Response Assignment #3

For the next class, please read:

  • Wells, H.G. (1940) “The Time Machine,” Chapters I-IV, p.201-236 intime-machine.jpg The Time Machine & The Wheels of Chance. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. (Handout)
  • Borges, Jorge. (1941) The Garden of the Forking Paths.

Consider the following questions, as you read through each, and be sure to address BOTH readings.

  1. Discuss Well’s description of time travel and the fourth dimension. What parallels does he draw to contemporary cyberspace and/or cyberspace culture? Be sure to include examples.
  2. What is the significance of the reference in “The Garden of the Forkinggardenforkingpaths.jpg Paths” to Ts’ui Pen’s labyrinth?
  3. In what ways does Borges problematize the seeming authority and truth of a history book? How is this significant to contemporary cultural cyberspace perspectives?
  4. In the “Garden of the Forking Paths,” what non-linear narrative dynamics are at play? Explain and give examples.
  5. Why does Wells chose to give most of his characters jobs to identify them instead of names? What is the effect of not naming the characters?
  6. What did Ts’ui Pên mean when he wrote, in his letter, “I leave to the various futures (not to all) my garden of forking paths”? Why is his “garden” absent from some “futures”? Which ones? What role do such letters play in the story, literally and symbolically? Are these letters in any way related to Yu Tsun’s statement, “the future already exists … but I am your friend. Could I see the letter again”?
  7. How does the time traveler describe the sensations of time travel? And what, if any, fears arise that parallel contemporary concerns? What sort of world does the time traveler enter, and how does it compare to today?

And, as always, feel free to write about anything else that takes your attention in each (that you believe is relevant to this course); just be sure to make those connections explicit and provide textual examples.

Advertisements

18 responses to “Response Assignment #3

  1. This note is for Christian Pagliaro — I tried to send my response to your last blog to your yahoo account, but it got kicked back. It said:

    Technical details of permanent failure:
    PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 16): 554 delivery error: dd This user doesn’t have a yahoo.com account (christian.pagliaro@yahoo.com) [-5] – mta245.mail.re3.yahoo.com

    Christian — do you have another email address?

  2. Was that the email I put down? I apologize. It’s supposed to be an underscore, not a period. Thanks!

  3. The significance of Ts’ui Pen calling his labyrinth “the Garden of the Forking Paths” is that he saw this labyrinth as a means by which you can go forward, but with each step your choices become more and more numerous. Eventually you reach a point where the choices and paths are innumerable. Interestingly, this seems to be the point of many hypertext stories. If they are well made, they will lead forever onward without end. They will always offer more options, the same options, looping the reader around and back and forth, just like “the Garden of the Forking Paths.” Thus the reader of both “the Garden of the Forking Paths” and of a work of hypertext fiction “creates, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times which themselves also proliferate and fork” (p7). What makes a hypertext story so great is that, thanks to the ability to open multiple windows on a computer desktop, you could follow all of these various branchings and paths simultaneously. No longer are you forced to follow along the story in one direction until you hit the end. Instead, you can follow along them all until either you overwhelm your computer’s capacity to hold open all the various windows, or you max out your Internet connection’s capacity to transmit information. If one had a computer of limitless RAM and processor capability and an Internet connection of similar capability, you could read Ts’ui Pen’s “the Garden of the Forking Path” the way he intended for it to be read, which is perhaps why it failed to be understood in the story being published in the form of a novel instead.

    One thing that both of these readings have in common is that, while they are rather traditionally written narratives, they both employ the technique of the story within a story. While the audience of the character plays very little part in the telling of the story as a whole (not the story within a story. This is to say that we get very little understanding of how the audience characters react as the story within a story is being told), we, the readers, are very aware of who these audience characters are. But the fascinating thing is that the story within a story format is in its very nature a nonlinear storytelling device. The characters are all sitting in one place, say the Time Traveler’s smoking room, while the Time Traveler is telling them all about his exploits, which took place at another time (in the past/future in this case because while it happened in the future, it was also in the Time Traveler’s past) and another place. Already we begin to see the buds of hypertext stories growing within both of these readings.

