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Structure

For as long as I can remember I have disliked the kind of linear prose shown at its worst in philosophical essays, in which often enough the only hint of structure is the grouping of sentences into paragraphs. I don't say that this is a bad thing in a novel, but I don't care for it elsewhere. Not even here, where I still struggle in vain to avoid it.

So long as printed paper was my only medium for presentation I sought to give good high level structure and make it visible in a heirarchy of sections and subsections concisely encapsulated in a contents list. My first real acquaintance with hypermedia was when I began to access, and soon after to prepare material for, the World Wide Web. This was for me an immediate liberation from linearity, but coming to terms with the new opportunities has as yet eluded me.

In the first, hypermedia was just a better way of presenting heirarchic structure, then it was a way of escaping from the need to chose one hierarchy rather than another. An opportunity to present the same material from multiple perspectives as organised by multiple hierarchic schemes.

In the last I now expect it to be a final shedding of hierachy as an organisational principle, and the discovery of an approach to writing which comes closer to the structure of thought.

One of the problems with heirarchic writing is that it encourages top down writing, in which the binding together of themes occurs before the material on the themes. As the mind flits, as mine does, dilletante, from topic to topic, without the patience to complete one line before beginning another, a space of references to futures is generated. There are many open ends in my mental world view as well, but thought is not so top down as an undue emphasis on hierarchy might suggest. It is at least as much bottom up as top down, and this creates a better founded mental model than could come otherwise.

So I would like to try to write in a more neural way. A unit of writing should be self contained and deliver its own message; not depending for its raison d'être upon material yet to be written. The unit must be small enough to be grasped in a view, with its own conspicuous structure. A page not much larger than will fit on the screen, and ideally a structure which stands out better than mere words ever will. The structure should link itself in to what is already present, not stand in hope of linking in to structures yet to appear.

Each page is then a new neuron. It has a body which will be much the same size whatever the topic, and tentacles which connect it to other nodes in this completely un-hierachic Web. Spinning the Web consists of creating new nodes, making new connections between nodes, adjusting the contents of nodes.


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