it, approve of it or try to subvert it. We must not ignore it.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

That Bitch!

A recent discovery, no one is as candid a blogger or does a better job linking than Bitch Ph.D. I think I have too much of an ego right now to remain anonymous, although I understand her reasoning when she refers to herself as “paranoid” academic and her blog as a “a space to try to figure it out (geographic discontent means leaving your therapist behind) without having to worry about adding "indiscreet and self-sabotaging" to "lazy and disorganized" as self-descriptors.” Perhaps I should turn anonymous, but I think I have been careful to control any anger and only use initials when naming friends and posting pictures of them. Maybe when I start the job search I’ll start a separate blog—I’m sure anything that resembles conservative MLA practices will piss me off and I’ll have to let off steam somewhere!

But forget about the
explicit content (recently noticed in The Guardian), in terms of linking practices, Bitch Ph.D. takes Bolter’s comparison of hypertext to modernism and runs with it, particularly in this post when she includes links to 6 separate blogs in the first sentence! Challenging her readers to notice that each word is a separate link, and then to follow those links and come back to finish reading her lengthy post, Bolter would describe her electronic writing as “constructive” since hypertext, defined broadly, is “the dynamic interconnection of a set of symbolic elements” (38). Echoing Bolter is Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People who describes blogs as post-centric rather than page-centric. However, I venture to say that they are also link-centric. Yes, Bitch Ph.D. draws readers in with her blog’s title, passionate voice and vulgar language, but what I find establishes her credibility and is more revealing is who she links to in her posts and on her blogroll.

I’m proud to say that she’s added me to “The once and future professoriate” category, which also includes Michael Bérubé!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Remediation is the name of the game/Imitation is the highest form of flattery

…and the easiest way to learn the power of a tool! While my ability to link to various online sources gained momentum as the weeks of the Fall semester continued, my most creative spurts came from titling posts as you can see from any of the titles from October 2003, e.g., “Is anyone reading this blasted thing-a-ma-blog?”

Then I read
this post by former and current classmate William and his choice of linking the word “trouble,” totally intrigued me. I believe Dr. Moxley also noted it in one of his weekly email assessments of our blogs, which also drew my attention to it. I had not considered the significance of choosing certain words to link and previously had only chosen the obvious: essay titles and names. From then on I’ve taken more time to think about which words to highlight when inserting the link I plan to share. I’ve progressed from this time in November 2003 with the word “here” to my more visually rhetorical practice of hyperlinking the posted picture. And no matter what computer you use to read my blog, if it is set to hover over links in a certain way or not, my blatant use of color [usually pink—see the comments to this post for a student asking me about that] to emphasize the links is now part of my practice.

Linking to me is the most important part of blogging and echoes what Jay David Bolter says about the remediation of print. I close this post with several key statements of his (44-45):

Hypertext is a process as much as a product…

In its emphasis on process and on the reader’s awareness of the medium, hypertext seems to belong to the literary tradition of modernism…

Electronic writing in general and hypertext in particular can be both old and new, because the process of remediation must acknowledge both their connection with and their difference from print…

New media are always new in their redeployment and refashioning of their predecessors…

Friday, September 17, 2004

Stay away from the Kairos!

Now that I have re-read that Searching the Blogosphere post, I think I was actually referring to the group blog, KairosNews and not the journal Kairos. But that serves as a nice segue into discussing why I hardly ever blog at KairosNews.

If you look at the two posts I have created there, here and here, the latter includes my confession that I am not a techy, only a blogger. It is one thing to click on a globe/chainlink icon, and a completely other thing to be told “All HTML tags allowed.” Huh?

Sad to say it, but I am not even worried about the fact that I don’t know HTML. Has the ease of blogging software made me this way? Probably, but as my further examination and reflection upon this new medium will tell you, it’s the world wide audience and opportunity to participate in civic discourse that appeals most to me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Awk of August

If you read my posts of August 2003, particularly this one on “Searching the Blogosphere,” you’ll see that I’ve included an awkward mixture of both pasting entire URLs into the textbox and hyperlinking to publications like The Guardian and Kairos. It was Joe Moxley who showed me that all I had to do was copy the URL, highlight the words that corresponded to the link, click on the globe/chainlink icon, and then paste in the URL there. Who knew it would be that simple!?!?! But it was, and within a week, I was soon linking all over the place.

I even wrote in my blog about it. In a post entitled “Those Bloody Links,” I reference the work of Rebecca Blood, author of the blog “Rebecca’s Pocket” and The Weblog Handbook, one of the assigned texts for the Rhetoric and Technology course. As we were told to “just play” with nearly every technological tool we were introduced to instead of offered clear instruction on how each could and should be used, I would turn to Blood’s book often for the context and ethics of blogging.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Got Moxie?

Time magazine's June 21, 2004 article "Meet Joe Blog" offers the perfect starting point for this post:

In a way, blogs represent everything the Web was always supposed to be: a mass medium controlled by the masses, in which getting heard depends solely on having something to say and the moxie to say it.

