February 23, 2018
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Adrian Miles

Terrible news that Adrian Miles, the brilliant Australian scholar of film and new media, died suddenly yesterday while bicycling in the countryside. In hypertext and new media circles, Miles is best known for his brilliant insight that the hypertext link functions as a cinematic cut. “While Michael Joyce once, rather famously, commented that ‘hypertext is the word's revenge on TV’,” Miles wrote, “I'd like to suggest that hypertext is in fact cinema's revenge on the word.” His 2001 paper on “Hypertext Structure as the Event of Connection,” which won the third Ted Nelson Award, is one of the great hypertext papers of all time. It springs from a remarkable insight:

Links generate what I’d like to characterise as an ‘anxiety’ within hypertext. This anxiety is evident in relation to writer’s and their use of hypertext, a reader’s ability to derive pleasure from reading hypertext, and is present in most theories of hypertext and linking which seek to provide rules for the application, role, or relevance of links in hypertext.

Miles’s anxiety does much to explain the subsequent technical, rhetorical, and political history of hypertext writing. An early proponent of Web video and a tireless advocate of personal expression — even and especially by students — on the Web, Miles coined the term vlog and did much to popularize the practice.

As a critic, he was a bold and a generous reader, always focused on the work without much care for the writer’s fame or following, and always placing the work ahead of the theory. No one was better at finding common sense in the airy realms of critical theory; I’ll never forget his application, one warm afternoon in Melbourne, of Bataille’s construction of excess to the biological roles of the nest of the Bowerbird and the tail of the Superb Lyrebird.