virus: Re: Web, links, and substance

Sebastian Mendler (
Mon, 30 Oct 1995 23:22:36 -0800 (PST)

Form is emptiness, and emptiness, form.

//skip, from some sutra or another

...the problem with human-computer interaction is a lack of reliable
documentation concerning the operation of the biopsychological components...

On Mon, 30 Oct 1995, Alexander Chislenko wrote:

> A colleague of mine recently complained that
> "this Web is all links to links to links, and no substance".
> My immediate reply was - no, there is a lot of stuff there,
> just follow the links, don't be lazy, the links are there to help
> you find the STUFF a lot more conveniently than you ever could before.
> Now I think there is a better answer to this.
> One could claim that the Web is *nothing but links*, and my colleague's
> strong statement is *literally* true.
> Consider a hypertext journey:
> linkpage1 -> linkpage2 -> ... -> linkpageN -> (aha, STUFF!) Text:
> "Sasha and Masha are friends".
> Finally, you found some radiant STUFF! at the end of the link tunnel!
> Or... have you?
> Now, let's examine the above little text:
> - "and" is a *link* between "Sasha" and "Masha"
> - "are" is a *link* between "Sasha and Masha" and "Friends"
> - "Friends" is a relational link and surely not STUFF! by itself
> - "Sasha" and "Masha" are still just words that consist of linked letters
> and are, in turn, no more than links to the real Sasha and Masha who live
> off-line (or, in this case, to imaginary ones who do not "exist" at all).
> So then - all real STUFF is off-line, right?
> - Not so soon. Aren't people "just" sets of linked atoms?
> Aren't atoms just a bunch of linked quarks?
> Now we reduced all "substance" to substrate quark powder, which sounds quite
> absurd. Even if I agree to equate "substance" to "substrate", the *only*
> observable - and interesting - feature of this "substance" seems its ability
> to link into complex entities. The behavior of these entities is
> determined by the nature of the links and their joint architecture.
> If you change the links considerably, you not only add new ways (language
> or HTTP) to refer to the old entities - you change the behavior of the system
> as a whole.
> So the links of the Web are its substance in about the same way as
> conceptual references provided by the wordings of the linked texts, or
> operational instructions contained in the machine-executable files.
> Maybe, that's evident.
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> | Alexander Chislenko | | Cambridge, MA |
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