Armed with the knowledge that I have foolishly volunteered to give a talk about Intertwingularity to the good people of ‘Web Staffordshire’, which needs to be condensed into a 10 minute slot in serialised space-time, I thought I’d start work 2 weeks earlier than normal. Being brief takes longer.
I read a sentence, “Hierarchical and sequential structures, especially popular since Gutenberg, are usually forced and artificial” in my notes, for the nth time, where n is not an especially small number. Gutenberg, printing, books? Why hadn’t I noticed this before? (I can answer that: I was thinking about what information ‘sequence’ is last night. I had to do that before I could see this. The order in which ideas are presented matters a great deal. I had nowhere to hang the new idea until I had constructed the hook labelled “sequence/serialise/order/sort”.)
My mental model of books has previously been pseudo-infinite rolls of paper, like long web pages, chopped up at appropriate page boundaries to fit between book bindings, but I should have KNOWN that isn’t right. Shakespeare’s ‘Folio’ was a collection of earlier, shorter documents. Medieval scribes wrote important works on vellum and calves don’t come in ‘Size Infinite’. I have never held a real scroll. I don’t know how to operate one.
Was there an index in the jars which contained the Dead Sea Scrolls? Has Mr. ‘hypertext’ Nelson been telling me all along that hierarchy came in with the printing press, as a way to manage text ‘at scale’, like an army, and I’ve been ignoring him? Imagine these fixed-leaf binders defining and thereby constraining ‘correct-sequence’ of text-chunks that were once free to wander?