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TSE  June 2001

TSE June 2001

Subject:

Re: Sequence vs depth

From:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 10 Jun 2001 11:32:06 EDT

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--part1_dc.7906623.2854ecf6_boundary
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Marcia, 

In the 1950s, there was a lot of talk about how a new way of thinking was 
needed for a new world. I think I first came across the idea in Henri 
Focillon, and later in Edward Hall. That one couldn't think in linear terms 
any more because this was insufficiently complex. That the new metaphor was 
layering, or montage--the recogniton that the world had many layers of 
meaning. 

Of course this is just a rehash of what was said in gthe middle ages--that 
the Commedia had four different levels of meaning. Why four I don't know, and 
one could argue that it possessed a near-infinite number of levels of meaning.

In any case, one expected this idea to trickle down in due course, and I'm 
always being rudely reminded that it hasn't. Many people still don't seem to 
have a sense of what linearity is or isn't, and of why one needs to go beyond 
it to arrive at a more nuanced understanding. Hence all the hype about 
hypertext, which is a tool and not a magical gimmick to allow anyone to do 
anything. As a tool, hypertext has the limitations of any tool; it  can't be 
any better than the person using it. 

Some of the best teaching material on the Internet, for example, comes from 
George Landow at Brown. But the guy was a legendary master teacher before 
computers came along, and therefore he knows how to adapt them to that 
purpose. There's been a long-term communication gap between the people 
designing hardware and software and those who wanted to use it--the 
"customers." How stupid, for example, to make computer screens wider than 
they are long, when we write on paper that's longer than it is wide!  My 
accountant wouldn't computerize for years, because he said the accounting 
programs were written by programmers who weren't accountants, and who 
therefore didn't understand what was needed in an acounting program. An 
architect friend had a similar complaint. The first word-processing programs 
were just as stupid, if intended for use by academics. They only put 
footnotes at the bottom of the page, and didn't allow endnotes at the end. 
Yet journals would only accept endnotes and wouldn't accept footnotes. 

My assessment of these and many similar shortcomings is that the self-styled 
hotshots doing the designing lacked the simple ability to follow two trains 
of thought at once. They got so wrapped up in "how am I going to design 
this?" that they couldn't deal, at the same time, with "how is this going to 
be used?"  In other words, it was exactly the kind of linear, stuck-in-a-rut 
thinking that was supposed to have disappeared in the 50s.

pat



In a message dated 6/10/01 9:48:02 AM Eastern Daylight Time, [log in to unmask] 
writes:


> [log in to unmask] wrote:
> 
> > Reading a book from beginning to end is a linear process, in the sense
> > that
> > it can be graphed as a straight line. The line can be subdivided to
> > show
> > one's progress (i.e., at 10 am one had arrived at page 17, and at a
> > later
> > point in time one had arrived at page 47).
> 
> Thanks, Pat.  I do understand what you mean by linear.  I still don't
> understand -- apropos your having said
> 
> > I'm a bit surprised, though, at the drift of this thread. To me,
> > linear is
> > linear, whether the thread has gaps, is crooked instead of straight,
> > or
> > meanders around into improbable areas.
> 
> why you are surprised, since the thread was about reading books in order
> and you introduced the notion of the linear in response to Rick
> mentioning hypertext.  I'm grateful for the introduction as overlapping
> terms can help sharpen definitions.  Linear and sequential are not the
> same in the matter of order, as you have pointed out.
> 
> M.
> 
> 



--part1_dc.7906623.2854ecf6_boundary
Content-Type: text/html; charset="US-ASCII"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