  4. 6. What did Ts’ui Pên mean when he wrote, in his letter, “I leave to the various futures (not to all) my garden of forking paths”? Why is his “garden” absent from some “futures”? Which ones? What role do such letters play in the story, literally and symbolically? Are these letters in any way related to Yu Tsun’s statement, “the future already exists … but I am your friend. Could I see the letter again”?

    The quote, and the entire story for that matter, refers to one of the common theories of time and time travel. It’s effectively the opposite of the theory presented in Wells’ narrative, but equally valid. And by “equally valid” I mean not at all. These two stories explore the two most common theories of time, but science has no proof either way. The theory presented here is a little more welcoming to Westerners, however, as it gives us some feel of control.

    The idea used in Borges’ story is just like a branching hypertext, except far more infinite. Not completely infinite, as time can only branch due to differing possible occurrences, and there is a finite, albeit unfathomable, number of possibilities. These branches have been forming since the beginning of time itself, if it even has a “beginning.” As Albert says, “We do not exist in the majority of these times; in some you exist, and not I; in others I, and not you; in others, both of us” (Borges 9). By that same token, there are various times in which Ts’ui Pên did not exist, including our own (as best I can tell, I did a quick search). In all those times in which he’d never been born, such as our own, he could not leave the “Garden of Forking Paths,” as he never existed to create it. Yu Tsun understands all this by the end of the story when he speaks his last words to Albert. In some other time, he is as he says, Albert’s friend, but in the one where the story takes place he’s bound by circumstance to kill him. The boundless numbers of times make the possibilities just as boundless, and that’s the whole concept to this theory of time itself. Every possible outcome plays itself out in some branch of time, but they obviously can’t all exist in the same branch. There’s no way for Yu Tsun to kill and not kill Albert in the same branch, they’re contradictory. Thus our choices define what branch of time we experience.

    The other theory seems to be explored in Wells’ story. As I haven’t read the whole thing, I can’t be certain, but it seems to see time as linear. It considers time a fourth dimension, similar to the ones which constitute space, and we travel at a constant through it. This particular theory fascinates me, but confuses me as well. It takes away any feeling of control, any importance of decisions, since time follows one particular path which our consciousness (unaided) travels at a constant rate. Rather than a branching, converging, extravagant web, there is a set course for all events that will take place in some way no matter what. The linear theory takes out the possibility of things like the Grandfather Paradox*, but destroy our sense of freedom.

    Both are interesting, but neither as of now have any decent scientific founding. So I don’t know what to think.

    * The Grandfather Paradox asks the simple question “what if you go back in time and kill your grandfather before the birth of your parents?” The linear theory would argue that such a thing is impossible, circumstance would somehow prevent it. Wells circumnavigates the issue by going forward in time instead, but the theory states that altering the past in any way is just impossible. The branching theory can be thrown into chaos by this, or it could just break into another branch, who knows?

    on a seperate note, I haven’t recieved any blog responses, but my email attached to these blogs is correct…da_other_guy2003@yahoo.com

  5. 6. Why does Wells chose to give most of his characters jobs to identify them instead of names? What is the effect of not naming the characters?

    I believe that well chose to give most of his characters jobs to identify them instead of names because it allows us to understand their way of thinking without having to explain in detail. The Very Young man portrays someone who is not only young, but also young in the mind. This explains why he is the most excited about time travel, because he believes it most possible, more so than the others whose older minds are less open about the possibility. We are able to give the older men their ways of thought from the basis of their profession. The Psychologist’s uses theories and proofs to decide for himself what is real, and/or what is real in the mind. The Provincial Mayor is a man of self interest, for both him and the city they are in. The Medical man uses physical evidence through the process of self-experience involving numerous experiments in order to prove what is real. The Time Traveler seems to be one who uses philosophy and its different varieties when understanding. This is seen through his understanding of time and space, and the ability to move through it. The Editor I saw as some one who is skeptic about everything, more so than the character Filby, and is only interested in getting a story. While his partner, the Silent Man, is just a man of no interest and no care.

    I believe that by continually calling the characters by these “jobs” instead of names, reinforces what their belief system is based off of, and this is seen through their questions and comments.

  6. 3. In what ways does Borges problematize the seeming authority and truth of a history book? How is this significant to contemporary cultural cyberspace perspectives?

