Fractal Writing and Reading

Fractal reading: whether you read a lot of text or a little, the text all looks and feels like other larger or smaller parts of itself. A paragraph evokes a whole novel, a whole textbook triggers an embedded poem, a word suggests a long-evolved plan. Writers do this kind of thing all the time. Now we have links, haste, and new layers of consciousness, and fractal reading is what we do more and more. We surf everything now.

Fractal writing: producing the works that echo themselves from word to phrase to paragraph to scene to chapter to book and beyond. When such works have links to serve them as well as words, good writing catches extra fire. The image here contrasts the reading process (black line segments) for a linear book (brown) with that for a collection of Web pages (salmon-pink) and that for an ELM such as the one the author has produced (light purple).

Readers do not read every word of any book, and we do not read any book in exactly the order the author sets forth. The lines here show skips, backtracks, and rereadings - we all do these things. Reading a book is limited to whatever appears in the one sequence in which the book is published. Reading the Web has no bounds at all. Reading an ELM takes a middle path: the reader can skip and follow among different threads of narrative, but no Web intrudes to distract from the content.

In the image below, the black lines reflect the way readers move across a work. In a book (brown line), reading is mostly linear. On the Web (pink lines), reading jumps all over. In an ELM (purple lines), reading does both, but the author's task is to limit the jumping in order to tell a story, to narrate a lesson, and to interrelate relate stories and lessons, with reader excursions optional and supported.

Fractal Reading and Writing