When John Anderton goes on the lam in Minority Report, he undergoes surgery to replace his eyes because of the omnipresent retinal scanner. A similar level of surveillance has been achieved, but it depends more on the mediation of digital platforms than on external scanners. Virtual life has become an a priori for those born in the Internet Age.

Alienation before the behemoth pushes Spirit down to the pre-unhappy position of Stoicism. There is mass desire for the ether of ataraxia. Technical optimization smoothes so much of daily life. Digital culture and all its social potential has been confined to a protocol strictly controlled by capital. Tech conglomerates and hardware manufacturers have more power than states, but without the hindrance of historical precedent.

Wipe Cycle

And yet—life has always been mediated by technology. The record of civilization going back to the first cave paintings in 35,000 BCE is the unfolding of the process of society’s relationship to technology. How do we evaluate our present dependence without falling into the trap of thinking that the past was somehow better? Are we on a natural path to cyborg transhumanism? Is Spirit doomed to self-alienation? No matter what, we should not convict the fallacy that Hume identified so well: correlation does not equal causation David Hume, The Complete Works and Correspondence of David Hume, ed. Thomas Hill Green, T. H. Grose, and Norman Kemp Smith (Charlottesville, Va.: InteLex Corporation, 1995). The fact of technology does not mean that all technologies are good.

Origins of Language and the Graphic Arts

The thing is attached to society like a parasite. The fact that technology has always existed in some form, everywhere, is a strong argument for its necessary relation to society. However, this tells us nothing about the forms of technology we live with today. For those for whom the Digital Age is a posteriori, it may be easy to see it is just another product sold to the proletariat against its own interests. But how do we remain progressive, while acknowledging decline?

“Cave paintings are the origin of graphic design. They represent a”technology" in the sense that they are accomplished by means of a tool to join two separate things. Tablets are especially important in the history of art-as-technology, in my view, because they represent the invention of a new medium of art through the synthesis of two previously separate entities" , 11Philip B. Meggs and Alston W. Purvis, Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, 5th ed. (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2012), 11.

For years now I have been engrossed in developing my competency with the tools and systems of software development. It started when I was 16, and installed Slackware on the first PC I ever bought for myself. During my post-secondary studies, I procrastinated writing essays by learning vim, “a highly configurable text editor built to make creating and changing any kind of text very efficient.”1 The text editor is the writer’s hand-tool, like the carpenter’s chisel. It opened me up to a whole new technological ecosystem that has come together as something more than an accidental element of my writing.

I do not claim more than a minimum degree of technical literacy acquired through my hobby of systems administration; and from using vim alongside things like dwm and associated suckless utilities to design my own desktop environment; Git (a version control system); LaTeX/Pandoc markdown (a typesetting programming language and interpreter); and Jekyll (a static website generator). This hobby is an entire practise obviously quite distant from an education in the humanities. My personally-configured computer system is the writing implement of a new media-based literary practise. I am a cyber-skeptic at heart, but one who is strongly drawn to technical computer work. My use of computers is aesthetic.

Writing on the Internet

My writing practise includes critical writing, research, and fiction. The genre of fiction that I am most interested in is “experimental biography.” The writing that will be published on this website are original essays that relate directly to the topic of hypertext and hypermedia; the diaries themselves; and it will also be an archive of the newsletter, changelog, and writing published elsewhere.

I’m interested in self-published writing online as a form of outsider art, but I am not absolutely committed to it. I will still be publishing writing elsewhere. An artist needs to build an audience, after all.

Abolish the Internet!

The rough idea for the newsletter is to use it to collect additions to a notes archive. Notes in the note-taking system are always based on a primary source, have commentary, and are already grouped under category headings. Periodically send out an update with quotes, ideas, links, images, aphorisms, and edit summaries. The introductory paragraph is just something that summarizes what the collection of notes represents.

The Design of Online Writing

The writing lives as an ongoing process, a constantly-refined collection of citations, quotes, hyperlinks, and cross-references. The structure of pages changes and morphs, breaking open the borders of the website. Notes become essays, grouped under sections around a topic. HTML document structure, CSS, the algorithms of the website generator, the version control system, the writing environment, and finally the content of the words and where it stands in relation to the centre. These elements of literary content and new media combine to make the website an original work of art, a hybrid between the literary and the visual.

The structure and contents of the proposed website, the published face of the project, mirrors the writer’s personal archive of visual and textual material. Drafts, fragments, notes, revisions, photographs, visual material: a collection of rags.2 Updates and revisions are scheduled, and changes are tracked and logged. Together, the work represents an articulation of thought that grows over the course of a lifetime. At the same time, it builds its own documentary foundation.

Aesthetic Elements of Hypertext

  1. URL Schema

Cosma’s website has many pages, but the URLs are all quite schematic. To my mind, they clash with what we expect from websites nowadays. Incongruous URLs produce a certain effect, but I like Gwern’s approach of single-word URLs. Social media was not a concern for older Web pioneers. Now we must prioritize short, stable URLs.

  1. Page Structure

One of the classic things that hypertext theorists love to talk about is linking. In many case studies of hypertextual works, pages tend to be designed for a single viewport. In contrast to this, Gwern’s website is structured around “long” pages. The idea here is to create sections that can be linked to. The problem here is that style tends to gravitate towards singular works. Sub-sectioning is challenging to pull off when we’re going for something “literary,” but it’s an important part of creating linkable units. Linking is what makes the website a real work of art.

  1. Metadata

Like the URL, metadata is another element that is both aesthetic and technical, and which sits at the core of the website as a hypertext artwork. We want to think up metadata categories that can be used to represent the important aspects of a page. They will need to be standardized, somehow.


Benjamin, Walter. “The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire.” In Selected Writings, by Walter Benjamin, 3–92. edited by Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, translated by Harry Zohn. 1938. Reprint, Harvard University Press, 2006.
Hume, David. The Complete Works and Correspondence of David Hume. Edited by Thomas Hill Green, T. H. Grose, and Norman Kemp Smith. Charlottesville, Va.: InteLex Corporation, 1995.
Meggs, Philip B., and Alston W. Purvis. Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. 5th ed. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

  1. “Vim - the Ubiquitous Text Editor.” welcome home : vim online. Accessed June 3, 2024. https://www.vim.org/.↩︎

  2. “‘Here we have a man whose job it is to gather the day’s refuse in the capital. Everything that the big city has thrown away, everything it has lost, everything it has scorned, everything it has crushed underfoot he catalogues and collects. He collates the annals of intemperance, the capharnaum of waste. He sorts things out and selects judiciously: he collects like a miser like a miser guarding a treasure, refuse which will assume the shape of useful or gratifying objects between the jaws of the goddess of Industry.’ This description is one extended metaphor for the poetic method, as Baudelaire practiced it. Ragpicker and poet: both are concerned with refuse.” Walter Benjamin, “The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire,” in Selected Writings, by Walter Benjamin, ed. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, trans. Harry Zohn, vol. 4 (1938; repr., Harvard University Press, 2006), 48.↩︎