Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004
I’ve experienced software of lots of kinds over the last 25 years or so, so I’ve had some experience with its history. Writing, accounting and so on. I don’t remember the name of the first word processor I used, but I do remember using early versions of wordperfect. Of course, my first experience with writing is with paper, ruled paper used for practicing penmanship in the early grades. Some of you know that the rules didn’t really stick.
How things have changed. What makes for good software is a big question these days. I don’t like to dump on things, but the newest installments of Microsoft products just keep getting heavier and heavier, yet a tool like Word is part of the history of writing nonetheless. We’ve seen the commercials of office people dancing in the hallways because of MS’s new products. Those are a lie. No one at Tunxis Community College is dancing because of Office 2003 or whatever we’re calling it these days. In truth, much of the problems we have are directly related to how we work with and learn our tools.
As a writing tool, Storyspace presents not a new landscape for writing, because the software’s been around a while, but it’s a landscape, an environment which transforms the process, the product, and the way I “think” about writing in a digital environment, unlike Word, whose environment becomes more and more crowded with options, buttons, icons, menus, and other refractions. I think Word is an interesting example of a new media tool because of the options it provides, but as a writing devise, machine, or document manager I find it clunky, opaque, slow, and a lousy example of the future of writing “in the present.”
In a way, Storyspace “defines” hypertext writing in a sort of collaboration with the writer. Working in (perhaps the better word is “with”) Storyspace, the hypertext writer learns and uses the functions, operations, spaces, and procedures as the “text” is being created, thus every new text can be constructed with a different set of dynamic rules. One text may not have a need for keywords, while another may want them badly. Another text may make heavy use of guardfields, while yet another, which has no need for them, wants only space to space links. And, by the way, I like the fact that it has no spell check. I’m not the greatest of spellers. Storyspace, like a typewriter, forces me to think about that.