Thursday, April 16, 2009

rough draft

In studying Danelewski’s House of Leaves I could not overlook the deluge of parallels to the virtual world of open source software. What is open source…the community…how open source software works…how wiki’s work…what wiki’s are…danelewski on the web??? These questions and supporting research will be included.
The House of Leaves is a metaphor for open source networking, specifically an application of the philosophy, and integration, of open source software (Linux1, Wiki2…) and the network of programmers and users (contributors 3/participants5) who, represented as Jonny, communicate information (being with House of Leaves; with ink and paper {by reading and writing} ~OR~ with open source with keyboard and computer+screen {also by reading and writing}), and are collectively involved in a collaborative process in which two or more parties actively modify form and/or content.
In House of Leaves it is the house that is being modified. The house is the wiki. The footnotes are literally like the notes and comments in source code, the read me!’s and about files, and are figuratively the links in the wiki’s. Both perform the same function, reference and comments/critical editing, both can effectively and affectively influence the development and interpretation of information, and all are both associated with open source and with House of Leaves. The house and the wiki are one in the same. The house I refer to is not the house that Danelewski writes of through Jonny’s interpretation and modification of Zanpano’s “house” (being simply the convoluted box of manuscripts) nor the house Jonny creates and speaks of. It’s nothing in what Daneleski nor Jonny nor Zanpano says or writes about, but in the creative interaction with the book does the house I speak of exist. Danelewski uses a traditional medium (the book) in a way meticulously designed to engage the reader interactively in the manipulation of the form and function of the simple (traditional) text printed on a page. Weather that house be edited and distributed code that, through users manipulation, can change form and content like Danelewiski {metaphoricaly} does by purposefully presenting content through Jonny the editor’s admittedly faulty interpretation of apparently disorginized information. Open source software, wiki’s, are introduced as prototypes to be improved. Danelewski expects, or at least invites, the reader to further improve, or at lease revise, Jonny’s information. Danelewiski, in active participatory interaction with the reader, creates an imaginary environment in which the reader is engaged and, like user in a wiki, Jonny Truant edits the (essentially) data base being Zanpano’s box of manuscripts, adding supplemental material in an unrestrained expressive medium (granted wiki’s can managed and governed by form and content as was Jonny by Danelewski, but they can also be free and open in nature as Danelewski intends House of Leaves to be in form and content). Jonny is a representation of me or you, any one of us who has been inundated in collaborative interaction on a creative project like a wiki, or interaction with House of Leaves, or software code. Jonny is a sample wiki, an example or framework from which you or I (the reader) can begin to interpret (mentally edit) House of Leaves. He is a gateway that leads the reader into the house, or perhaps incising him/her into constructing his/her own house. In other words, the book House of Leave generally, and Jonny specifically, are sample wiki’s, prototypes on which the public (those with access to the book) can edit or start anew constructing their own personal house.
Danielewski seduces the reader into corridors and rooms in themselves possibly obscured by ego. Zanpano’s manuscripts inticed Jonny to explore previously un-accessable information, remarkably like a wiki (made possible by the internet) offers access to a plethora of information limited only by, and molded entirely by the user (reader) and their personal contributions to the information/data/media, such as House of Leave is sculpted by Jonny, as well as the reader. House of Leaves is a non-virtual wiki, edited initially and exclusively by Jonny, while Danielewski incourage, if not demands, the reader to become engaged in Jonny’s editing while simultaneously inviting the reader (synonymous with a wiki user) to offer variations/edits to the house He/Zanpano/Jonny begun. Weather subconsciously or intentfully the reader, as with user/editors of wiki’s, makes revisions and personalizes their individual experience. Though, obviously, the internet can take this process into actuality what Danelewiski alludes to, being the participant driven evolution of media. A box full of scrambled idea’s besomes a complicated multi tiered text adventure through a medium (in House of Leaves being paper bond text, a book) of constantly changing form and medium. This is the idea behind a wiki, being a publicly accessable medium open for editing which form and content change with the contribution/participation of the user (reader). In House of Leaves, Zanpano is the visionary behind (the inventor of) the wiki and Jonny being like you or I (the public), the essential component of the realized idea in practice.
Jonny is a representation of ones (the readers) self in the creative interpretation of the media. The box as Jonny experiences it is much like a computer server full of seemingly nonsensical orderless data that arranges itself in exactly the manner a user defines (being ideal). The contents of the box/server are, in fact, meaningless without orderly structure to set context the “form” of the end product is aemorphic, nearly limitless in its possibilities with recompiling. The media that a user accesses is defined by the user, specified by input commands and external (from the box/server) data, without interaction with the user data remains insignificant, mindless dribble. Like House of leaves, software designated “open source” is simply code, a box of manuscript, which with some assembly required becomes essentially the user, the reader. House of leaves is for everyone something different, the house has nearly limitless possibilities (form/content) by individualizing itself to each person experiencing the media. Open source allows public access to the code, the blueprints of the software it powers. Open source to the public is like Jonny to the box of manuscript which offers itself to be reinterpreted (reprogrammed) to the liking of the user, like House of Leaves, creates a house in which the user develops and resides in/over. The labyrinth is the internet, the hallway to Jonny’s mind, one’s interpretation of the house. The internet, literally, is a hopelessly complex network of wires and systems interconnected which is shapeless with essentially infinite content formed and filled by those involved in experience and interaction with the media. Unlike a still photo or other mediums House of Leaves must be categorized more like digital media than textual novel because it is presented as a third party interpretation of a box of various medium mostly consisting of scraps of text, and as a whole is interactive and at times visual art, like webpages consisting of nothing but text coding. While in reality nothing exists but text on paper, or virtual paper medium, but in experience the user/reader perceives far beyond the text, so much so in some case that the fact that both (House of Leaves and wiki webpages) are text based.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

Your introduction makes a number of assertions, but not in the form of an argument - it's not clear what you're setting out to prove...

In the second paragraph, you assert that HOL is a metaphor for the open source movement. That's a big, tough claim - some indication of your strategy is desirable here.

The focused argument, House == wiki, is much better. Still, though, at the very least you need to clarify what you mean by that. Are you using the House to understand how wikis work, or vice versa, or something else? There's even a tremendous gap between "the House is a wiki" and "the footnotes are literally like the notes and comments." So is this connection you're making literal or metaphorical? Either way, what does it mean?

You begin to move toward the idea that the book is like a wiki which the reader is interactively editing. That's a fine idea, but you need to begin to flesh it out & test it. Where is it like a wiki? Is it really more interactive than more conventional narratives (DADES would be a fine example)? Can you pin down the why and how of its interactivity and of its wiki-like nature? In other words - SHOW ME that it's like a wiki, don't just repeat the claim.

"Jonny is a representation of ones (the readers) self in the creative interpretation of the media. The box as Jonny experiences it is much like a computer server full of seemingly nonsensical orderless data that arranges itself in exactly the manner a user defines (being ideal)." I like this sentence - it's a stretch to call the book orderless, but not a stupid or useless stretch. Detailing this claim in relationship with some particular part of the book (the Labyrinth?) would be a productive move.

Short version: Your ideas are really very interesting. But an argument, as I've been trying to say all semester long, is not simply a list of assertions: you require evidence, which should be drawn at least partially from the text of the book itself. Show me how it's like a wiki (more than other books are), and show me why that matters so much.