• Oral Tradition and Internet Technology by John Miles Foley

tPathways don’t and can’t exist. They represent an impossible formulation, a non-concept.

Why? Because in-text references can’t foster instantaneous and continuous access beyond the text. Because textual citations can’t engage a network; all they can designate are other static things. Because any strategy that breaks the spell of the textual experience by shifting the reader’s attention away from that text must by definition amount to a counter-productive strategy. And it isn’t only that pathways can’t work in a textual environment. Even if we could somehow install them, they’d actively subvert tAgora communication.

A case in point

The tried-and-true tAgora strategy of footnotes can help us understand the impossibility of tPathways.

Imagine yourself in a library, immersed in an anthropological study of migrant workers in the southwestern United States. As you follow the author’s argument about the economic forces driving this phenomenon, you notice that he or she cites several prior books and articles on the subject, quotes from one of them, and adds a descriptive or “talking” footnote to an opposing view. Will you now immediately close the text you’re reading and, leaving it behind, go find and read the “sources” enshrined in these footnotes? Or will you (at most) weigh the dependability of the supporting citations, which may either increase or diminish your confidence in the argument you’re evaluating? Remember, since texts are objects, you can consult them at any time—subject to their tAgora availability, of course. What you can’t do is fashion a continuous, meaningful tAgora experience by abandoning the cross-country highway in favor of a series of local dead-ends.

If those footnotes documenting economic forces were truly pathways, an open-ended vista of alternate routes would appear before you. What’s more, those alternate routes would offer credible options because the overall experience of reading and understanding would be understood as partly self-constructed. But, both for better and for worse, the book presents a one-way street rather than a route-system, and so footnotes remain subsidiary dead-ends.

In short, footnotes can’t ever become tPathways because pathways simply don’t exist outside of the oAgora and eAgora.

It’s a simple matter of navigability.