    When one reads a history book, they automatically assume it is the truth. This is what happened, and it led to the events happening today. End of story.

    However, Borges suggests that each option in our array of choices branches off and continues on, so that we are existing side-by-side with parallel universes in which we have chosen the other option, where the world can be entirely different due to one small decision.

    With this in mind, one cannot say that things we’ve read in a history book are the absolute truth. It is truth, yes, because it has happened, but the other scenarios have also happened as well and we are co-existing with these other forks of time. What may be true in our fork is not true in another, and what would happen should our two forks meet again? There would be two different histories leading to that moment, and both would be true. Because there are many truths, the history book we read cannot be the absolute, singular truth.

    It is similar to the hypertext fiction, where one has an array of choices. One may choose a path, and click on it, but it does not mean that the other paths do not and are not still existing. They are still on their own little webpage. On occasion, the path one has chosen may converge with another path that they split from several pages ago. Two histories to one moment in time(or in this case, one webpage), and who is to say which is the absolute correct history? Imagine one had opened a new window and followed both paths simultaneously. Would both not appear in the web browser’s ‘History’ ?

    In The Time Machine, the Time Traveler announces that one can move freely in space through their mind and their memory. Often, when going through memories of the past and possibilities of the future, one imagines every different possibility. A scenario is made up in the mind, followed to a result, but one always wonders: What would happen had I taken the other path? How would things be different? Or, in cases regarding the future, if I choose this particular path, what should happen? Would I come to the same result through different choices? In the mind is a constant Garden of the Forking Paths, all existing simultaneously in a dimension(the brain) that has no real time but the thoughts occuring in that very moment. The past is the present is the future is the past.

    As you can see… I really enjoyed this response assignment, and the reading was much more interesting to me than some in the past. :)

  7. 5. Why does Wells chose to give most of his characters jobs to identify them instead of names? What is the effect of not naming the characters?

    One might say that that Wells chose to give most of the characters titles like “Medical Man” or “Psychologist” to justify each person’s presence during the time machine presentation. Or, one might say that the actual person telling the story simply did not know the names of most of the other people in attendance. Either way, the effect remains the same. In some ways, not having a name keeps the audience from connecting with a character, which might have been Wells’ intent. Also, like I said before, Wells might have given them jobs in lieu of a name to justify their presence. I doubt the Time Traveller would have assembled a group of random people to show his life’s work to. No, we can be sure that he chose each person specifically, probably based on their skill set. So having jobs instead of names effectively takes the place of:” Hello, this is Bob, he is a doctor; and this is James, he is a psychiatrist”. You don’t necessarily know who they are, but you do know what they do, and that makes them more valuable an audience for the presentation than just some people off the street.

  8. The Garden of the Forking Paths is anticipated to suggest the forking in time. Tsun describes the garden of forking paths as infinate, a maze, and circular; the labyrinth is the novel and the novel is the labyrinth. This idea where all possible outcomes occur relates to hypertext; in the garden of forking paths, different times and futures are created which proliferate and keep forking indefinately. Hypertext also is a garden of forking paths where a person clicks on a link among several other links on the same page, it brings the person to another page which may have nothing to do with the previous page –it there again lets one choose another link; this could ultimately go on infinately and the outcome is ambiguous. In Ts’ui Pen’s garden he does not use the word time, but stresses it. He creates different times and futures that fork. It is chaotic and unfinished(or indefinate) which makes me question if he left the “novel” unfinish purposely. According to Aristotle, we can’t say determinately that this or that is false but must leave the alternate undecided. Like in hypertext, there is no anticipated end so how can we draw a conclusion to something that is unknown or ambiguous? This also raises the question whether our future is determined or not? Also if a person(cyborg?) were to research something on the web, one could spend infinate time(time is the crisis of truth) on going through countless “forkings” of diverse information that continues to grow as time goes on.
    The Time Traveller suggests that time is a kind of space and our consciousness moves along space but not time. The Medical Man says you can’t move at all in time, you cannot get away from the present moment. But the time traveler says, “we are always getting away from the present moment. Our mental existences, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the time dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave. Just as we should travel down if we began our existence fifty miles above the earth’s surface.” Also, we can get away from the present moment by recalling an event or a memory. I think traveling through time has to do with the mind and the unconsciousness when talking about time travel as a real thing, but if it is through ones unconsciuosness then is it real? When a person creates a webpage by using html or xhtml, that person creates a page or “new space” in which people can pass through by means of a computer or phone, a communication network. The time travelers machine allows him to observe the changes of the outside world in fast motion. He went far into the future to a social paradise (he thought at first) where there was no disease, no overpopulation, no work, no crime. The inhabitants looked alike, they had a lack of interest and were easily fatigued and were not intellectual. This kind of reminds me of second life. The time traveler goes to a place that is like a second world becasue it does not really exist in one’s present life. While traveling there he was “going too fast to be conscious of any moving things.’

