By Terry Harpold
“Every analyzing is, strictly conversing, unrepeatable; anything in it, of it, will fluctuate. reminiscences of analyzing collect when it comes to this iterable specificity; each one takes its predecessors as its origin, each one inflects them with its backward-looking futurity.” In Ex-foliations, Terry Harpold investigates paradoxes of reading’s backward glances within the conception and literature of the electronic box. In unique analyses of Vannevar Bush’s Memex and Ted Nelson’s Xanadu, and in leading edge readings of early hypertext fictions via Michael Joyce and Shelley Jackson, Harpold asserts that we must always go back to those landmarks of recent media scholarship with newly targeted realization on questions of media obsolescence, altering consumer interface designs, and the mutability of studying. In those studying machines, Harpold proposes, we might observe characteristics of an unreadable surface—the genuine restrict of the machines’ operations and of the reader’s memories—on which textual content and snapshot are projected within the past due age of print.
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Extra info for Ex-foliations: Reading Machines and the Upgrade Path (Electronic Mediations)
A uniform or translatable keycoding scheme with support for Boolean matching could replace the purely idiosyncratic one proposed by Bush. 45. 26 But Memex was always, above all, a thought experiment: that is—a reversal of that term seems justiﬁed here—an experimental application of a model of thought and its record. Bush is less interested in the engineering details than in forecasting the promise and heuristic of a new kind of mental furniture; everything else is there to lend it scale, to enable it to be inscribed.
38 Crimi’s illustrations signify on several registers support of this imaginary of storing-away or -up: desk drawer (the archive as enclosure), automaton (the archive as hidden mechanism), image (the archive as interiorized photology); put-that-there (the correlation of vision and action, the gaze as scalpel, the lens as bombsight). Which is not to say that these images constrain Bush’s device to the limits of these forms—the cut-away view already implies a traversal of boundaries, the Cyclops camera and the concept of the trail more so.
Memex III may respond without this crudity of involving nerve systems which have no real part in cerebration. But this will have to wait until the psychologists and neurologists know far more than they do now, and until the advent of devices and instruments, of which the encephlograph [sic] is only a faint beginning, which can sense the activity of a brain without interfering with its action. 51 The spooling mechanism is still the heart of the device, but much of the gadgetry of the ﬁrst design has been nearly abstracted away.