art unfettered by outmoded notions of "practicality" or "purpose."
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 96 17:54:44 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: art unfettered by outmoded notions of "practicality" or "purpose."
Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: email@example.com (Guy Harris)
Another issue of Suck, at
says, among other things:
Ted Nelson's Xanadu got it right - name your technical project
after a drug-induced poem that was never completed (or, as some
literary critics argue, was never meant to be completed) and
follow suit with a series ofconfused ramblings and managerial
blunders, jettisoning several million dollars for "development"
in the process to secure the legend. Then, exile yourself and
your followers to Pacific Rim countries, and redefine your
product as a licensable "concept," not a technology. Never
shipping product will only cement your reputation of being too
far ahead of anybody's time.
The Tim Berners-Lee-led band of implementing heretics made the
mistake of veering from the path set out by Nelson into the true
madness of attempting to make the dream real. Luckily, Netscape
came along to save the Web from itself, and when we can all
browse the networked hypertext universe with set top boxes and
remote controls, the world will once again be safe for
visionaries like Ted.
But the Berners-Lee legacy of the W3 Consortium still has a
chance at making history - not through creating "standards" that
will be routinely ignored by those who actually control the Web
(or ignored by Netscape, which amounts to the same thing), but by
drawing up specifications that, in their own disregard for
market realities, challenge the status quo by demonstrating the
impossibility of all situations. Like any piece of performance
art, the W3C should reject its marginalization by embracing it.
To those ends, the W3C is already well on its way, with three
draft specifications that, taken together and with slight
modifications, can set out a bold new path for academic efforts
on the Web.
Perhaps the W3C's strongest pending spec is Dave Ragget's "The
HTML3 Table Model." A master rhetorician, Dave truly shines when
unhampered by technical details in his "design rationale"
section: "For the visually impaired, HTML offers the hope of
setting to rights the damage caused by the adoption of windows
based graphical user interfaces." Insight like that, of course,
takes true vision.
The most appealing aspect of Dave's "specification," however, is
that it's based entirely on fantasy; as every schoolboy knows,
the only good thing a table can be used for is a page layout
grid. Dave's text resonates with the same perverse beauty as a
pierced scrotum - art unfettered by outmoded notions of
"practicality" or "purpose."
Had style sheets succeeded, tables might have served their
intended role better if there were ways to represent mathematical
formulas in HTML - after all, rows and columns of numbers are
often produced through the application of numerical equations.
Unfortunately, after four years of Web development, we still don't
have mathematical entities to represent things like division signs
- but the W3 has given us a spec for "HTML predefined icon-like
symbols," with shamelessly bad classics like &sadsmiley;, sure to
put blink to shame if they were ever to be implemented in a Web
browser that's actually used. Luckily, there's no chance of that.
© 1996 Peter Langston