  9. 1. Discuss Well’s description of time travel and the fourth dimension. What parallels does he draw to contemporary cyberspace and/or cyberspace culture? Be sure to include examples.

    Wells’ Time Traveler tells us that the beginning of time travel feels as “a strange, dumb confusedness descended on my mind” (Chapter 3, p 219). I think a lot of people have a similar experience with their first forays into cyberspace. As with anything one does in life, there’s a learning curve to first dipping one’s toe into cyberspace at large which can be quite overwhelming. As one becomes more and more acquainted with the digital world surrounding them, the once excessively unpleasant sensations give way to what Wells calls “the same horrible anticipation, too, of an imminent smash” (Chapter 3, p 219), only ours is an information smash. I cannot tell you of the countless times I’ve just had to step away from my computer after having spent hours wandering the Wikipedia because I just cannot bear to read anymore. As the Time Traveler’s unpleasant sensations give way to “a kind of hysterical exhilaration” (Chapter 3, p 220) we recover from our information smash to feel exhilarated and roam the wilds of cyberspace. Wells’ description of the journey through time strikes me as having a parallel to internet addiction, the Time Traveler tells us that he “scarce thought of stopping, scarce thought of anything but these new sensations” (Chapter 3, p 220) which seems like the rational of a person desperately reaching for the farthest reaches of cyberspace.

    A lot of the arguments the Time Traveler makes saying that Time is the fourth dimension can also be made to suggest that cyberspace could also be considered the fourth dimension, especially when the Time Traveler tells us “There is no difference between Time and any of the three dimensions of Space except that our consciousness moves along it” (Chapter 2, p 202). I think this is especially true now as our virtual self begins to impact upon our physical self more and more. Case in point, I recently saw an article on wikiHow on how to “Ungoogle” yourself. The importance of a separation between your digital and physical self has reached a point where the knowledge is no longer in the hands of those tucked away in IRC at odd hours of the night but the everyday person.

    I can’t help but feel that cyberspace is sort of a time machine in itself. Just as Wells’ Time Traveler flings himself into the far future, every time we sit in front of our glowing boxes, we suddenly find ourselves in the future, struggling to communicate and learn the customs of the strange denizens of our new land.

  10. 7. How does the time traveler describe the sensations of time travel? And what, if any, fears arise that parallel contemporary concerns? What sort of world does the time traveler enters, and how does it compare to today?

    The time traveler describes the sensations of time travel of what he sees and feels. He describes the different areas of what things looks like. An example is “Already I saw other vast shapes _ huge buildings with intricate parapets and tall columns, with a wooded hill-side dimly creeping in upon me through the lessening storm. I was seized with a panic fear.” I believe the time travel was afraid of future what it will look like. He feared of the storm that it would hurt him. The future wasn’t something he would like to be in. Although he was curious was like in that world. The time traveler talks about the creature that came across of his time machine. The creatures don’t what the time machine. They didn’t know weather the time traveler was real or not. Although the time traveler didn’t understand what they were saying but the creature try to communicate asking the time traveler what the time machine was. Some of these creature and people fear of him and the time machine. They don’t know what to expect in their world. They find the time machine and time traveler as a threat to their dimension. The time traveler even quotes the time machine is build in “vain.”

