Thursday, November 7, 2019

One Candle, a Thousand Points of Light: An online discussion of the /Xanadu/ meme [digital humanities #DH]

In January of 2006 I participated in an online discussion of Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Trees, Maps (2007) that took place at a now-defunct blog, The Valve. I contributed a post, “One Candle, a Thousand Points of Light: Moretti and the Individual Text”, in which tracked the distribution of “Xanadu” on the web, concluding that the term seems to occur in two contexts: 1) sybaritic excess: entertainment, exotica, and opulence and 2) cybernetic connectivity: hypertext, media, the internet. This does not mean that all of the web sites associated with "Xanadu" can be placed in one of those two categories. It only means that many of those web sites can be placed in one or another of those categories, and that those two categories are the largest groups in the list of websites returned by web searches. I further argued that the dispersion of took place in three phases: 1) Print media: 1816 into the first half of the 20th century. This is the root of the system, as it were. 2) Electronic and mass media: mid-20th century to present. 3) Digital media with world-wide provenance: mid 1990s to present.

The post generated an extensive an interesting discussion, with others offering contributions. As The Valve has now gone off line I am positing a PDF of the post AND the subsequent discussion. The PDF includes a number of imgages of things Xanadu. That discussion influenced the working paper I eventually produced, “One Candle, a Thousand Points of Light: The Xanadu Meme” (March 2010).

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