Folding and Lacing
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
However much I like the design concept of a milk carton
that unseals to form a spout (and produce no disjecta beyond its own 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
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
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
Intriguing how the ability to practice and compare different
ways of writing serves remembering disjecta.
There is the book with a similar title by
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
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
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
paragraph and its verse counterpart, the stanza, are basic
units of linguistic and literary style.
"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
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
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
it was just dragging
or mousing over and through the work that made things
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
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
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
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
Beginning with Beta
There is an unfolding about.