English 518 Course Blog

February 13, 2007

Lev Manovich, “Models of Authorship in New Media.” & Ted Nelson’s XANADU

Filed under: Uncategorized — missmoose @ 3:21 pm

Like the true rebel that I am, I am going off the beaten track yet again in this class.  In reading section 8 of Lev Manovich’s article Models of Authorship in New Media”, he mentions Ted Nelson when discussing his thoughts on the open source model for cultural authorship.  I had heard this name before and it piqued my curiosity so I did a little investigative work and this is what I discovered.  

Ted Nelson founded Project Xanadu in 1960 http://www.ibiblio.org/pioneers/nelson.html  with the goal of creating a computer network with a simple user interface.  Xanadu, http://www.xanadu.net/ , was to be a world-wide electronic publishing system that would have created a sort universal library for the people.  Nelson is also credited with coining the term “hypertext.” Nelson claims some aspects of his vision are in the process of being fulfilled by Tim Berners-Lee‘s invention of the World Wide Web. However, Nelson says he dislikes the World Wide Web, XML and all embedded markup, and regards Berners-Lee’s work as a gross over-simplification of his own work, as it “trivializes our original hypertext model and offers no management of version or contents.”   

Nelson appears to be suggesting that he wants to undomesticate or make literary hypertext feral as suggested by Jill Walker and Manovich in our readings for this week.  Manovich discusses Opus (Optimizing the use of Partial information in Urban and regional Systems) http://www.opus-project.org/  which addresses the issue of authorship in the computer culture, which allows multi-user collaboration in a digital network environment.   “Each media objects archived, exhibited and made available for transformation within OPUS carries with it data that can identify all whose who worked on it. This means that while OPUS enables collaboration, it also preserves the identity of authors/creators (no matter how big or small their contribution may be) at each stage of a work’s evolution.[1]  This notion touches on our Wiki project as well.  While we will not be given credit for authorship of an article, we will be able to go in and collaborate with our fellow classmates in a digital environment to achieve a responsible and factual entry.  I like that Manovich mentioned the Linux with the basic premise of a kernel (the code essential to the functioning of the system ) or license, and the author giving direction as to what others can and cannot do to his/her work.  I do not think that I would mind someone playing with my piece of work if the license was left in tact and the overall effect of the work was not altered.  I like the notion of being able to determine what can and cannot be done with the work based on the author’s guidelines.  With Linux, the work can be infinitely played with and modified, but the kernel cannot be altered in any histrionic way. I think this is what Nelson was shooting for as well with his Xanadu model, and what Manovich is advocating with this section of his article.   

[1] http://www.opuscommons.net/templates/doc/manual.html.



  1. Hey, you should post some information about Ted Nelson on the wiki, too. This information on Nelson is important contextually. You could probably transfer most of this information directly without changing very much (of course maybe you’ve already done that).

    Comment by chutry — February 13, 2007 @ 4:06 pm | Reply

  2. I have already considered this, but when I went to Wiki, I was lost as to how to post an item. I am struggling miserably with the Wiki. I need HELP!!!


    Wiki Illiterate in NC :O)

    Comment by missmoose — February 13, 2007 @ 5:38 pm | Reply

  3. We’ll take some time in class to work through these issues again.

    Comment by chutry — February 13, 2007 @ 6:51 pm | Reply

  4. One approach is to do the following: (1) Log-in. (2) Type the term you’d like to add, in this case, Ted Nelson. (3) Click “go.” (4) A prompt should come up on screen asking you if you want to create a page with the name “Ted Nelson.” (5) Click “yes.” (6) Edit the page.

    Comment by chutry — February 13, 2007 @ 6:57 pm | Reply

  5. I added both an entry on Ted Nelson and on Project OPUS! Thanks for the refresher course :O)

    Comment by missmoose — February 13, 2007 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

  6. I agree with your comment about someone “remixing” your work! I don’t think that anything is wrong with adding or changing these with other people’s work, as long as you give proper documentation that is legal. On the other hand, I agree with Manovich when saying that collaborative/group work can be very productive. Although you may not always end up with a prize to show from the collaboration, the experience of interacting with others and gaining new perspectives is priceless!

    Comment by tmitchell01 — February 14, 2007 @ 12:32 am | Reply

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