摘自《The Language of New Media》
Traditionally, texts encoded human knowledge and memory, instructed, inspired, convinced, and seduced their readers to adopt new ideas, new ways of interpreting the world, new ideologies. In short, the printed word was linked to the art of rhetoric. While it is probably possible to invent a new rhetoric of hypermedia that will use hyperlinking not to distract the reader from the argument (as is often the case today), but rather to further convince her of an argument’s validity, the sheer existence and popularity of hyperlinking exemplifies the continuing decline of the field of rhetoric in the modern era. Ancient and medieval scholars classified hundreds of different rhetorical figures. In the middle of the twentieth century, linguist Roman Jakobson, under the influence of the computer’s binary logic, information theory, and cybernetics to which he was exposed at MIT where he was teaching, radically reduced rhetoric to just two figures–metaphor and metonymy. Finally, in the 1990s, World Wide Web hyperlinking has privileged the single figure of metonymy at the expense of all others. The hypertext of the World Wide Web leads the reader from one text to another, ad infinitum. Contrary to popular images of computer media as collapsing all human culture into a single giant library (which implies the existence of some ordering system), or a single giant book
(which implies a narrative progression), it is perhaps more accurate to think of the new media culture as an infinite flat surface where individual texts are placed in no particular order, link the Web page designed by antirom for HotWired. Expanding this comparison further, we can note that Random Access Memory, the concept behind the group’s name, also implies a lack of hierarchy: Any RAM location can be accessed as quickly as any other. In contrast to the older storage media of book, film, and magnetic tape, where data is organized sequentially and linearly, thus suggesting the presence of a narrative or a rhetorical trajectory, RAM “flattens” the data. Rather than seducing the user through a careful arrangement of arguments and examples, points and counterpoints, changing rhythms of presentation (i.e., the rate of data streaming, to use contemporary language), simulated false paths, and dramatically presented conceptual breakthrough, cultural interfaces, like RAM itself, bombard the user with all the data at once.
In the 1980s many critics described one of the key effects of “postmodernism” as that of spatialization–privileging space over time, flattening historical time, refusing grand narratives. Computer media, which evolved during the same decade, accomplished this spatialization quite literally. It replaced sequential storage with random-access storage; hierarchical organization of information with a flattened hypertext; psychological movement of narrative in novels and cinema with physical movement through space, as witnessed by endless computer animated fly-throughs or computer games such ass Myst, Doom, and countless others. In short, time became a flat image or a landscape, something to look at or navigate through. If there is a new rhetoric or aesthetic possible here, it may have less to do with the ordering of time by a writer or an orator, and more with spatial wandering. The hypertext reader is like Robinson Crusoe, walking across the sand, picking up a navigation journal, a rotten fruit, an instrument whose purpose he does not know; leaving imprints that, like computer hyperlinks, follow from one found object to another.
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