<HTML><FONT FACE=arial,helvetica><FONT  SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial Narrow" LANG="0"><B>Marcia, 
<BR>
<BR>In the 1950s, there was a lot of talk about how a new way of thinking was 
<BR>needed for a new world. I think I first came across the idea in Henri 
<BR>Focillon, and later in Edward Hall. That one couldn't think in linear terms 
<BR>any more because this was insufficiently complex. That the new metaphor was 
<BR>layering, or montage--the recogniton that the world had many layers of 
<BR>meaning. 
<BR>
<BR>Of course this is just a rehash of what was said in gthe middle ages--that 
<BR>the Commedia had four different levels of meaning. Why four I don't know, and 
<BR>one could argue that it possessed a near-infinite number of levels of meaning.
<BR>
<BR>In any case, one expected this idea to trickle down in due course, and I'm 
<BR>always being rudely reminded that it hasn't. Many people still don't seem to 
<BR>have a sense of what linearity is or isn't, and of why one needs to go beyond 
<BR>it to arrive at a more nuanced understanding. Hence all the hype about 
<BR>hypertext, which is a tool and not a magical gimmick to allow anyone to do 
<BR>anything. As a tool, hypertext has the limitations of any tool; it &nbsp;can't be 
<BR>any better than the person using it. 
<BR>
<BR>Some of the best teaching material on the Internet, for example, comes from 
<BR>George Landow at Brown. But the guy was a legendary master teacher before 
<BR>computers came along, and therefore he knows how to adapt them to that 
<BR>purpose. There's been a long-term communication gap between the people 
<BR>designing hardware and software and those who wanted to use it--the 
<BR>"customers." How stupid, for example, to make computer screens wider than 
<BR>they are long, when we write on paper that's longer than it is wide! &nbsp;My 
<BR>accountant wouldn't computerize for years, because he said the accounting 
<BR>programs were written by programmers who weren't accountants, and who 
<BR>therefore didn't understand what was needed in an acounting program. An 
<BR>architect friend had a similar complaint. The first word-processing programs 
<BR>were just as stupid, if intended for use by academics. They only put 
<BR>footnotes at the bottom of the page, and didn't allow endnotes at the end. 
<BR>Yet journals would only accept endnotes and wouldn't accept footnotes. 
<BR>
<BR>My assessment of these and many similar shortcomings is that the self-styled 
<BR>hotshots doing the designing lacked the simple ability to follow two trains 
<BR>of thought at once. They got so wrapped up in "how am I going to design 
<BR>this?" that they couldn't deal, at the same time, with "how is this going to 
<BR>be used?" &nbsp;In other words, it was exactly the kind of linear, stuck-in-a-rut 
<BR>thinking that was supposed to have disappeared in the 50s.
<BR>
<BR>pat
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>In a message dated 6/10/01 9:48:02 AM Eastern Daylight Time, [log in to unmask] 
<BR>writes:
<BR>
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0"></B>
<BR><BLOCKQUOTE TYPE=CITE style="BORDER-LEFT: #0000ff 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px">[log in to unmask] wrote:
<BR>
<BR>&gt; Reading a book from beginning to end is a linear process, in the sense
<BR>&gt; that
<BR>&gt; it can be graphed as a straight line. The line can be subdivided to
<BR>&gt; show
<BR>&gt; one's progress (i.e., at 10 am one had arrived at page 17, and at a
<BR>&gt; later
<BR>&gt; point in time one had arrived at page 47).
<BR>
<BR>Thanks, Pat. &nbsp;I do understand what you mean by linear. &nbsp;I still don't
<BR>understand -- apropos your having said
<BR>
<BR>&gt; I'm a bit surprised, though, at the drift of this thread. To me,
<BR>&gt; linear is
<BR>&gt; linear, whether the thread has gaps, is crooked instead of straight,
<BR>&gt; or
<BR>&gt; meanders around into improbable areas.
<BR>
<BR>why you are surprised, since the thread was about reading books in order
<BR>and you introduced the notion of the linear in response to Rick
<BR>mentioning hypertext. &nbsp;I'm grateful for the introduction as overlapping
<BR>terms can help sharpen definitions. &nbsp;Linear and sequential are not the
<BR>same in the matter of order, as you have pointed out.
<BR>
<BR>M.
<BR>
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0"></BLOCKQUOTE>
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial Narrow" LANG="0"><B>
<BR></B></FONT></HTML>

--part1_dc.7906623.2854ecf6_boundary--

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