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Rethink and Arise!

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Timothy G. Griffin.

Biography: Ted Nelson is an idealistic troublemaker who has been promoting heretical ideas for a long time; he coined the words “hypertext” and “micropayment,” among others. His B.A. is from Swarthmore College and his PhD is from Keio University in Japan.

Contrary to what you may have heard, the computer world is not finished and everything has not yet been invented.

The prevailing computer paradigm consists of lump files with preordained metadata, enforced hierarchy, one-way links, and paper simulation (where, indeed, a document must fit in one file). Paper simulation extends also to spreadsheet and relational database. The World Wide Web and XML are just the latest examples of this steamrolling, unquestioned paradigm.

It is time to reconsider all these premises. New foundational possibilities may yet lurk.

Rather than hierarchy, I propose that the fundamental issue is representing cross-connection and interpenetration, as required by the cross-connection and interpenetration of human thought and human life. Note that hierarchy, if really needed, can be well represented by cross-connection but not vice versa.

As two entirely different instantiations of cross-connection and interpenetration, I will present:

  • a deep generalization of documents: parallel document structures with profuse connections (both links and transclusions) in 3D folding space
  • a deep generalization of data structure: hyperthogonal cell constructions (orthogonal in n dimensions with no metrics and paradoxical connections allowed)

I am not claiming these ideas are final either, but they may help kick over the chessboard.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Wednesday Seminars series.

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