One of our crowd, Jay Lemke (see links on ‘online articles’ page) has recently come up with a neologism to describe the hypertext way we now view the world: traversals. Inspirations in his work come from systems theory and eco-social dynamics.
Here’s a taste of the argument he makes, and a link to the complete version on his site:
“I wish to propose here a new class of theoretical object, which I am calling traversals. Traversals are temporal-experiential linkings, sequences, and catenations of meaningful elements that deliberately or accidentally, but radically, cross genre boundaries. A traversal is a traversal across standardized genres, themes, types, practices, or activities that nevertheless creates at least an ephemeral or idiotypical meaning for its human participants, and represents at least a temporarily functional connection or relationship among all its constituent processes and their (human or nonhuman) participants (i.e. actants).
“The contemporary impulse toward life-by-traversals comes from sources at many levels of social organization. We may speculate that part of our biological survival repertory is a disposition toward new experiential combinations under conditions of severe repetition. When too much of our life simply repeats the same sequences of action, with small variations, again and again, something in our phylogenetic wisdom may impel us not to follow action A with action B yet again, but at least now and then to see how it feels if we follow A with Q or V. This could be a source at the infra-organismic scale of organization. At the organism level, where we define ourselves as whole social beings by our interactions with others and with things (the human and nonhuman partners of our ecosocial being), we value the security and predictability of standardized patterns of inter-activity, but only up to the point of boredom. We are curious and perverse primates. Put us together and we are likely to goad one another to dangerous and improbable forms of behavior; link our diverse individual interests and perversions, and combinatorially, which is to say socially, we create for one another a much larger space of possibilities for action. Each step outside our familiar routines leads us into unknown territory where we cannot know even what we will want next, much less what we will get by acting. We move out into the unpredictable spaces of our relations to our companions, and we move also into spaces mediated by artifacts which bear the traces of others’ choices in other times and places.
“Definitions belong to the end days of theory-building; they are never truly starting points….
Examples are more helpful.”
link to complete essay