    One of worlds the time traveler enters is the future. It is world that involves of the extinction. When he goes to the top of the hill he notice there are no large buildings. It was a different world and he felt alone and empty in the world. There was no existence of the people he once knew. Everything was demolish and gone. One of the parallel contemporary concerns is he fear it will be the end of the world. He fears all of his friends and the places he once knew would be gone. Today we live in a world of technology where we live in building and houses that is still there not like in the extinction. We live a big amount of population unlike the extinction they have a small amount of people. Today some people fear of global warming. Some think it is the end of the world and other thinks it might be end of Antarctica. Main part is the extinction of polar bears and penguins. Except in “The Time Machine” it seemed there was explosion of the world. They had missing building that wasn’t even there anymore. The place seems more empty than how it was for time traveler. Some may have thought we could of live that world in “The Time Traveler.” People believe in the Y2K that all the technology of computer would completely shut down. Others thought in the year 2000 it would be the end of the world. Which left the results to be wrong. I’ll stop right here since I can go forever what people think extinction. I know it’s a scary thing to think about. Some day it might happen. It will the day there no such thing is technology. Moreover there is no cyberspace?

  11. 1. In the “Garden of the Forking Paths,” what non-linear narrative dynamics are at play? Explain and give examples.

    Borges’ narrative jumps between past, present, and future, giving it a non-linear dynamic that parallels the very labyrinth the story describes. The first indication occurs when the entire story is explained to have happened in the past, “The following statement, dictated, reread and signed by Dr. Yu Tsun, former professor of English (Borges 1). . .”

    The narrative then jumps from the present (in which the reader is introduced to the manuscript) to the account of the story in past tense by the Dr. himself. The reader then jumps to another ‘present’ time, in which the Dr. is presently recounting his story as a past event. Already the reader has dealt with two ‘present’ times: the time in which she is introduced to the Dr.’s account, and the time in which the Dr. is telling his story. I also like how the reader is sort of ‘whooshed’ into the Dr.’s story—after it is explained the account is not preserved in its entirety (“The first two pages of the document are missing (Borges 1).”), the reader begins Dr. Yu Tsun’s story mid-sentence, giving it a ‘zooming-in’ effect.

    In Dr. Tsun’s story, Borges uses a very intimate first-person narrative which can make the past feel like the present…the reader may feel as if she is right there experiencing the story with Dr. Tsun as it is happening. However in paragraph 1 of page 3, the narrative does switch from past to present tense: “I am a cowardly man (Borges 3).” The previous sentence, “…he lived…(Borges 2)” Again the reader is transported from past events to the ‘present’ (which is actually the past—the dear Dr. is dead now). This breaks up the narrative of the story, giving it a more non-linear feel.

    When Tsun’s ancestor Ts’ui Pên is first introduced in the last paragraph of pg. 4, the reader is transported to the distant past (“…not for nothing am I the great grandson of that Ts’ui Pên who…(Borges 4)”) and then right back to the ‘present’ and the Dr’s imagination (“Beneath English trees I meditated on that lost maze…(Borges 4)”). The Dr.’s thoughts drift to the past again in the last paragraph of pg. 5, “The damp path zigzagged like those of my childhood (Borges 5),” and referring to a vase, “…of that shade of blue which our craftsmen copied from the potters of Persia . . .(Borges 5)” Again, the reader is transported in time, breaking up the linear feel of the narrative.

    Less than jump to the literal future, Borges reveals Dr. Tsun’s projections—the images that form in Tsun’s head, particularly in regards to the labyrinth. Take the last paragraph of Pg. 4 again:
    “I imagined it inviolate and perfect at the secret crest of a mountain;
    I imagined it erased by rice fields or beneath the water; I imagined it infinite,
    no longer composed of octagonal kiosks and returning paths, but of rivers
    and provinces and kingdoms . . . I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of one
    sinuous spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future
    and in some way involve the stars (Borges 4).”
    While this passage may not necessarily speak of a literal future, the imagination can be considered one type of future…one that exists on a different plane (the mind) and solely for the one who imagines. Although, an individual’s imagination can be transmitted through stories, visual works, etc. so it can be experienced by more than just one person. This type of ‘future-that-hasn’t-happened’ is described often in the story and parallels the story written Ts’ui Pên.

