Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Hayne-Webster Debate, an Experiment in Hypertext Style

Debate is at in case you want to skip the following:

For once, I'd like to step back from arguing with bits and pieces of misinformation (or what appears so to me), and look at the question of truth per se, or what steps we might take to reconstruct the world so we have a better chance of getting at the truth, and so acting better in our individual and collective self interest.  No idea of a "master plan" of  "reconstructing" the world should be tried.  It would be like repeating the mistakes of Lenin and his successors.  Rather, perhaps we could all become familiar with practices that nudge the world just a tiny bit in the right direction.  Practices like not putting up with as much imprecise, vague, and just plain emotion driven language as we have to every day.

10 or 15 years ago, I tried to make a little demonstration of one small approach.

For many years, I maintained and expanded a large web site to collect all sorts of thoughts, analysis, and original source material related to the U.S. in the early 19th century.

One of the most successful things I did was to try to put a "zoom lens" on one formidable historical document, the record of the Hayne-Webster debate. At least I've heard from quite a few professors who assigned it for class reading.

In an introductory essay, I tried to explain my vision of "A New Connection Between Original and Secondary Texts"

 I also claim, and hope to demonstrate, that when authors learn the art of using online media, it will change the way history is experienced by the reader. When reading secondary sources, those who wish will immediately glance at the source material which the author has cited, thus benefit from a specialist's reflections on the material, without spending hours trapped in the author's head. One can go out; walk around in the original text, and breath, and think, freely. One can say "I see what he/she means, but I would read it a little differently." Reading can become an active, creative, thought process.

If you want to know more, just go to the page at

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