Imagine the Internet.

1.5 billion miles of spun glass and copper linking 173 million PCs running quadrillions of lines of code as quintillions of blips on silicon wafers. Hold it all in your mind. How many computations can dance on the head of a pin? FTP. Logging off. That is, hold the transcendental number of this flux in your mind at once. At which stage does it begin to disperse toward abstraction?

Once upon a time, Karl Popper began a physics lab by commanding, "Observe!" After some minutes, one student asked, "Observe what?" Like that student, you have probably realized that imagining/observing/representing requires an object. A constitutive act. Not a mere recording, as is often thought of science or Stendhal's mirror, traveling down the road of life, reflecting what was there all along. Rather, what is represented is what is seen. And what is seen is often what is looked for, for as Thomas Kuhn says, even observations that are molded into a scientific are not the "given" but the "collected with difficulty."

Imagine the Internet, then, not to imagine the Internet but to make it possible to step back and observe yourself imagining. Were you thinking in words or pictures?

Can you date your mental representation? Did it contain vacuum tubes? Water sprites? Not all things are possible in every age.

So what explains the surge in effort to integrate text and image seen in works as diverse as Steve Reich's opera The Cave, exhibitions like the Guggenheim's Mediascape show, web novels like Mark Amerika's Grammatron, literary magazines on CD-ROM like Digitas, printed books such as Jeff Brice's Fractured Fields and Fairytales, "a collection meant to be browsed, not read cover to cover" much like Laurie Anderson's Puppet Motel.

Criticism always asks, 'Why does representation take this form?' and the answer is always a palindrome that can be read from art to artist and back. [ˇWoW!] Or as, Kenneth Burke put it, a being who conceives of himself as a link in an evolutionary chain is going to make different art than one who thinks of himself as that being that stole fire from the gods. That being will also act differently, for ways of seeing have real consequences, some of which are deadly, as any Other can attest. Which is to say, ways of seeing<->ways of representing<->ways of knowing<->ways of acting, including forming governments, creating rituals, making books. Or as one medical researcher put it, "If I can imagine a disease, I can kill it."



So pick a plot - a series of events extracted from the ambiguity of life and presented as if history moves in the manner of arrow, rather than fog:

For every narrative embodies a theory: a hypothesis about the world, the nature of its elements, and how these elements are arranged and interact. A theory about narrative, then, is foremost a meta-theory/ a meta-narrative, an attempt to step through the looking glass and look back at looking.





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