Interview with Belinda Barnet, author of “Memory Machines: The Evolution of Hypertext”

9780857280602_hi-res_1The following is an interview with Belinda Barnet, author of
Memory Machines: The Evolution of Hypertext

This book is an exploration of the history of hypertext, an influential concept that forms the underlying structure of the World Wide Web and innumerable software applications.

Q: In the Introduction to your book, Stuart Moulthrop describes the current state of networked, computational media as ‘ugly and benighted’. Do you agree with him?

Belinda Barnet: I think we are facing some very real problems with networked computational media that people like Ted Nelson predicted we would face. For example, although the web is a successful globe-spanning archive and publishing system, it has issues as a hypertext system. Links break, content is duplicated all over the shop, copyright is difficult to preserve, the page you visited three months ago has now vanished. Many of the earlier hypertext systems I survey in this book had their own solutions to these problems. So yes, I understand what Stuart means by ‘ugly and beighted’.

Q: How do you account for the success of the Web if earlier versions were ‘in some respects more powerful than the Web’, as you say?

BB: I think the web won because it worked. It was not a proprietary system (like most of the systems I survey in the book), it was not difficult to learn, it provided a cheap and quick and effective way to publish things and create links *between* documents on opposite sides of the world. That’s quite an amazing feat. But just because it works doesn’t mean other systems would not work just as well, or better. Systems like Xanadu for example.

Q: You write that ‘[t]he systems I look at here were exciting and revolutionary in their era, but like mermaids gold from children’s storybooks, they turned to ashes when brought to the surface’. Why do you think alternative visions have never made it to the surface?

BB: They all had different reasons. For NLS, although the demo changed the computing world, the system itself ultimately faded out. I think it was because it was difficult to learn and use, but also because Doug was brilliant, a gifted and visionary person, but not really a businessman. I personally still hold out hope that Xanadu will make it to the surface, but I think it hasn’t so far for a number of reasons that are detailed in the book. Part of it may be that Nelson was at times his own worst enemy. Another reason may be that transclusion, the very powerful and groundbreaking idea that content should be re-used by reference rather than copying (and that this content should be traceable back to its source), has been a little difficult to build. Nelson has always wanted that to work, and has waited a long time for it. Memex was never built because digital computing swept the planet and it was really an analogue device, so the technology itself became obsolete.

Q: What, in your opinion, would be the aim and purpose of a perfect hypertext?

BB: The perfect hypertext system would be simple and easy to use, which the web already is. But links would not disappear or break, you would not lose documents, you would be able to re-use content by reference and trace that content back to its source. The perfect hypertext system would not require you to festoon content with markup before you publish it – and it would not require search engines to make sense of it for you.

Q: Why would you recommend students read your book?

BB: There is much to be learned from the history of hypertext, especially the systems that failed. We are currently facing problems that the early pioneers predicted we would face, and they had their own solutions to those problems. So this history is also relevant to people who are currently trying to design solutions for the problems, like the semantic web. I would like to see computing science as well as media and communications people reading this book.

 

Find out more about the book and the author on our website:
http://www.anthempress.com/memory-machines

Newly Released Australian Studies Titles!

Some newly released Australian and Australasia-related books from a collaboration between Anthem Press and Melbourne-based Australian Scholarly Publishing:

 

 ‘For those who’ve come across the seas...’‘For those who’ve come across the seas…’: Australian Multicultural Theory, Policy and Practice

Edited by Andrew Jakubowicz and Christina Ho

‘An exhilarating intervention in the global ‘multiculturalism has failed’ debates, this well-researched and passionately argued volume details how people actually live diversity in their everyday existence, and the ways in which everyday multiculturalism might profitably inform more nuanced policies.’
—Professor Sneja Gunew, University of British Columbia, Canada

 

Nazi DreamtimeNazi Dreamtime: Australian Enthusiasts for Hitler’s Germany

By David Bird

The ground-breaking story of extreme-right, ultra-nationalist thought and practice in Australia in the period immediately before and during the Second World War.

 

 

 

 Constitutional Conventions in AustraliaConstitutional Conventions in Australia: An Introduction to the Unwritten Rules of Australias Constitutions

By Ian Killey

Responding to the omissions of Australia’s constitutions, this work explains the nature of conventions, how they arise, how they are altered, and their operation and development.

 

 

 

Parliamentary Government in AustraliaParliamentary Government in Australia

By Alan J. Ward

Combining constitutional history and political science, this volume compares all nine of Australia’s political systems, federal, state and territory, from colonial times to the present.

