I’m reading Weinberger’s Small Pieces Loosely Joined for 711, and
hyperthreadedness lingers among a few of the sticky ideas I’ve run across.
Describing the multithreadedness of ordinary conversation, Weinberger
tells us that "threading is practically a law when it comes to conversations: if
you’re talking about the ending of the movie Deliverance, you can’t
suddenly say, ‘How about those Red Sox?’ (67). Of course, much of this
presupposes coherence–the turn-taking assembling of packets (textual
units) into more or less intelligible arrangement (focal, listening, attentive).
I suppose I’m leaving something off of this. I’ve thought about threading
or "threads" in some of the online teaching I’ve done, and I always thought it
was odd that the simplest notion of threading suggests that conversational
interchanges are best represented by local (spatial, therefore temporal, gathering together) in the
interface. Sure, it’s easier that way. What happens when you
mention Red Sox after Deliverance in that sudden conversational switch?
Web conversations are also like this, but they aren’t just multithreaded;
they’re hyperthreaded. Although they usually start with a topic that’s
more formally defined than real-world conversations, because Web discussion
may spread out across weeks or months the threads can become entangled.
And because Web time is so fragmented, we can pose new topics that are only
tenuously related to the declared theme. (67)
The entangled quality of webbed discourse seems to me to be a more robust
(confused) variety of the intertextuality commonly mentioned when we talk
about referential, allusive language/text matrices. But just when I think
I have a handle on the subtle distinctions, Weinberger introduces another
factor: "Web conversations can be hyperthreaded because the Web, free of the
drag of space and free of a permission-based social structure, unsticks our
interests. The threads of our attention come unglued and are rejoined with
a much thinner paste" (68). As much as I think I understand Weinberger’s
effort to distinguish web conversations from "real world" lunchtime
conversations, I wonder if this is more a matter of communication models than it
is about substantial differences in the threadedness of internet conversation
versus other kinds of conversation. The notion of "unstick[ing] our
interests" seems especially useful; for me, it partially accounts for what
accompanies the habitude of reading and writing the web. Stick, unstick.
But I’ve still got more work to do in this fast-passing weekend, so this’ll have
to do for now.