December 1996

Root Page of Article: Going Into the Woods, by Christine Boese

Acting out a murder in hypertext

We were on the road to New Orleans, same summer. It was a tangent, a little recreational side trip after Arkansas Governor's School let out. A small group of younger faculty members wanted to blow some of their final paycheck on an eight hour drive and a wild weekend. I rode with Dave, an academic philosopher of the analytic school. Still a poet, I had not yet become a rhetorician.

House of Voodoo,
Bourbon St. New Orleans

In the car I told Dave about my search for a graduate school that would let me do a dissertation on CD-ROM, about how frustrated I was becoming.

"What I want to do is very similar to what I do with poetry and photography. I want to be William Blake. I want to put words and pictures together to tell stories."

"I don't see why you need a Ph.D. to do that. Why go to school? Just go out and start doing it." Dave was direct.

"Yeah, then I'd be throwing garbage into shrink wrap to ride the fad, like all the others. I need to get an idea of what will make this stuff GOOD, if anything. Why would anyone want to look at it, live with it, after the novelty wears off?"

I launched into an exploration of my emerging ideas about nonlinearity, or associational thinking, what I consider my native orientation to the world. Whenever I had attempted to write in the past, my work was always in a process of translation into the acceptable linear form. From consorting with academic philosophers, I realized that everyone didn't have to put her or his thoughts through such a rigorous translation process, that the prevailing form of linearity was natural for some. Photography and poetry afforded me less translation than other forms, so I gravitated to them.

And as a classic linear thinker, Dave was from another universe of discourse. I had to work hard to make my ideas clear to him. It was good exercise with a serendipitous reward.

"I think maybe I understand what you mean," Dave said. "And that makes me think of something..."

We had done this many nights over beers, when Dave would tell a joke, which would trigger a joke in me that I hadn't remembered until just that moment, and then I would tell my joke, and so on...

And Dave's story is significant here, because later, driving up Interstate 35, it did trigger something that has propelled me and my work up to the present day.

Dave had gone to see an experimental play in California, a play with murder, multiple plot lines, intrigue, and conspiracy. The tickets were $90, and for that price you could go to the show 10 times, getting your ticket punched each time. Basically the tenth show was free.

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