    To visually recreate Borges’ narrative reminds me of a series of boxes overlapped along the same vanishing point (forgive me—we are drawing these in Applied Drawing lol). Each ‘time’ presented in the story is a different box, and the reader jumps from box to box throughout the narrative. This is similar to the visual diagrams used to present hypertexts. The structure of hypertexts and Borges’ narrative have similarities in that the reader is constantly jumping from different points of the narrative, albeit hypertexts utilize this in a much more non-linear fashion. But the parallels between the two exist nonetheless.

    It is significant that generic plot elements are not treated with much attention so much as the Dr.’s thoughts and feelings are emphasized. For example, in a standard plot, Captain Madden breaking in and arresting Dr. Tsun would be a major event in the story. See the last paragraph, “The rest is unreal, insignificant. Madden broke in, arrested me. I have been condemned to the gallows (Borges 10).” Borges devotes only one sentence to the entire event of his arrest. Even the Dr.’s death sentence is described as ‘insignificant.’ But earlier, the reader is presented with almost an entire paragraph describing what went on inside the Dr.’s head:
    “Once again I felt the swarming sensation of which I have spoken. It seemed to me that the humid garden that surrounded the house was infinitely saturated with invisible persons. Those persons were Albert and I, secret, busy and multiform in other dimensions of time. I raised my eyes and the tenuous nightmare dissolved (Borges 10).”
    These are mere hypotheticals—images in the Dr.’s mind, and yet Borges devotes a lot of description to them. This creates another non-linear dynamic whereby the linear events of the story take a backseat to the projection of thoughts in a character’s mind. This happens often throughout the story (see pg. 3, last para.; pg. 4, last para.; pg. 3, para. 3) A person’s imagination can hardly be thought of as linear. By focusing on the imagination, Borges creates another non-linear dynamic in the story.

    The non-linear nature of Garden of the Forking Paths is similar to the non-linear nature of the web in regards to transportation in time. The amount of information available in cyberspace is infinite, and just like the reader is transported in Garden of the Forking Paths, a person in cyberspace can be transported to the past by reading about past events, or to that ‘future-that-hasn’t-happened’ by reading a blog / journal telling someone’s thoughts / feelings / imagination.

    –Mindy

  12. 6. Why does Wells chose to give most of his characters jobs to identify them instead of names? What is the effect of not naming the characters?

    Agree with brian above. I think the reason Wells doesn’t name his characters but rather refers to them by their professions was a consious way of letting the reader know how these people are and how they will think. I thought of it as kind of a shortcut to analyzing the character, wells kind of sets it up for us right in the beginning. I also think that the way the story is told, by omitting the characters identities, is kind of like a livejournal or myspace blog. Sometimes when someone posts about people they know who might read the blog they disguise it alittle so they won’t get in trouble later. I think it’s that same kind of idea, those characters may have been the litterary versions of some of the people Wells knew and he wrote about how narrowminded they might be in the situation of a time machine.

