HyperMnemonics - MetaMimetics
Folding and Lacing

Elouise Oyzon, a careful recorder of design processes, and author and animating spirit of Weez Blog has inspired me to think about folds. Take one point in a series of entries. Map it onto another point in the same series of entries. Like a crease in origami. Like this-day-in-history exercises.

The fold analogy is perhaps misleading. When I contemplate an XSLT transform to automate the folding at some arbitrary point on some set of blog entries marked up in XML, it is the image of cutting a deck of cards and laying them out in parallel rows or columns that comes to mind. I can imagine such shuffling as leveraging the attributes available through conformance with a DTD derived from the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines. And so "corresp", "next", "prev" and "synch" can be accorded a variety of values based on generataing a reading traversal of the entries. And a reading traversal or web can be marked up in a stand alone fashion.

A point. A fold. A table. A set of moves familar to those conversant with re-reading. Some unit (page, stanza, paragraph, etc.) becomes the base for comparisons. A universe. A galaxy. A star.

Xooming. Cross-Zooming.

Scan and Spam

Elsewhere, what began as a trip into the brand names ended in speculation about material culture. I was intending to highlight spam's assonance with scam. Now that I have placed the verb "scan" in the first position in the title to this entry, I see that I was pointing away from spam towards cans (both as containers and capablities).

I like to scan spam. With Elm as my email client, should I by mischance open an incoming message doctored to fool the filters, I see the tagging and in that jungle it is difficult to tell what is being sold.

A game of stop words and proximity relations. Do the S and the E need to be separate? Or the X and the E? How would case and whitespace affect the readability for humans?

R <iop>N I P</iop>

As the example shows, the poetry of spam resides not only in the single subject line. Nor does it dwell in single messagea alone. Grouping matters. Like an index of first lines, a contingent series of spam messages sometimes clamour in a sometimes clumping polyphonous form. Reading those subject fields in clusters gives one a sense of the markets in porn, drugs, software, hardware and the pulse of the pitches to part fools and their money. One is tempted to plot frequencies.

Who has not felt tugged by the lure to get rich quick? Who has not been an avid bargain hunter? A voyeur?

Somewhere spam senders are paying for connectivity and somewhere that service is being taxed and somewhere revenues are being generated for kindergartens and old age homes. Ah, but you will ask, is it fair for the receiver to be reminded of veniality and incur expense in being reminded. What is the cost of forgetting?

Spam and Scan

As I scan the subject lines and provenance of messages I recall a version of processed luncheon meat called Click. A brand name very similar to the sound of the key used to open the can. A lever actually with one end like the eye of a needle and the other like the handle of a key to wind up a toy or a clock. The key came attached to the can. The key was detached and the eye-end hooked into a tiny tongue. A winding motion resulted in a wrapping of a strip of the tin and paper round the key. Considerable skill was required to avoid premature snapping.

There were containers that did not come with tools. Some books still require their pages to be slit.

The can opener on a Swiss army knife could also open bottles.

One kitchen tool was the bottle opener (for glass bottle with caps) at one end and a can opener (for cans of liquids) at the other. The can opener too was a lever. It was used to perforate the top of the can. For example, tomato juice cans would receive two holes before pouring. The holes would be placed at diametically opposed positions on the circle. Sometimes one hole would be a bit smaller, the air hole.

Tetra packs don't quite have the same craft potential as an old tin can. However masses of them have been recycled into construction material.

A can not a tin. From the Old English for cup. Apt now when I think of cans as repurposed containers akin to the reusable mason jars. But unlike glass, a nail and hammer could tackle a can and produce amateur tinwork.

Prying caps with a bottle opener was also an art. You didn't want to dent the cap too much. It could be added to a prized collection.

No fuss with milk bottles. No bottle opener was necessary. Fondly hoarded collection of cardboard milk bottle tops were, I believe, to inspire Pogs, some time after glass bottles had been replaced by cartons. With the arrival of plastic spouts and foiled seals, the art of opening cartons now tackles a different set of fine motor coordination demands.

However much I like the design concept of a milk carton that unseals to form a spout (and produce no disjecta beyond its on shell and that has served on occasion to create candles or nuture seedlings), I am not nostalgic. I am merely sensitive to the memories of handling containers and how such memories might impact not only on content modelling but also on text processing, that is reading and writing. Material culture counts.