 

Vivian E. Thomson Talks About the US on the World Stage of Climate Change

The 2 June announcement of a new draft of regulations under the United States Clean Air Act has brought environmental issues to the forefront political discourse. The new act includes a lofty proposal of a 30% cut in carbon emissions by 2030, making the US a leader in global climate change. Thomson and Colleagues at her Book Launch at the Heinrich Böll Foundation

Anthem author and University of Virginia professor of environmental science and politics Vivan Thomson (left) speaks to the theoretical frameworks of the recent act in her book, Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy: Federalism in the United States, Brazil, and Germany. “My book relates directly to EPA’s forthcoming announcement,” says Thomson. Her experience in the State Air Pollution Control Board of Virginia, a state hard hit by the EPA’s announcement because of the economic dependency on the coal industry, give her an insightful take on the state-federal cooperation in environmental affairs. Although the great reduction in carbon emissions is an admirable environmental goal, much of Virginia’s economy depends on highly pollutive coal. Despite the discordant state and federal goals, Thomson pushes for coherence, pointing to Brazil and Germany as examples for the United States to emulate. 

As the conversation over the EPA’s goal for climate change in the United States continues, we watch for the state-federal cooperation Thomson prescribes.

HEAR more from Thomson, listen to her recent podcast here: http://wina.com/podcasts/vivian-thomson/  

WATCH Vivian Thomson discuss her book on Inside Scoop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaQpDUw7hqM

Interview with Magda Romanska, author of “The Post-traumatic Theatre of Grotowski and Kantor”

9780857285164_hi-res_1The following is an interview with Magda Romanska, author of
“The Post-traumatic Theatre of Grotowski and Kantor: History and Holocaust in ‘Akropolis’ and ‘Dead Class’”

This book is a historical and critical analysis of the post-traumatic theatre of Grotowski and Kantor, examining the ways they represent Auschwitz in their respective pivotal works ‘Akropolis’ and ‘Dead Class’.

Q: Kathleen Cioffi writes that your book manages to ‘reclaim both the Polishness and the Jewishness of Grotowski’s and Kantor’s chefs-d’oeuvre.’ How would you describe the work of these writers as particularly Polish/Jewish?

Magda Romanska: The work of both directors is strongly embedded within the framework of Polish literature and culture. However, historically, Polish culture and literature were embedded within the framework of Jewish tradition. Before World War II, the Jewish and Polish cultures intermingled for over a thousand years. It was often impossible to distinguish between the two, they were so interconnected. Both Kantor and Grotowski weave in the two motives in visual and textual tapestries that pay homage to this millennial history, including the Holocaust and its aftertrauma.

Q: For a long time ‘any attempt to discuss them [Grotowski and Kantor] side by side not only seemed impossible; it seemed like a sacrilege.’ Why did you choose to analyze these two writers together?

MR: Both Kantor and Grotowski are towering figures in Polish and European theatre. During their lifetimes, they were mutually respecting rivals. When Grotowski first saw Kantor’s Dead Class, he said, jokingly, “Unfortunately, I have to admit this is a masterpiece.” Kantor, on his end, was less generous, regularly referring to Grotowski as a “charlatan.” They also represent two antithetical aesthetic and theoretical poles of theatrical discourse. Each pushed his experiments to the opposite extreme in his approach to the human body, space and performance. Their worlds are like two binary signifiers: neither can be fully understood without comparing it to the other.

Q: Kantor wrote that ‘theatre needs to be universal to be national,’ yet your main focus in this work is to bring the works back to their national origin. Would you then renounce the universal appeal that has been ascribed to Grotowski’s plays in particular?

MR: It’s a much-repeated cliché that theatre—any art, really—needs to be specific to be universal. Robert Pinsky has a talk: “When Does the Specific Become Universal?” It’s one thing to make the work relatable (an approach that implies equality, parallel tracks), but it’s another to see it merely through the prism of your own culture (an approach that implies inequality). What happened to both Kantor’s and Grotowski’s works was that their specificity got lost in that type of imperial-like attitude, which dismissed the Polish and the Jewish roots of their theatre as backward. Certainly, both Kantor and Grotowski are part of the European avant-garde, and their work blends in many elements of world theatre; but it is rooted in the rich, profound and multicultural legacy of Central European culture—the same legacy that gave us Kafka, Musil, Conrad, Schulz and Freud.

