July 23, 2015
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Getting Started With Storyspace

Getting Started With Storyspace

When we started with Storyspace, personal computers were new and the idea of literary machines was controversial. Lots of people assumed that computers were for numbers, for accounting and business, and the idea of working toward something better than books seemed both crazy and strangely intriguing. Still, a lot of what we needed to do to get started was mechanical: this is a mouse, this is a file, this is a menu.

Today, the mechanical problems are much slighter, but the rhetorical problems are even greater. In the 1980s, postmodernism was fresh and (fairly) new and the horizons of critical theory glittered in the distance. Now, the path to that particular Emerald City is well-trodden, though lots of people no longer have much interest in going there. We’ve been reading and writing with links for twenty years: surely we know everything, right?

But we don’t: there’s a lot about plain old node-and-link hypertext, about writing with plain old static Web pages, that we don’t understand. There’s even more that we don’t understand about dynamic links, links that change as you read.

And what about the kids? There’s a new crop of freshmen coming in September, right? There always is. By definition, they don’t know How To Do It – and the best of them, of course, will shortly demonstrate that we don’t know, either.

I’m collecting exercises for teaching hypertext writing, in the hope of guiding Storyspace 3. If you’ve got a good assignment or lesson plan or a workshop segment that work, I’d love to hear about it. Email me.