It is not a straightforward progression from the lapwards look of the toddler sharing the page turning experience with an adult to the lone gaze upon the table where lies the precious paper and then to the vertical window-on-community of the screen. A toddler can face the inscription on a tombstone or some other monument. An older child can face billboards, traffic signs, the marks on a doorframe indicating growth spurts and can use the natural light from window to trace an outline.

An ergonomic workstation would of course allow a user to lower and raise the components to be able to play standing or sitting and allow a further position: contemplating the display device as if over a pool of water where even the blind enjoy ripples lapping. Of course the touch screen tablet exists. Will its deployment affect how office furniture, chairs and board rooms come to be viewed?

Copy, Paste, Paste

One of the joys of working with Emacs is the buffer. The user can select and paste from many blocks of copied or cut text. Every time the user copies or cuts a region, the block is added to the buffer without wiping out the previous block. It's a compositor's dream.

One of the other joys of working with Emacs is the terminology: mark, point, kill-region, copy-region, yank from the kill ring. Text editing sounds like a playground game of dodge ball.

I like the symmetry: select a block to be copied or cut; select from copied or cut blocks. Emacs is a generous replicator. With other applications and platforms, I have achieved similar results using multiple windows to create and access scrapbooks. Still there is a difference. Select, copy and paste is not select and paste.

Yes, memory management needs account for the difference. But the language makes one wonder. Does the ellision of selection in the common holophrastic expression (cut-and-paste) reflect a view of of the user as one-block-at-a-time reader? It may not just be memory management that is at work when one considers the metaphors that shape a user's understanding of what they do.

Intriguing how the ability to practice and compare different ways of writing serves remembering disjecta.


There is the book with a similar title by Raymond Williams. Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society. This was going to be an entry about how to capture a list of keywords for the markup of a blog entry in a content model informed by the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines. Then I remembered the title of a book that I have visited often and have on occasion cited as a nice and concise authority on the varied meanings of the term dialectic. If I had begun this entry under the rubric label, I might not have gone to the shelf and plucked down the 1990 imprint of the 1983 revised and expanded edition of the 1976 publication. And if I had not been thinking about the markup of poetry in blog entries, I might not have noticed. That I did notice is thanks in part to a current traversal of Robert Bringhurst's The Elements of Typographic Style version 2.5 making me sensitive to right justification, the layout of the words on the book's cover. The title appears as one of the words in a list which appears to be an alphabetized listing (no Q or XYZ) of entries contained in the book. Marked by its end position at the end of a right justified line and by its colour is the one word in the listing that does not appear as an entry, the epynomous Keywords.

A first pass at transcription might want to register the line breaks. A first pass at transcription might want to capture the words. Let's get the words first and raise the question of whether in this case of a found poem one is dealing with lines or line breaks. The words: Art Behaviour Class Dialectic Experience Family Genius Hegemony Industry Jargon Keywords Liberation Media Naturalism Ordinary Peasant Racial Sex Tradition Underprivileged Violence Welfare

Rekeying such a listing and reading over such a listing, one develops an appreciation for punctuation. The line breaks? Art Behaviour Class || Dialectic Experience || Family Genius || Hegemony Industry || Jargon Keywords || Liberation Media || Naturalism Ordinary || Peasant Racial || Sex Tradition || Underprivileged || Violence Welfare ||

Bringhurst writes:

The prose paragraph and its verse counterpart, the stanza, are basic units of linguistic and literary style.

Nuance, not "the" basic units. Simply, basic units. There are others. In the case of the found poem on the cover of Keywords it might be the page which in this case also contains the author's name and the subtitle of the book [Raymond Williams || A vocabulary of culture and society]. Would they too be part of some found poem? A stanza apart?

Parsing. Framing. Word wrapping. Line breaking. From reading lines to reading line breaks, what would I take? What would I set it apart? How would I dance with the arrows of reading?

Anchor, Render, Click

Adrian Miles in VLOG 2.1 records thoughts about texture and images provoked by a visit to a museum. The entry I have in mind contains a rather marvelous remark:

None of that Pavlovian click nonsense.

