From A to <A> [cover]

From A to <A>: Keywords of Markup.

Ed. Bradley Dilger and Jeff Rice. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

246 pp., 978-0-8166-6609-6.

Chapters Eight – Thirteen; Afterword

Michelle Glaros looks at another reviled tag, <frame>, in “<frame>ing Representations of the Web; she argues that linear expectations of literacy dominate our understandings of how a document ought to behave, even when digital modes of writing offer the possibility of texts composed with non-narrative epistemologies, and suggests that these possibilities may still be open to users willing to reconsider the impermeable nature of framing borders. Matthew K. Gold looks at a similar tag often used to enforce the linear expectations for writing in “Breaking All the Rules: Using <hr> to Create Space in Online Writing Environments.” Gold traces the history of the horizontal rule from its inception as a way for writers to break text into smaller units with simple lines to a more decorative, ornamental design element before falling into disrepute; he argues that its legacy as a way of enforcing linearity remains within CSS standards of presentation.

Jennifer L. Bay turns the collection’s attention to the <body> tag, using her chapter “Body on <body>: Coding Subjectivity” to trace how users seek to authenticate their interactions with others through a drive to represent the corporeal body through their online profiles, avatars, and personas; thus, for Bay, the body becomes a part of the content enclosed by the tag <body>. Helen J. Burgess tackles how invisible-to-user scripting codes such as PHP function much like the pecia marks that enabled early printers to assemble alphabetic texts. Her chapter, “<?php> : “Invisible” Code and the Mystique of Web Writing,” notes how this “invisible” intervention of scripting commands places a bar between those who read the Web and those who would do or create the Web and suggests that this shift demonstrates an increasing need for the ability to understand the database logic that drives such scripts.

In “From Cyberspaces to Cyberplaces: <img>, Narrative, and the Psychology of Place,” Rudy McDaniel and Sae Lynne Schatz argue that there is no single “cyberplace” but instead a collection of cyberplaces that are formed, in part, through the integration of images that offer a way for users to create a shared narrative. Bradley Dilger also tackles the visual element of the Web in “<table>ing the Grid” as he traces the history of <table>’s use as a tool allowing designer’s to create grid-like layouts and how this preference for such layouts persists within CSS’s aesthetic of boxy layouts and precisely placed elements, noting that while such an aesthetic may promote order and minimalism, it also enforces an inflexible approach to content and presentation. Finally, Cynthia Haynes’ afterword to the collection, “<meta>: Casuistic Code,” looks back to how the forerunners of modern computers were used to track individuals with traits and identity-markers perceived as undesirable by Nazi Germany. Haynes connects those conventions with the contemporary trend for tagging metadata, challenging readers to remember always that markup is never free of its context and that it always bears a relationship to the cultures, institutions, and ideologies from which it emerges.