Martin Scorsese said recently about Polish cinema: “There is, I think, such a thing as a national or cultural voice. I don’t think it’s something that’s manufactured, it’s just there. I mean, it speaks through the pictures that they create, the words and the music. So there’s a strong tragic sense in Polish cinema, but it seems to be in balance with very, very strong strains of a spiritual resilience and also a dark comedy.” The same can be said about Polish theatre.

Q: Central to your analysis seems to be that ‘theatre cannot be analyzed outside of its cultural context.’ How important do you think it is to know as much as possible about a culture and a language of a play to be able to truly comprehend and appreciate it?

MR: Artists are free to interpret any work of art in whatever way they wish, but scholars don’t have that luxury. It’s impossible to imagine a Chekhov specialist who doesn’t speak Russian, or a Proust specialist who doesn’t speak French. Yet, Polish art and literature (and often, any art or literature that belongs to historically marginalized cultures) is often treated as an afterthought, taught by experts who don’t speak the language. Scholars are a type of avant-garde (in the original meaning of the word—the first guard), the first line of interpretation, often providing a blueprint of scholarship and research for others to learn and to interpret. They can’t really take shortcuts. As an artist, I often wander off from the context, as far as my imagination takes me. As a scholar, I need different strategies.

Q: Do you think that the lack of cultural understanding is predominantly responsible for the failure to analyze the works in their historical context until now, or are there other contributing factors that might account for this?

MR: Many factors have contributed to misunderstandings around Grotowski and Kantor. These include historical, political and cultural issues.

Q: By calling the theatre of Grotowski and Kantor ‘post-traumatic’ you place your analysis not only in a historical but also a psychological context. In what way do you think this is essential for understanding their work?

MR: The idea of post-dramatic theatre was first introduced by Andrzej Wirth, a Polish theatre theorist and the founder of the famous Institute for Applied Theatre Studies in Germany. Hans-Thies Lehmann was one of Wirth’s students. Both Wirth and Lehmann, however, were influenced by a Hungarian theorist, Peter Szondi, whose definition of Drama, as defined in his Theory of Modern Drama, provided the framework for Lehmann’s concept of the post-dramatic. In Drama, the dramatic universe remains enclosed within itself. Drama is Absolute: it creates its own reality in which the external ties either with its author or its audience disappear.
In Drama, the accidental becomes absorbed into the dramatic universe (the accidental ‘makes sense’ in the context of the Drama). Drama is primary: it is not pre-given; it comes into being as it happens. Consequently, Drama generates its own internal time.

The term ‘postdramatic’ denotes a rupture between drama and theatre (text and performance). Likewise, trauma is defined as a violent rupture in the social and psychological order that fundamentally alters an individual’s concept of the self and the world. Just as postdrama is no longer bound to theatre (“there can be theatre without drama”), the traumatized individual is no longer bound to the world that betrayed him. What is the rupture that made the post-war theatre postdramatic?

Q: Why would you recommend your book to students? What do you hope they gain from reading it?

MR: Kantor and Grotowski are very influential figures for contemporary world theatre. Akropolis and Dead Class are both considered masterpieces of twentieth-century theatre. I hope that by reading my book, students will be able to discover the roots of some of the modern trends and movements. This in turn will inspire them, I hope, to put their own twist, their own interpretation, on the aesthetic and theoretical framework of their work.

Find out more about the book and the author on our website:
http://www.anthempress.com/memory-machines

 

 

Interview with Vivian Thomson, author of “Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy”

9781783080175_1The following is an interview with Vivian Thomson, author of
“Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Change Policy: Federalism in the United States, Brazil, and Germany”

This book offers a desperately needed framework for climate-change policy in the US, acknowledging the crucial role of coherent state–federal relations.

Q: What does the term ‘Sophisticated Interdependence’ mean?

Vivian Thomson: Washington, DC needs help in the climate change policy arena. In June 2014 the US Environmental Protection Agency will set the stage for the 50 states to regulate electrical power plant carbon dioxide emissions, which constitute about 30 percent of US greenhouse gas pollution.  The states have long worked with EPA to control regional or local air pollution under the Clean Air Act.  But we are in uncharted waters because of climate change’s global scale and also because some US states have forged ahead of the national government in the climate and renewable energy arena.
I borrowed the term ‘sophisticated interdependence’ from Patricia Mulroy, longtime head of Las Vegas’s water authority and veteran of Colorado River water rights battles.  In my book ‘sophisticated interdependence’ means: (1) framing US state-national partnerships so as to intertwine climate protection, energy security, fiscal discipline, renewable energy, environmental justice, and energy diversification; (2) connecting domestic actions with those abroad in nations like Germany and Brazil; and, (3) integrating the variable constraints and opportunities faced by the US states into the plans approved by EPA.

