Roll Over Aristotle Postclassical Theory and Rhetoric An Ideotope PROPOSAL

So there’s this school, or movement, or maybe just ad hoc collection, of theory that sometimes goes by the name “Postclassical”, which suggests it’s taking a long, hard look at classical ideas. And there’s this discipline, rhetoric, which puts a lot of weight on those ideas.

That sounds like an opportunity. An opportunity for thinkin’.

Didn’t you do this already?

OK, sure, there’s my Postclassicism page on Information Habitat. But don’t discount the advantages of stealing your own work. And really I’m talking about doing something different here. I’m going to get to some of the specific consequences for rhetoric, for example, while that page is really a broad overview. And that page is just a common or garden-variety Wiki page. This project is going to use a rather different form — that’s one of its major goals.

Isn’t this all a bit vague?

Yes. That’s the point, really. What I’d like to do is traverse some of the possible concept-space of the interaction of postclassical theory and rhetoric. I’ll hit some points that look particularly representative or interesting. Draw some connections, sort of thing.

There are a number of points of entry into that space:

I’ll throw some ideas at that lot and see what sticks.

Uh huh. And where is this postclassical stuff coming from?

Some of the texts I plan to look at:

OK, I’ll bite. What’s an “ideotope”?

an ideotope

Click to see it in action. Works in Firefox 3; others are on their own.

Ideotope — a word I have just repurposed from immunology or some such field — is a portmanteau of the Greek roots for “idea” and “place”. (Using a fake classical term for a postclassical work — just smell that delicious irony.) An ideotope is an idea-space. It’s a place where a set of related ideas are organized spatially. It’s a generalization of the mind map to non-tree graphs. It’s a bunch of boxes with ideas inside them.

And how does this all come together?

This is the clever bit. I’m going to collect my thoughts on postclassicism and rhetoric. (This will be the “content”. Postclassical theory is strangely comfortable with the idea of content.)

Then I will insert them into an apparatus that realizes the ideotope. How does it do that? I’m glad you asked.

I have, in my mad-computer-scientist notebooks, jotted down some ideas for a kind of interactive web-text. It will be presented as a collection of fragments on a page, in boxes (maybe someday with lines between boxes indicating conceptual links). The current or “focussed” fragment will be centered on the page and “closest” to the reader (indicated by size and possibly other visual cues). Neighboring boxes in the graph — concepts that are directly linked to by the current fragment — will be arranged around it and will be somewhat further away from the reader. Conceptually more-distant fragments will be further from the center and the reader.

There will be simple UI mechanisms to change focus, follow links, add fragments, etc.

The whole thing will be implemented with HTML, CSS, and ECMAScript.

I think it’ll be pretty neat. Or maybe it won’t work at all, and that’ll be interesting, too.

You can read more about it here.