evohr.org > paul > academic

One common stereotype of people in the software business is that they're not interested in anything else. If they have an academic background at all, it's assumed to be in computer science. However, this is often far from the truth. In my case, my undergraduate interests were deep in the liberal arts, with a diverse background in:
Literary and Textual Theory,
Abstract Math,
Rhetoric and Economics,
among others.
The University of Chicago tends to encourage this sort of thing. :-)

Anyhow, in order to get my BA, I wound up in a very obscure interdisciplinary program called Tutorial Studies, where I synthesized many of these interests in the form of a fairly massive BA paper (see below). It was a sufficiently exhausting and frustrating endeavor, that I wound up leaving academia for a while -- quite a while. I've spent a lot of quality time in the commercial software business since then, but I've never forgotten how fun and challenging my academic experiences were. If I ever go back, I'm likely to continue exploring some of my old academic interests in ...

Alternate Models of Hypertext

Since 1994, when commercial applications of Web technology began to go mainstream and pervade the public consciousness, simple applications of networked hypertext have become commonplace. Yet prior to this boom, hypertext was a fairly obscure research topic with limited applications. I continue to believe that the true potential of hypertext has yet to be realized.

The TextBase Paradigm
Architectural Considerations for a Second-Generation Scholar's Workstation
(August 1990 - April 1992)
This is an HTML transcription of a near-final draft of my BA paper, which presents a new model for computerized tools for handling large amounts of textual analysis. This model, based on literary theories of textuality, attempts to describe a new hybrid of text and databases, called textbases. Of particular interest is the notion of hypertext as an exterior set of overlapping markup schemes that can be overlaid on the text and compared.

While Web browsers circa 1997 are a far cry from the TextBase tools envisioned in this paper, it was fun to use frames to produce several alternative presentations of the same material.

Getting beyond the link primitive:
Expressing textual structures in terms of link structures
(October - November 1991)
These notes were assembled for the Hypertext '91 conference, where I was hunting for graduate programs which might support further work on my topics. Since the BA paper was in nearly-final form, and had become quite lengthy, I needed another format to present some of the more interesting ideas which had grown out of that work.

Of particular interest are the pictorial representations of much of the theoretical terminology (especially "threads", "zones", and "zone schemes") which I was developing at the time. Hypertext theory circa 1991 was caught up in a "chunky" vs. "creamy" dialectic which addressed different problems than I was tackling with the textbase paradigm. Thus, these notes were an attempt to sketch out an alternative model using new terminology.

Also of interest are some tantalizing hints at the end about the sort of set-theory or algebraic operations which might be used on these richer collections of link structures.

It feels great to know that this work has definitely had some influence on other theorists, but I'd still love to push it further.


1Yep, the same conference where Tim Berners-Lee demonstrated his initial NeXT prototypes of software for the World Wide Web, over a full year before Marc and the crowd over at NCSA started writing Mosaic.