I like the sharpness used to distinguish one particular work experienced in this context from a heap of others. Rote behaviour seems remote from what Miles praises:

it was just dragging or mousing over and through the work that made things happen.

However it is the very sharpness of the distinction that makes me perk up to this tender spot. Miles doesn't rule out that texture can arise from Pavlovian click nonsense. Let's see how it could.

If I follow correctly there is an enthymeme at work that begins with the premise that interactivity is more than mere clicking on hotspots. Interactivity is more than activating a link; it is approaching an anchor. Approaches depend upon sitings; not in the sense of processing visual cues but in the sense of taking bearings.

A rendering of the hotspot does often take the form of a visual indication of a hotspot. This rendering can take the form of underscoring of words, a border around an image, a change in display colour of the words, rollover switches of image. Already with the roll over, one is in the territory of the mousing over. With stylesheet overrides one is deep into the territories of mousing as scan in search of the tell tale change in cursor shape when all traces of hotspots are gone.

Apart from hotspots for the point-and-click crowd, there is the necessary click as the first step to a mouse drag over an area followed by a release resulting in a selection and then the roll in and out of the selected area that changes the shape of the cursor. Apart from clicks and drags, there is at work here a type of zone formation: there is a marking a spot, marking a second spot, capturing the space between the spots. Once a zone has been demarcated, it becomes the possible target of for the application of different tools (via mouse or keyboard commands). This description is an abstraction of what often occurs in word processing, film editing or the manipulation of digital images. In all of these activities, the rote aspect may reside in the display of motor skill. Conditioned response certainly is not an aspect of the selection of the locus of action -- a selection marked by that initial click.

But that is clicking in an authoring environment! Consider that drop down menus in a viewing environment require clicks. Consider that even without a mouse click there is a touch-and-release activity in scrolling through screenfuls of lines be they visual or verbal.

I am pushing this to indicate that at a certain level of abstraction the experience of texture depends upon an input and the feedback to that input. The relation between input and feedback rests on the parsing of bodily movement according to the duration of the movement. The Pavolovian click nonsense can induce a perception of texture that ressembles aimless page turning or worry bead flicking or the twirling of a lock of hair or the swaying of a rocking body keeping time to a tune. The page turning will speed up and slow down. The flicking will alter in intensity. Twirl, sway, rock, all open to modulation.

All this to indicate that the texture can come from clicking. A degree zero of clicking texture could be imagined in the case where the I-bean of a cursor is aligned directly over a blinking insertion indicator: no change in the flow of feedback from the screen, just the sound and the spring back felt in the finger tip. That is the where and when, where texture is grounded in touch, and only if one is deaf. And the hearing are often deaf.

:: ADDENDUM :: For further reading, see Adrian's Paintings are not images entry http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/vog/vlog/vlog_archive/2004_01.html#00212

Counting to Five

Counting to five. Counting five. Nuance.

If I recall correctly as a child I learnt how to count on the fingers of one hand close to the same time that I learnt how to trace the outline of a hand. Two different ways of counting. A discontinuous numbering associated with the tips of the fingers and the thumb. A route through the peaks and valleys giving the numbering a durative character. When is one one? When two has begun?

Years later I find myself enjoying the sweep of second hands and the cycle of hours portrayed in round clock face. Years later I find myself playing with the pulse of the time separator and the chimes to punctuate my time at a keyboard, my sessions in front of a screen. Sometimes I find myself controlling a cursor with a rhythmic movement of the mouse: feeding a beat back to myself as I deliberate. Other times I feed on the click of the keys. Or, for a pause, foreground for myself the staple sound of the fan motor.

And now I return to the hand. I compare ways of counting up to five. Begin with thumb and wind through the fingers. Begin with index finger and save the thumb for last. What is counting down from five like. It feels different. Counting down in American Sign Language (ASL) is a stretch treat for a tendon that runs along the ridge the middle finger: five digits spread out, thumb in and four fingers out, thumb back out and two fingers out, thumb in and the index and middle finger out, the index alone. That wonderful distinction between the three fingers representing the letter form "W" and the thumb with two fingers representing the number or the numeral "3".

There are many lessons here for how memory works. I've lost count.

Beginning with Beta

test entry para

There is an unfolding about.

Scholar-at-large tackles TEI and blogging