Enter The Mox/Moxie/Joe Moxley:

On our first day of Rhetoric and Technology, we each had to create a blog and I chose to do so at Blogger. However, at that time, they did not have a Comments feature, and since Dr. Moxley wanted to be able to leave us feedback, I didn’t last long there. To be honest, some of the more tech savvy students found a string of code that those of us at Blogger could paste in, and I did, (well they did it for me), but then
this happened, and I moved to the big blog-city.

Plain and simple, I chose blog-city because I liked the idea of titling my posts, which Blogger also didn’t have back then. You see, I’ve been jotting down chapter titles for books I will never write for years now, so the thought of daily chapter titles was going to be fun! And luckily, it was early enough for me to take the time and re-post all of my initial blog posts in that new space.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Rhetorical Question

Why did I choose to take a course entitled Rhetoric and Technology instead of Classical Rhetoric?

Well, once settled in Tampa, armed with my brand new Sony Vaio, flat screen monitor, and cable modem, and of course lacking any social life whatsoever, the tools were all I had. And being the less theoretical and more pragmatic academic that I am, I wanted to learn new tools instead of reading Plato and Aristotle. Consider it either the easy way out or as easing myself back into academia…

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Unlike Winston Weather in his book An Alternate Style, before late August 2003, I had NOT been “asking simply to be exposed to, and informed about, the full range of compositional possibilities” (2). Nor was I asking to “be introduced to all the tools, right now,” or “that all the ‘ways’ of writing be spread out before me and that my education be devoted to learning how to use them” (2). Nope. That wasn’t me. Sure, I knew I was returning to school and beginning my PhD program in Rhetoric and Composition, but I purposefully spent the summer on less academic and certainly less technological adventures, as I mention in this post and this one.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Hypersensitive to Hypertext

Before I began blogging, I had no idea how to hyperlink, or what exactly hypertext was. So when I started you would see long posts like the previous one, until I realized that other bloggers wrote very short posts and the point was to link to other places, not necessarily give it all to you in one textbox.

Yet too proud to ask or teach myself, I avoided what I thought was a complicated process. I thought creating and publishing anything online required superior knowledge of programming codes or intricate software. But that’s not the case with blogging. It’s so simple, kind of like word processing kicked up a notch, and sites like Blogger (whose motto is “Push Button Publishing”) and Blog-City (whose emphasis is on community and “building your neighborhood”), have made it even simpler in the year I’ve been blogging.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Blog the Blogger and Walk the Walker

How do I explain this new medium to other people who haven’t heard of the word “blog”? What definition do I give those luddites/non-bloggers? Well, usually I just say “an online diary.” However, I really don’t think that definition says anything about the power of the genre. Jill Walker, author of the blog jill/txt, has written the ultimate definition of “weblog” for The Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory to be published in 2005:

A weblog, or *blog, is a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Typically, weblogs are published by individuals and their style is personal and informal. Weblogs first appeared in the mid-1990s, becoming popular as simple and free publishing tools became available towards the turn of the century. Since anybody with a net connection can publish their own weblog, there is great variety in the quality, content, and ambition of weblogs, and a weblog may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers.

Examples of the *genre exist on a continuum from *confessional, online *diaries to logs tracking specific topics or activities through links and commentary. Though weblogs are primarily textual, experimentation with sound, *images, and videos has resulted in related genres such as photoblogs, videoblogs, and audioblogs.

Most weblogs use links generously, allowing readers to follow conversations between weblogs by following links between entries on related topics. Readers may start at any point of a weblog, seeing the most recent entry first, or arriving at an older post via a search engine or a link from another site, often another weblog. Once at a weblog, readers can read on in various orders: chronologically, thematically, by following links between entries or by searching for keywords.

Weblogs also generally include a blogroll, which is a list of links to other weblogs the author recommends. Many weblogs allow readers to enter their own comments to individual posts.

Weblogs are serial and cumulative, and readers tend to read small amounts at a time, returning hours, days, or weeks later to read entries written since their last visit. This serial or episodic structure is similar to that found in *epistolary novels or *diaries, but unlike these a weblog is open-ended, finishing only when the writer tires of writing.

Many weblog entries are shaped as brief, independent narratives, and some are explicitly or implicitly fictional, though the standard genre expectation is non-fiction. Some weblogs create a larger frame for the micro-narratives of individual posts by using a consistent rule to constrain their structure or themes, thus, Francis Strand connects his stories of life in Sweden by ending each with a Swedish word and its translation. Other weblogs connect frequent but dissimilar entries by making a larger narrative explicit: Flight Risk is about an heiress’s escape from her family, The Date Project documents a young man’s search for a girlfriend, and Julie Powell narrates her life as she works her way through Julia Child’s cookbook.

Now, I could have just linked you to that extended definition, but to emulate my beginner blogger techniques, I copied and pasted it in.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Blogiversary Party

It’s been a year since I started blogging. Others will tell you their stories, but here is mine. I now maintain three blog spaces, present conference papers on blogs, teach blogs to fellow teachers, and use them to teach first year composition. More obsessively, I blog about anytime blogs are mentioned by the mainstream press. Blogs, you could say, have taken over my life. Everything is blog-o-rific and fanbloggintastic when I am blogging, and this opportunity to meta-blog, or blog about blogging, is practically a dream come true!