Way Out of the Box

Today’s computer constructs were made up in situations that ranged from emergency to academia, which have been piled up into a seemingly meaningful whole. Yet the world of the screen could be anything at all, not just the imitation of paper. But everybody seems to think the basic designs are finished. It’s just like “Space, we’ve done that!” — a few inches of exploration and some people think it’s over…..Today’s arbitrarily constructed computer world is also based on paper simulation, or WYSIWYG. That’s where we’re stuck in the current model, where most software seems to be mapped to paper. (“WYSIWYG” generally means “What You See is What You Get”– meaning what you get *when you print it OUT*). In other words, paper is the flat heart of most of today’s software concepts.
Theodore NelsonWay Out of the Box (Ted Nelson’s EPrint Archive)

Link via The Great Lettuce Head.

Nelson writes “the screen could be anything at all, not just the imitation of paper,” but as Nick Montfort reminds us in his “Continuous Paper,” computer culture was well-established before screens replaced the rolls of paper streaming through print terminals and teletypes.

The document quoted above is an example of Nelson’s version of a two-way web, part of the “transquotation” concept in his Xanadu. His ideas challenge too many people’s notions of writing, ownership, and locality to catch on in the mainstream (at least for now). The freak-your-mind possibilities of this implementation of open-source text sound fantastic. I’m sure this has been debated in the RSS/XML/Whatever debates that often gets A-list bloggers riled up. I need to get a bigger job jar — mine’s overflowing as it is. But here’s a light piece about Xanadu and transclusion.