Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Transliterature

From Ted Nelson's "Transliterature: A Humanist Format for Re-Usable Documents and Media":
What is literature? Literature is (among other things) the study and design of documents, their structure and connections. Therefore today's electronic documents are literature, electronic literature, and the question is what electronic literature people really need.

Electronic literature should belong to all the world, not just be hoarded by a priesthood, and it should do what people need in order to organize and present human ideas with the least difficulty in the richest possible form.

A document is not necessarily a simulation of paper. In the most general sense, a document is a package of ideas created by human minds and addressed to human minds, intended for the furtherance of those ideas and those minds. Human ideas manifest as text, connections, diagrams and more: thus how to store them and present them is a crucial issue for civilization.

The furtherance of the ideas, and the furtherance of the minds that present them and take them in, are the real objectives. And so what is important in documents is the expression, reception and re-use of ideas. Connections, annotations, and most especially re-use-- the traceable flow of content among documents and their versions-- must be our central objectives, not the simulation of paper.
via Ben Vershbow's discussion of transliterature at If:Book.

I like how Nelson defines a document as "a package of ideas created by human minds and addressed to human minds, intended for the furtherance of those ideas and those minds," which is part of his desire to think of digital texts as material documents that transend writing and the logics of chirographic and print culture.

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