    -Thom

  13. First I’d like to address the naming conventions at work in Wells’ The Time Machine. Ten years ago when I first read this, I remember it feeling rather clunky that I had no names, only identities to hang on to as far as who different characters were. This time, there was no unrest in my reading, I simply accepted it. Pseudonyms (although modern times seem to prefer the contextual “usernames”) are now so commonplace that when reading a story without any real names the impact that this is supposed to have slides in under the radar. The names chosen are deliberate, the Medical Man, the Psychologist. On a message board they would have been DrQuinn420 and ZiggyFreud69, and it would have read much the same way. From a writing perspective these identities are useful as archetypes. Each person not only represents themselves but also their profession, their class, an entire group of people, and their reactions are appropriate (this is of course what all good science fiction is comprised, untested situations and unknowable reactions). At times the banter between them even seems to degenerate into the modern “flame-war” where one (or more) statements taken out of context incite a flurry of name-calling and abusive conversation (admittedly kept more civil when the people happen to all be in the same room as each other.. for the most part).
    I thought it was interesting (and remember I craft myself a writer) that the sensations that the Time Traveler felt seemed to foreshadow his account of how he feels humanity has evolved. At first it was uncomfortable and chaotic, the machine was bobbing a bit, an image of being off balance, but then eventually he felt elated and laughed, which reminds me of the composure of the inhabitants of the future. It was as though he experienced those things as he traveled through time.
    Jumping ahead, we see again this recurrent theme of homogenization of the genders, an end to sexual dimorphism. It starts on page 223 when he speaks of the people’s “rich, soft, robes” which everybody wears. By 225 he himself has made the conscious observation that the people were all even physically alike. Uniformly curly hair, small red lips, etc. Even by 232 he has made the observation that he has seen the beginings of this trend in his time. The earth is described as like a garden, I immediately thought of the garden of eden (burden of western mythology) and of it as an archetype of utopia. Ignorance is said to be bliss so Utopia can’t be that far off from that, and the way that he talks about the inhabitants of the future, you’d think they fell in a vat of ignorant bliss before it’d even had a chance to cool.
    I’ll take a step back now and make the tenuous argument that if the future really is a return to the garden (and the past really is a fall from it) then the argument for the cyclical nature of time is the next logical step. He already makes the argument with his peers for throwing away the old view for looking at how time relates to us as living beings in terms of interactions, but it is possible that we is further positing that when viewing the dimension of time this way, we are given a superior vantage point for seeing its workings and overall structure. This seems like a good place to segway to Borges’ garden. Going back to last week and looking at hypertext novels, it comes to me that there is no way to talk about it in terms of a beginning middle and end. You can’t come away from a hypertext that is threaded and talk to a friend who has also experienced it and say “oh, I liked that part near the middle where….” because there is no middle. There is no time here. I was going to argue that the existance of the book in the story is an anticipation of hypertext, but it seems much more likely to me that both of these texts, and hypertexts themselves in fact, actually anticipate actual time travel. The overlapping nature of the two works thematically and seperate from this is intriguing in that they -do- both anticipate cyberspace and various elements of cyberculture, but both of these works also seem to hint towards something in the future that we may not know how to concieve of yet, except using dream-language (which reminds me of Ulysses…).
    I think also that is interesting to see this piece presented historically, but we are presented on page 1 with a footnote that uses the word hypothesis to explain something that is intended to be read as fact and to know that the first two pages have been omitted. Both of these facts lend further weight to the story’s thematic elements of time as non-linear. Indeed, we seem to start at the middle and move through it. At the end we feel as though something has been left unfinished because of the line “The future already exists.” The story does not seem to have a beginning or end. It relies on a preknowledge of information (war exists, spies exist, etc.) and the end leaves us with one ending that -implies- an infinite number of outcomes. The future -is- already written, yes, but if there are infinite possibilites then you still don’t know -which- future you will find yourself in. As for the bit about the book being only for some futures, I can only guess that he means the ones where the Taoist/Buddhist monk did indeed publish the work, for surely, as its author knew, this was not always the case.

  14. To go off on Mindy’s last paragraph concerning the non-linear nature of Garden of the Forking Paths and its relation to the web, I felt similarly about a certain exceprt in the Time Machine, in which the Time Traveller is explaining how our minds wander to the past (and even the future, though that isn’t entirely conceived yet obviously):

    “We are always getting away from the present moment. Our mental existences, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave…For instance, if I am recalling an incident very vividly I go back to the instant of its occurrence: I become absent-minded, as you say. I jump back for a moment.” (pg. 204-205)

    I think that this statement also holds true to Mindy’s about us having access to all of these archived events. In a way, our minds are able to connect by visiting past experiences that weren’t our own, but somebody else’s.

    The creatures that the Time Travller visits made me think of our generation and the subsequent generations thereafter. I can’t count how many people I’ve run into that have somehow managed to transfer text messaging etiquette into their own formal paper writing. It also makes me think of the fact that American Idol received more votes than our last presidential election.

    This may not really have to do with cyberspace, but I thought this quote was interesting, what with global warming and all: “I saw a richer green flow up the hill-side, and remain there without any wintry intermission” (pg. 220).

