Monday, December 13, 2004

Stretch text

Anders wants to write a paper in Stretch text, and I am totally envious. It is a form of text I have wanted to play around with for a long time, but I have just put it away - like I have done with wanting to write an article as a hypertext, or just finishing the collection of poems I almost published way back when before I ever thought I would be in academia.

But Anders' wish made me remember and wonder about a woman whose ambition it was to write her doctoral thesis in stretch text. Anne Mangen, a postmodernism scholar and a colleague of mine, kind of, was at Xerox Parc as part of her Doctorate. During her stay there she got in touch with fluid documents, she presented a paper on this in 2001, and participated in publishing an article on the topic in 2002.

When Anne told me about wanting to write her thesis in fluid, I advised against it though. Why? A thesis for a doctorate is a certain genre, and it is hard enough to deal with as it is as a simple, flat linear text, fixed on paper, if she shouldn't make the dissertation itself a part of the research. I don't know what Anne chose - she's a brilliant woman, I am confident she made the right choice for her. But I know that I have let go of so many dreams for the sake of common sense and time restraints, I have become a quite boring and conventional middle-aged lady.

So, back to stretch text.

Anders links to his own earlier post, about using a graphic tablet - something I also envy him badly, got to see what I can find for a PC - and his sketched outlines resonate with the way I have to mix mediums and hypertextualise arguments in order to understand both what I am writing and what I am reading when it reaches a certain point of complexity. I have been known to cut texts into little pieces, physically, in order to understand them.

I want to try this. And then, perhaps, I will find a way to do it. Oh, the seductive mystery hidden just below the textual surface!

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