In an attempt to elucidate some linkages between Johnson-Eilola’s “The Database and the Essay” and Rice’s “English <A>”, I thought it might be useful to generate a few quote-to-quote connections based on some of the authors’ common notions about writing.
- Mention of Ted Nelson’s non-linear notion of hypertext
Johnson-Eilola: “Hypertext pioneer Ted Nelson once claimed that hypertext, the structure of node connected by links, was actually the more general form of text; linear text was a special case”(218).
Rice: “<A> links the Web’s pages by creating a vast network of relationships. In doing so, it generates the non-linear sequentiality Ted Nelson declared as being at the heart of his initial vision of hypertext….Nelson imagined information as relationships formed through links”(50).
2. Recognition of the perhaps outdated notion that writing is an individual and linear act
Johnson Eilola: “despite the realization that our culture increasingly values texts that are broken down, rearranged, recombined, we rarely teach forms of writing that support such production. We unwittingly (or sometimes consciously) still think of writing as a way to help the self become present to itself, as a method of personal growth and discovery”(209).
The idea that we value text that is created in a potentially “messy” and non-linear manner is an important point to consider in our teaching of writing.
Rice: “[a]s important as it seemed to English A’s authors to not allow writing to interfere with other studies or students, it also seemed equally important to equate writing with the notion of one individual working independently; similarly, the single author the student studies works independently (and is read as a single body of information). Two levels of individuation were emphasized” (56-57).
The notion that the student reads a “single body of information” coincides with a linear thinking pattern. This would naturally present itself as linear writing by the student, as opposed to the “broken-down, rearranged” pattern that is so prevalent in written work that is presented online.
3. Emphasis on writing as networked and relational
Johnson-Eilola: “Indeed, search engines make concrete and visible many of the things that hypertext theorists have long argued for: contingent, networked texts, composed with large and shifting social spaces out of the literally millions of voices”(221).
In Rice’s vision of relational writing, an individual “works with <A> as a tag so that information is publicly named and engaged with, is pushed toward other users and spaces by tagged content” and “<A> is the basis of a large network of people, things, ideas, and places that find connectivity rather than are made to connect”; in addition, <A> also “allows multiple moves across multiple spaces so that multiple bodies are created”(64).