The Ideal University

The ideal: unfettered exploration and critical discussion.

Critical maneuvers can open space for thinking and questioning differently. One thing hypertext can offer this task is an endlessly wide margin on which to inscribe comments and make links, the chance to move in new directions. That is, in its way, what the university is supposed to offer too.

Are there walls implied in the university's ideal of openness?

We're well familiar with the way in which the very ideal of a open democratic society shuts out some points of view and sets of values. There are many arguments working to justify such exclusion. What I want to cite, however, is a different wall, keeping the discussion within the bounds of recognized methods of criticism.

What counts as debate and criticism, as opposed to complaint or mockery or just jiving around with words or opinions? When is discussion serious? Academic disputes can be vicious or polite, witty or dull, but they are always supposed to be earnest and responsible.

Hypertext linking can be used to expound opinions and arguments. There is no one essentially correct way to use links, but besides their convenience in exposition, another thing they can do is juxtapose and relate in ways that call exclusions into question. Another is to make the reader wonder about the connections they make. Linking can also be used to locate opinions and arguments, not just in relation to one another, but within a different space, a space around argument and discussion, a space of unstandard combinations and connections, a space in which more might happen, a space in which we can hold, or relate to, our arguments differently, perhaps a bit less seriously.