One common stereotype of people in the software business is that they're
not interested in anything else. If they have an
academic background at all, it's assumed to be in computer science.
However, this is often far from the truth. In my case, my undergraduate
interests were deep in the liberal arts, with a diverse background in:
The University of Chicago tends
to encourage this sort of thing. :-)
- Literary and Textual Theory,
- Abstract Math,
- Rhetoric and Economics,
- among others.
Anyhow, in order to get my BA, I wound up in a very obscure
interdisciplinary program called
Studies, where I synthesized many of these interests in the form of a
fairly massive BA paper (see below).
It was a sufficiently exhausting and frustrating endeavor, that I wound
up leaving academia for a while -- quite a while. I've spent a lot of
quality time in the commercial software business since then,
but I've never forgotten how fun and challenging my
academic experiences were. If I ever go back, I'm likely to continue
exploring some of my old academic interests in ...
Alternate Models of Hypertext
Since 1994, when commercial applications of Web technology began to go
mainstream and pervade the public consciousness, simple applications of
networked hypertext have become commonplace. Yet prior to this boom,
hypertext was a fairly obscure research topic with limited applications.
I continue to believe that the true potential of hypertext has yet to be
It feels great to know that this work has definitely had some
on other theorists, but I'd still love to push it further.
- The TextBase Paradigm
Architectural Considerations for a Second-Generation Scholar's
(August 1990 - April 1992)
- This is an HTML transcription of a near-final draft of my BA paper,
which presents a new model for computerized tools for handling
large amounts of textual analysis. This model, based on literary
theories of textuality, attempts to describe a new hybrid of text and
databases, called textbases. Of particular interest is the notion of
hypertext as an exterior set of overlapping markup schemes
that can be overlaid on the text and compared.
While Web browsers circa 1997 are a far cry from the TextBase
tools envisioned in this paper, it was fun to use
frames to produce several
alternative presentations of the same
- Getting beyond the link primitive:
Expressing textual structures in terms of link structures
(October - November 1991)
- These notes were assembled for the Hypertext '91
conference, where I was hunting for graduate programs which might
support further work on my topics. Since the BA paper was in
nearly-final form, and had become quite lengthy, I
needed another format to present some of the more interesting ideas
which had grown out of that work.
Of particular interest are the pictorial representations of much of the
theoretical terminology (especially "threads", "zones", and "zone
schemes") which I was developing at the time. Hypertext theory circa
1991 was caught up in a "chunky" vs. "creamy" dialectic which addressed
different problems than I was tackling with the textbase paradigm.
Thus, these notes were an attempt to sketch out an alternative model
using new terminology.
Also of interest are some tantalizing hints at the end about the sort of
set-theory or algebraic operations which might be used on these richer
collections of link structures.
1Yep, the same conference where Tim Berners-Lee demonstrated
his initial NeXT prototypes of software for the World Wide Web, over a
full year before Marc and the crowd over at NCSA started writing Mosaic.