Jay David Bolter, in "Alone and Together in the Electronic Bazaar," wrote:
...the bazaar is surely the appropriate metaphor for the community defined by electronic writing. Because electronic writing, too, is an eclectic and constantly changing combination of elements. In electronic writing, one has to sacrifice the orderly sense of traditional community in order to achieve the spontaneity of the bazaar.
Bolter's essay, a printed version of the keynote address he gave at the 8th annual Computers and Writing Conference, used as its launching point Bolter's take on Paul Theroux's The Great Railway Bazaar.  In his talk Bolter left his audience with a powerful image. (I say powerful because those who were there to hear the talk cite, in discussions I've had, Bolter's metaphor quite frequently.) In electronic writing the bazaar is not traveled in the linear determinancy of a train's narrow tracks; instead, especially with hypertext, the mode of travel is that of the airplane, which can take off and land in many directions and move at a higher speed.

I'm recalling Bolter for two reasons.

  1. The complexities of some of Kolb's maps, his graphical presentations of how spaces and links are arrayed, reminded me of the maps airlines use to show their routes in those inflight magazines. In those, the world and its spaces are organized not by time-zone, though they exist, nor by geography, but rather by airport location and flight patterns. Flying on the cheap flights, as I do, usually means anything but non-stop, a happenstance which adds one more shade of color to Bolter's metaphor: as the flight ends and the plane approaches the airport, a flight attendant announces where different passengers will need to go to catch their connecting flights.

    In Kolb's essay, the links are the connecting flights, and I often found myself, upon landing in a space, calling up the list of outbound links before I even read the text I arrived at; I look, then, for choices of departure.

  2. What I'm beginning to sense about hypertext and argument and philosophy is that it will reorder the dynamics  of argument more than it will the line  an argument takes. I say this because even if the line is not narrative, the readers will make their own narrative, or line of argument, tentative though the self-made line may be. The spaces represent bits of texts, booths in the bazaar; the links organize the travel, the path of engagement; the writer and reader work together--one to provide options, the other to choose them/provide more--to author what the engagement with the spaces will mean.

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