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.

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).