Ex-foliations: Reading Machines and the Upgrade Path

Critical Writing
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Year: 
2008
ISBN: 
978-0-8166-5101-6
978-0-8166-5102-3
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Abstract (in English): 

In Ex-foliations, Terry Harpold investigates paradoxes of reading’s backward glances in the theory and literature of the digital field. In original analyses of Vannevar Bush’s Memex and Ted Nelson’s Xanadu, and in innovative readings of early hypertext fictions by Michael Joyce and Shelley Jackson, Harpold asserts that we should return to these landmarks of new media scholarship with newly focused attention on questions of media obsolescence, changing user interface designs, and the mutability of reading. In these reading machines, Harpold proposes, we may detect traits of an unreadable surface—the real limit of the machines’ operations and of the reader’s memories—on which text and image are projected in the late age of print. (Source: Publisher's website.)

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Every reading is, strictly speaking, unrepeatable; something in it, of it, will vary. Recollections of reading accumulate in relation to this iterable specificity; each takes its predecessors as its foundation, each inflects them with its backward-looking futurity.

Among the chief reasons why much of this book is devoted to systems and hypertexts of the first wave (and print texts and mechanical devices for reading them decades and centuries older than that) is that I do not think we understood them very well the first time or that we have discharged our responsibilities to them.

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Eric Dean Rasmussen