HyperMnemonics + MetaMimetics

There is a secondness to my remarks. There is a sense of coming afterwards. It is a belatedness that positions me as a writer able to leverage a coming from, a carrying over. I am a person dragging a memory.

I see or sense a pattern here and wonder if it may not be related to a pattern there. Always traversing, I move from observation into speculation. This here, that there. Moveable?

That here, this there. Moving?

Playing with blocks: a way of writing becomes a way about the written. I set a mark, draw attention to a spot. Then I can plot.

It is a mindset that remembers involution. It is an orientation that can imagine an element pointing to itself through ID/IDREF relations. To entertain an example of mark-up inspired by the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines, consider:
<ref id="Konvolut_O" target="Konvolut_O">URL</ref>
Odd as this may seem it is a way of being able to entertain the use of mentions. Odd as that may seem even.

Achieving Value

For some time I have been meditating on a question central in the discipline of economics. I have been wondering about the means of achieving value. I am beginning to think that beyond the simple accural of interest and investment (modeled on the movement of capital) that value comes through association.

In the practices of content modeling and markup, value is a technical term. Elements have content; attributes possess values. In a sense a value is the equivalent of content to an attribute. Much thought is given to deciding whether information should be encoded in an attribute or in an element. Strategies differ. For example, take the following bit marked up according to Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines:
<div type="entry"> ...</div>
Why not create a new element called _entry_ or _blogDiv_ or _blogEntry_? The Guidelines allow for modifying the Document Type Definition assembled from the TEI tag sets and they supply instructions for documenting modifications. I would miss the discipline of associating the text I was authoring with the content model that was devised by an international consort of working groups. I would miss not the rigour of discipline but the fecundity of the gesture of comparison. If I had chosen to create a new element would I have been able to think about the parts of a blog entry in quite the way I did? I doubt that I would have been able to translate a date & time stamp into the functions I saw at work across many blog interfaces. I was able to sort out the function of the time stamp as a serial marker from its use as a navigational anchor.

The tasks of a textual critic preparing an electronic edition are not just to add markup to a document instance. Not even carefully choosing what to add where. The tasks of an author creating an original electronic text such a blog is not just to fill in content for an element or provide the value of an attribute. Nor the tweaking of templates. The task of a critic and the task of an author are like the task of a translator. It is to imagine the otherwise. To work the form. To inform the work. Express what you want to do and eventually folks will gather round to help you. Time and time again I have witnessed textual critics and blog authors frame a wish and then seen communities of readers and fellow creators respond.

Worth remembering.

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.

Style Space

Certain rendering engines in certain versions of certain browsers do not implement the @import mechanism available in Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Given these conditions, stylists have some choices:

Option One
Maintain one set of modular stylesheets for all browsers whatever the implementation; rely on graceful degradation.
Option Two
Offer two sets of stylesheets: a single basic all-purpose stylesheet and a more elaborate set of stylesheets (built out of @import declarations); use Javascript to detect browser version and determine the appropriate stylesheet to serve.
Option Three
Give up styling, let user preferences determine display.
Option Four
Give up styling but implement an interface where a user could generate a stylesheet of their own devising.

At present, I am tending, for the Jardin project which is exploring content modeling of blogs via the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines, to opt for Option One. The modularity that I have introduced into the CSS files relates to the background colours of the body and the divs of class entry. Depending upon which CSS file gets imported, the colours are reversed.

Option Two appears in and of itself to be lots of work for little return. However, the notion of browser version and setting detection driving a selection of a stylesheet can be coupled with a command to write content. A distinctive combination of message and style can alert or remind users of the control they can exert over display. Why bother? Why not just serve up a document with the message "best viewed with browser [name]"? Because that little message assumes that the user has not overriden the browser settings and that the content pusher can always control the styling. It also assumes that the stylist has chosen colours that work across all platforms, has ensured that the colours for text, background, links, visited links are all set (and none left to user discretion), has ascertained that font families and sizes are appropriate to a variety of screen resolutions and user perceptual abilities and preferences. "Best viewed" is a very relative designation and browser choice alone does not determine its measure. So why not lean towards a single stylesheet for all or no stylesheet at all? There is some value in thinking through what could be accomplished by browser-version dependent stylesheets. Option Two becomes interesting when an HTTP refresh response can situate it as an introductory step to Option Four.

Option Four seems to be a route that demands HTML forms, cookies and other fancy stuff. End state: automation, user stupidity. Just thinking through a possible implementation from the perspective of the what the user needs to know uncovers some very interesting assumptions. An interesting question arises as to where to store the generated stylesheet (server or client side?). A collection of generated stylesheets could become accessible to others through a library housed on a server. For me, this space of the collection as differentiated from the space of the generation also lays bare some other assumptions.

While authoring a stylesheet there is the desire to move between the declarations in the stylesheet file and a rendering in some display. One wants to see if one is getting what one wants. HTTP is stateless protocol. Copies of the stylesheet and document are fetched and cached. If users know about file systems, they can transfer files from cache (which gets flushed periodically) to less transient storage. If users know how to either override stylesheet settings with their own stylesheet or can modify files and create their own stylesheet associations, then Option Four can be implemented without any fancy stuff. The objective of facilitating user generation of stylesheets can be accomplished via text files: a simple listing of the elements available, an example of a stylesheet that can be modified, and possibly a pointer to a resource for more information on CSS or file systems or etc. This is in the great tradition of the read.me file. No magic without application.

Option Three is the de facto case with browsers that do not implement CSS. From a rendering perspective, the glory of divs in HTML 4.0 is in the line breaks they cause. Always useful to check one's HTML output with a text-only browser. Makes for scrolling heaven.


I wonder about how blog authors begin to write entries. There are choices in opening the composition process: they might begin with a title or append the title afterwards. Before the products of composition are published, the writers could shuttle between title and entry and make many many changes.

I am interested in this in terms of the locus of compositional attention. A clue to remembering what happens in composition is to recall the reader. In some displays, the reader is afforded with a list of recent entries. Such lists usually pick up the titles to the entries in reverse chronological order. An author could play with the serial nature of such a listing. To embed a palindrome. To sketch a run through a spectrum of colours, seasons, planets. To establish a formalist pattern (or disrupt an established pattern) by an arbitrary run through a given alphabetic or numeric series. Such compositional behaviour could be called title tracking.

In French the semantic fields of cutting a loaf of bread and broaching a subject intersect through the verb entamer. So easy to imagine loaf cutting as broaching. And titles as serrated knives.

Beginning with Beta

test entry para

There is an unfolding about.

Scholar-at-large tackles TEI and blogging