(written: july 1998 | up to david's home)

Primedia and Iterative Formation

p r i m e d i a

Ted Nelson, the man who coined the terms "hypertext" and "hypermedia" in the 1960's, has recently coined another term: primedia. As you might imagine, the word primedia describes "primal media," or "frozen base data" as Ted calls it.

But we here at NIB Labs take everything to extremes, if you haven't already noticed. We define primedia as meaning "a single object or bit of data, displaying or indicating no relationships whatsoever, and therefore posessing no inherent instructional value." These primedial objects are the elementary particles of the Instructional Universe. Whether you realize it or not, you work with them everyday... you just work with them in combination.

a n   e x a m p l e

Say I had a really groovy (dare I say groovilicious?) photo -- like this one:


Now ask yourself, "what can I learn from this pretty photo?" The answer is, "you can't learn anything from this photo alone." You may say, "Oh no! I can learn that outer space is pretty!" Well, you can't learn that from this photo alone. For all you know, it could be a tightly zoomed shot of a red blood cell or a sophomore design student's weekend homework. You see, because this bit of data neither expresses nor implies any relationships whatsoever, there's nothing you can learn from it. It qualifies to bear the proud name "primedia."

Now, you could have learned something if I had added the label, "Planetary Nebula NGC 6543." And if I had added some descriptive text that read "6543 is 3,000 light years away in the northern constellation Draco," you could have learned even more. In fact, you would now know "what it's name is," "what it is," "what it looks like," and "where it's located." That's a lot of info. But if I simply listed one of the sentences alone, or the photo alone, they're meaningless -- completely incomprehensible -- without relationships expressed or at least implied. Compare this primedial object to this...