Rebooting Electronic Literature: Documenting Pre-Web Born Digital Media

David Kolb's "Socrates in the Labyrinth"

David Kolb's Biography

David Kolb is known in the field of electronic literature as the author of two major hypertext works, Socrates in the Labyrinth and Sprawling Places. A well-established philosopher, Kolb served on faculty at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine for 28 years and was awarded the Charles A. Dana Professor Emeritus of Philosophy by the college in 2005. He received his B.A. and M.A. from Fordham University and his M.Phil. and PhD from Yale University. Most of his writing deals with “what it means to live with historical connections and traditions at a time when we can no longer be totally defined by that history.” Before joining Bates College Kolb taught at the University of Chicago.

Socrates in the Labyrinth is a philosophical work that questions the epistemology surrounding print-based writing. It is one of a handful of hypertext essays published by Eastgate Systems, Inc. and the only one that focused on the topic of philosophy. It consists of five files: the titular one + four more: Habermas Pyramid, Earth Orbit, Cleavings, and Aristotle’s Argument. Kolb also produced a 6th file called Caged Text—named after the great experimental thinker John Cage. This unpublished work was structured around random pages from randomly chosen books from his personal library and linked together by a mix of randomly selected and intentional paths to demonstrate that humans make meaning even under such circumstances.
Versions of Socrates in the Labyrinth

✭ Version 1.0: Published in 1994 on 3.5-inch floppy disk

✭ Version 2.0: Published in 1994 on CD-ROM

Critical References
Carbone, Nick. “Socrates in the Labyrinth:  David Kolb Re-Thinks Argument and Philosophy.” Kairos 1.1. Spring 1996.

Fenty, Sean. “Sprouting the Line: How Hypertext and Philosophy Meet in David Kolb’s Socrates in the Labyrinth.” Blesok no. 25, March-April, 2002.

Tosca, Susana Pajares. Hipertulia. “Review of David Kolb’s Socrates in the Labyrinth.”

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  1. David Kolb