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Review: Pathways of the Mind

The late John Miles Foley (1947–2012) was a highly respected scholar of oral poetry. In his last book, Oral Tradition and the Internet: Pathways of the Mind (2012), which is the print version of his Pathways Project wiki, he proposes a structural analogy between the way oral poets fashion their performances and the manner in which web users traverse the links of the hypertext medium. From this analogy, the author proceeds to spin an end of print yarn, suggesting that the web liberates us from the tyranny of the book and returns us to the happier dispensation that prevails under the culture of oral poetry.

I find this claim unconvincing and express my reservations in a review article.

Foucault and the European Journal that never was

Caricature: Foucault

While looking in my papers for something else entirely, I’ve just come across a few copies of the pilot issue of Das Europäische Journal der Bücher & Autoren, published in January 1999, printed on 42 g/m2 paper at 245 mm x 400 mm. The Journal was intended as an implementation in German of the publishing model pioneered by the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. With a print run of 60,000 copies and a minimum of 48 pages per issue, the monthly was going to retail for 8 Deutsche Mark, 8 Swiss Francs, or 56 Austrian Schilling.

By the time I met the journal’s prospective publisher and editor in chief, a middle-aged academic from Southern Germany, he seemed anxious rather than hopeful about the project. He had made a huge investment of time, effort and enthusiasm into a project that may have been doomed from the beginning. He was worn down by protracted battles over funding. Knowledgeable people with whom I discussed the project told me it didn’t stand a chance as its market was too small.

Regardless, I contributed a few illustrations to the effort, one of which was the caricature of Michel Foucault flashing a wide grin, posing with an archaeologist’s spade.

The caricature is not a patch on the great David Levine‘s work for the New York Review of Books, but what ever is?

Das Europäische Journal der Bücher & Autoren never made it beyond its pilot issue.

But the coolest filtering is personality-driven

In August 1997, Infoworld arguably ran the earliest press article on blogging:

Blood’s simple

You may have caught wind of the latest technology that promises to be every user’s electronic secretary: intelligent agents. In theory, these bots will eventually crawl the Internet collecting and collating bits you’ve indicated might be of value. We haven’t seen a proof-of-concept yet, but there’s some flesh-based filtering happening on the Web now that’s beaten software agents to the punch.

Several online news sites offer headlines and off-site links to hot stories, but the coolest filtering is personality-driven. It’s the model through which the Web blossomed: In its infancy, the Net’s most popular pages were simply the bookmarks of early adopters.

So if you need an intelligent agent, pick one with some street smarts. Dave Winer, for instance, is a sunchild-cum-gadfly who updates his Scripting News site ( several times a day with a thread of links that record the ebb and flow of industry doings. By doing so, Winer both sparks and records a fascinating dialogue. Another strong voice is Michael Sippey, architect of Stating the Obvious ( Tellingly, Sippey calls his daily list of links “Filter.”

The sites aren’t as personalized as an envelope from Mom stuffed with hometown news clippings that “you really should read,” but they’ve got the heart that algorithms and Boolean logic don’t.

Brookshaw, C., Hammond, E., & Talley, B. (1997, August 11). Loose Cables. InfoWorld, 19(32).

Weather report

weather report
Mixed media, private collection, digitised courtesy of J.H. (printable .pdf, DIN A4)

Designing a logo on Twitter

THATCamp LAC logo

THATCamp LAC is an informal conference held in De Pere, Wisconsin, from 4 – 5 June 2011, to discuss digital humanities at US-American liberal arts colleges. Ryan Cordell, one of the conference organisers, posted his original version of the conference logo to Twitter in April this year, asking for opinions. I offered a few opinions and supplied remixes of the design, one of which was adopted as the conference logo within a day or two. I’ve just reconstructed the evolution of the design in a selection of public tweets.