  15. In Wells’ The Time Machine, he describes the sensation of time travel as “excessively unpleasant…impressions grew in my mind—a certain curiosity …a hysterical exhilaration” The faster he seems to go through time, the more calm he seems to get. As he starts off, he mentions the unpleasant physical ramifications of time travel, which slowly give way to his mind wandering with the time and in a sense, accepting the curious control he has harnessed over any physical discomfort he is feeling. This could be considered akin to the beginnings of cyberspace in the modern sense; the Internet, the control and knowledge to be gained from this electronic frontier; and, most importantly, power. The Time Traveler has done the impossible in the eyes of the people that surround him during the story. He has witnessed the future of the world; a world in which mankind has died off, the landscape has reformed itself, and the social systems and technology that we are so used to have dissolved into something entirely new. While he does not understand their language, it seems to be a simple one…The Time Traveler likens them to small children, existing without any ideas of class or capitalism.
    “Humanity had been strong, energetic, and intelligent, and had used all its abundant vitality to alter the conditions under which it lived. And now came the reaction of the altered conditions”
    This comes from near the end of the 4th chapter, and it seems to assign blame for this future on the modern actions of humankind. I see that tying in with Wells’ giving the characters job titles instead of names. In our time, people are specialized; each fitting in to a unique group, with specific strengths and weaknesses. His characters are just characters, filling a role. The Editor wants to know the story and is impartial. The Medical Man, as a man of science, doubts the Time Traveler. The Young Man is naive and open to possibility. Eventually Wells’ surmises a future world that will alter itself, destroying the need for such ideas. I find it curious also because there is a similar practice of not naming characters, giving them virtues instead in The City of the Sun.
    Borges, in his story, portrays the idea of history and future as things that are endless and alterable, thus subverting the idea of conventional history. He presents the possibility of multiple outcomes for the same event, something reminiscent of a hypertext. The idea is significant concerning our contemporary cultural cyberspace perspectives in the sense that modern cyberspace is an achieved vision or that idea.

    “I could think of nothing other than a cyclic volume. A circular one…”

    To me that seems to describe the idea of cyberspace…the Internet. The vast amount of information out there. Some fact. Some not. Useful. Useless. Right.Wrong. Anything and everything. The true infinite. I cannot fathom the eventual ramifications of this culture on our society, but I imagine it to continue dramatically changing the way we live and the world.

  16. Ach, sorry I didn’t post this sooner. My internet died last night a few minutes before I finished it.

    1. Discuss Wells’ description of time travel and the fourth dimension. What parallels does he draw to contemporary cyberspace and/or cyberspace culture? Be sure to include examples.

    Wells’ proposes (through the Time Traveler) a very logical, mathematical explanation of the feasibility of time travel. He says that we can move through the three dimensions of space with varying degrees of ease or difficulty, depending on which direction we move. And with time merely being a fourth dimension of space, so too then we should be able to move (albeit with some help) back and forth through time.

    To start, I love his rational. Most theories about time travel are very complex, and while probably more technically sound, don’t have that sense absoluteness Wells’ does. He phrases it in a way that is so simple and obvious it couldn’t possibly be wrong.

    He also mentions that we do time travel now. We become “absent-minded” and drift into the past. Which is a fantastic point. Our memories are random access, which is what time travel is. The next step up would be using a machine to look into the past for extended periods of time, which is what computers are. In accessing the internet we get a sustained glimpse of the past at any point we choose.

    Slightly unrelated and an even further stretch is the similarity between the unalterable nature of the internet and time. It is constantly being archived and backed up. No matter what you do to delete or change something, whatever is on the internet is there forever, as is the past. Although there are many stories where people go back in time to right wrongs and save loved ones, it is almost assuredly a paradox, because if someone were to go back in time to change something, upon changing it they (in the future) would never go back in time because they had no reason to, and thus the past cannot be changed.

    Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, there is a fantastic movie about time travel called Primer. I hesitate to call it the best on the topic, but it very well may be.

  17. Glenn — and anyone else not getting grade responses — be sure to check your spam folder. My emails to you might be going there. But if you still aren’t seeing your grade responses, please see me in class next Tuesday p.m.

  18. I totally agree with Thom and Brian but I feel Wells gave those titles not only for quick descriptions but for thought into each ones profession as each character represented it one way or another with their dialogue. I feel he was trying to project his own opinion about those professions onto the charachters in order to make the reader think about how they feel about those professions and what stereotypes they believe in. Obviously Myspace blogs and live journals are all filled with individual opinions and their interpretations of things as well as stereotypes and the readers can either choose to agree or disagree with it and make their own decisions about the person’s blog and profile like we can make a decision to agree with Wells’s descriptions of the characters in his story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s