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Labyrinth

Shortly after Teilhard de Chardin had dreamed up his Noosphere, an Argentintian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, imagined this virtual mind layer as a labyrinth. He wrote a story called The Garden of Forking Paths (1941) which was a forerunner to hypertexted novels - stories that could be read in a non-linear fashion. Stories with multiple paths and options.

"Beneath English trees I meditated on that lost maze" . . . "I imagined it infinite, no longer composed of octagonal kiosks and returning paths, but of rivers and provinces and kingdoms . . . I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of one sinuous spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future and in some way involve the stars."
Jorge Luis Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths, 1941

His novel foreshadowed the hypertexted writings that have followed (including the way we write our blogs), and inspired some hypertexted versions and "verbal fractals" of his own story.

Borges' novel also inspired Vannevar Bush to dream up a way through the maze, an information retrieval system called the Memex, which would store, preserve and call up information at will. His article As We May Think (1945), has stimulated much thought towards hypertexted systems, including that of Ted Nelson. Ted proposed elaborate ways of information retrieval though a system of entries, lists, links and sequences (Evolutionary List File). It is this proposal that makes the first mention of "hypertext", a "body of of written or pictorial material interconnected in such a complex way that it could not conveniently be presented or represented on paper." (from A File Structure for the Complex, 1965) His later sketch of Project Xanadu provided a system even more sophisticated that what we currently have today with the internet, but still carried the hope that within this maze of information that is building, ordinary people will be able to find what they need in a simple uncomplicated way.

So the internet is a labyrinth waiting to be explored, added to and to have new navigational journeys charted within it. There is already an overwhelming amount of information online, and those who provide a service do so with a filter rather than a funnel. I have a feeling that what will distinguish good weblogs from great weblogs over the next few years, will not be the content or the links, but the navigational structures we create to lead people through creative and transformative experiences with information.


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Comments

Your last bit reminds me of the grid blogging phenomenon, which enabled people to use Google to find posts on a certain topic, even on sites people had never heard of.

Posted by: Justin Baeder | May 9, 2004 4:38:36 AM

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