Q: Why look to Germany and Brazil for instructive lessons?

VT: Brazil and Germany represent distinctive powerhouse foils for the United States.  
The focus of ‘Sophisticated Interdependence’ is state-national relations in climate and energy policymaking. The United States, Brazil, and Germany have the highest GDPs of any federal nations, that is, nations in which sub-national political entities have powers independent of the national government. Brazil and Germany both speak forcefully in the global climate arena.   While each nation’s political institutions have a unique stamp, born of different circumstances and traditions, cross-country comparisons can stimulate new ways of thinking and help foster international collaboration.

Germany has long been a leader in climate change and renewable energy, and the German Länder (states) compete with one another in these arenas.  These policy choices have gone hand-in-hand with economic growth that out-strips that in the US on a per capita basis. Between 1990 and 2010 Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions per capita dropped by 26 percent even as the country’s per capita GDP per capita expanded by 36 percent.  In the same interval per capita GDP in the US grew slightly less, by 31 percent, and greenhouse gas emissions per capita decreased by a paltry 2 percent.

In Brazil the division of responsibilities between state and national authorities in climate policy is still being sorted out. But much interesting activity is taking place, including the national government’s ongoing commitment to reducing deforestation in the Amazon.  At the same time, the economically powerful, populous Southeast states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have undertaken their own climate change programs.  Brazil’s strong regionalism, based partly on race, echoes that in the United States.

Brazil’s energy security provides a fascinating contrast to the energy insecurity of the United States and Germany.  Brazilians should never have to spend trillions of dollars on foreign wars to fuel their cars or worry about Russia cutting off natural gas supplies.

Q: You say that  ‘Climate change is an especially complicated tragedy of the global commons for several reasons.  Industrialized countries like the United States have prospered while freely spewing greenhouse gases that affect the whole world.  The costs of controlling greenhouse gases are concentrated while the benefits are shared, diffuse, and deferred’. Is ‘not believing in Climate Change’ still an issue in the United States that prevents effective action?

VT: Roughly 2/3 of US Americans believe that climate change is real (see http://ncse.com/news/2013/11/new-poll-climate-from-pew-0015157). Despite strong partisan divides at the national level, seventy-seven percent of Republican voters support moving away from fossil fuels (see http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/survey-finds-most-republicans-seek-action-on-climate-change/).

US leaders can help educate the public by following their overseas counterparts, like Chancellor Merkel, in framing the issue in terms of achieving fiscal discipline, energy security, economic competitiveness, and environmental justice.

But action in the US political system does not depend on national polls. The US Supreme Court recognized in 2007 that the harms associated with climate change are “serious and well recognized.” Because of that landmark decision the US EPA is using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles and from stationary sources.  Although we have no national climate or renewable energy law, many states have filled that policy vacuum.

The US is a patchwork quilt nation with striking regional distinctions. In my book I analyze a wide variety of factors that help illuminate differences in state-level action. Among the important factors separating active from passive states are the use or production of coal, the nature of the state’s political culture, and the degree of state-level legislative professionalism.

The net result of sub-national regulatory action, the Great Recession, and the market-driven substitution of natural gas for coal in electricity generation is that the US’s greenhouse gas emissions are at their lowest level since 1994.   But we must enact policies to maintain this progress, even if market forces change.

The goals of ‘Sophisticated Interdependence’ are to light that path domestically and to emphasize the importance of connecting with our global colleagues along the way.

Find out more about the book and the author on our website:
http://www.anthempress.com/memory-machines

Anthem Library of the Month | DON L. LOVE LIBRARY

© 2012 Sampson Construction

The Don L. Love Library at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln houses one of the largest collections of books in the Great Plains area of the United States, including an impressive selection of books in the sciences, humanities, and other areas, as well as the largest collection of books on film and media in the Midwest. With more than 2,300,000 volumes in Love’s collection, and more than 500,000 patrons annually, Love Library offers media in a wide variety of formats, and has a wireless network that provides users with access to the Internet via personal laptop computers.

Love’s collection includes volumes on art, business, education, geography, history, journalism, language, literature, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion and sociology, among numerous other disciplines, and provides an invaluable collection for the both researchers and students, all meticulously organized and catalogued. Thus, Love Library is of the great libraries of the United States, and one of the finest research libraries available to the public, which prides itself on a vast collection of books, the use of cutting edge technology, and a dedicated staff.

—Wheeler Winston Dixon, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA; Co-Series Editor of New Perspectives on World Cinema