Rebooting Electronic Literature: Documenting Pre-Web Born Digital Media

Traversal of David Kolb's "Socrates in the Labyrinth"

The live Traversal of David Kolb's Socrates in the Labyrinth took place on Friday, October 27, 2017 at in the Electronic Literature Lab. It was performed by the author who journeyed from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, Washington in order to participate in the event. The Traversal documentation includes a video of the pre-show event and introductory comments, three video clips of the performance, and three videos of the question and answer session that followed the performance. We used the Apple iMac G4 flat-panel computer for the performance, running OS 10.3.9 and a copy of the work from Grigar's collection. Kolb arrived the afternoon before the performance in order to rehearse and to meet the production team. Greg Philbrook, The Creative Media & Digital Culture program's technical and instructional assistant, handled the technical setup on YouTube. Three of the four undergraduate researchers––Vanessa Rhodes, Mariah Gwin, and Veronica Whitney––oversaw the social media engagement and photographed the event.

David Kolb's Traversal of Socrates in the Labyrinth, Introduction

This video captures the approximately 30 minute long pre-show that took place in the Electronic Literature Lab prior to Kolb's live stream Traversal of his work, Socrates in the Labyrinth.  People can be seen filing in and interacting with one another. The sound playing in the background is a sound art piece produced by Dr. John Barber.

David Kolb's Traversal of Socrates in the Labyrinth, Part 1

This video clip starts off by playing the official trailer for the Pathfinders project, followed by Dene Grigar giving introductory comments prior to the live stream Traversal of Kolb's Socrates in the Labyrinth. Grigar thanks the audiences - both online and those present within the room - and describes the Pathfinders methodology and the Traversal process. She also thanks and introduces the workers in the Electronic Literature lab. Finally, she introduces Socrates in the Labyrinth author and performer, David Kolb. He begins his presentation by explaining how the innovative and revolutionary use of hypertext inspired him to break the status quo and write this piece.

David Kolb's Traversal of Socrates in the Labyrinth, Part 2

In this video clip, Kolb continues to detail the history and evolution of hypertext, noting its multilinearity - which contradicts philosophy's normal linear nature. He discusses George Landow's position on the connection between contemporary literary theory and hypertext technology, which "questions the unity of the text, the roles of the reader and the author, and the power relations of education and access to information." Though Kolb finds his ideas compelling, he ultimately does not find Landow's arguments to have settled the question. Kolb desires to explore how hypertext can restructure an argument and ultimately, form a new way of doing philosophy. Hypertext, he argues, brings intermediate form between "the letter and the book, the lexia and the docuverse."

David Kolb's Traversal of Socrates in the Labyrinth, Part 3

This video clip displays Kolb, continuing to detail his theories on hypertext advancing the field of philosophy. He quotes Stuart Moulthrop, who also critiques George Landow's discussion on hypertext and describes it as being "too classical." Kolb continues to emphasize the need for new forms in philosophy and again, argues that hypertext technology is a gap-bridging method of doing so. He goes on to ask, "why should we care whether argument and philosophy can be done in new ways in web writing?" He answers that it is important because it addresses how we organize our knowledge and asks "what has become of reason in our post-modern world?" With time, we as humans are changing and so do our ways of creating order within our processes and societal structures. He goes on to address the roles of reason and what happens when hierarchies break down. Hypertext, as Kolb explains, makes the case that our ways of thinking can be both linear and multilinear. Ultimately, he concludes that our non-sequential lives do not mean our lives are fragmented.

David Kolb's Traversal of Socrates in the Labyrinth, Q & A, Part 1

This video clip marks the beginning of the Q & A session with Socrates in the Labyrinth author and presenter, David Kolb. The first question is from an audience member who asks why Kolb believes other philosophers were so opposed to hypertext. He gives two answers to this, one being that the tools are not very handy, and the other that philosophy in general is very conservative in its modes of reading and writing. Nicholas Schiller asks if philosophy is in need of a new kind of logic for hypertext where the tools do not have to be linear. Kolb answers both "yes" and "no," and explains his reasoning based off the teachings of the scholar, Hegel. Grigar asks Kolb to explain why he chose the title Socrates in the Labyrinth, and he goes on to explain the significance behind including "Socrates" and "Labyrinth" in it. A member of the online audience asks Kolb what the ethical aspects of having hypertext language are in relation to other schools of thought, particularly from other philosophers like Descartes. Descartes, Kolb explains, has a very linear way of thinking.

David Kolb's Traversal of Socrates in the Labyrinth, Q & A, Part 2

In this clip, the Q & A session with David Kolb continues. An audience member asks Kolb to expand upon a prior comment of his where he stated that text can stake claims on people. A claim, Kolb explains, is not "do you believe?" but "do you acknowledge?" He relates this idea to the theories of Socrates and notes that hypertext is also good at making explicit qualifications. Online audience member and renowned electronic literature author, Judy Malloy, thanks David for his work and points out that though we have become accustomed with web hypertext, we should continue extending our thinking with hypertext in general. Kolb agrees and goes on to describe his observations of people reading through his web-based hypertext works. Grigar notes that many students within the audience are learning to code and use programs like Twine for digital storytelling. She asks Kolb to expand on his methodology of organizing information structures and nesting them within one another, as opposed to linking text together. He describes how he used Storyspace to accomplish this. His organization of lexias and nodes of text is recognized, and he explains his reasoning for structuring his information in this manner.

David Kolb's Traversal of Socrates in the Labyrinth, Q & A, Part 3

This video clip presents the final portion of David Kolb's Q & A session. Grigar asks Kolb to explain the reasoning behind adding four additional pieces of text to accompany Socrates in the Labyrinth. Kolb describes his reasoning for including them and notes their varying structures and how they pertain to the main text. He brings the work up on the computer to display how the nodes connect to one another. Grigar then notes how connecting ideas to one another reflects the human desire to make order and avoid chaos at all costs. Both Kolb and Grigar go on to discuss the technical aspect and process of how this work was created with Eastgate Systems, comparing it to the use of HTML to create electronic literature works. The subject of ethics in publication and promoting one's work is touched upon as the Q & A concludes.

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