This is probably the greatest problem for anyone confronting a 500-page tome and being overwhelmed by the sheer mass of it. I have no good solution to the problem that today hardly anyone has the time any more to wade through hundreds of pages of verbal contortions. I have to write this account of my thoughts to give a documentation of where I had been, and how I got there. I hate to have other people wade through my verbiage as much as I dreaded to wade through thousands and thousands of pages of the collected verbiage of humanity to filter out those precious bits of knowing that I have now "between my ears". Of course, as I have already said, a hypermedia system would help a lot with this problem, but it costs many man years to bring all the material I have collected here into a suitable hypermedia representation. The infrastructure for this is not complete yet, and perhaps never will be. See also: THAUMAZEIN, p.115.
But there is a lighter side. Don't despair, and don't throw out the text just for this reason. First: The core matter is in the first four chapters, the rest is appendix. About half of the appendix is in German, anyway, so non-german speaking readers don't need to bother with this. This cuts the book in about half. So how do you best go about filtering out that rest the issues that suit you most? There are several different, time tested methods to apply. Lets list them:
The simplest thing I suggest you do with this text is that you open it somewhere at random and start to read. Never read more than interests you.
The method is called the "Jesuite Hyper Jump" because the Jesuites, who were on the whole very smart people, who had invented the most important hypermedia principle long before one could think of computers and random access memory storage devices. (Except Pascal, Leibniz, and Father Bouvet, of course. But this is another story.) The Jesuites had found out that if you use a pin and stick it somewhere at random between the pages of the bible, and you open it, and read what's on that page, it will invariably give you the exact answer to all the questions that are bothering you at the moment. Of course that secret was never told outside the Jesuite circles, it was part of their secret spiritual weaponry with which they were so long successful as the spiritual elite troops of the Pope. I have tried the trick myself, only to find out that it never worked for me. Only after long research I found out why it invariably worked for the Jesuites and not for me. First, you have to believe in the kind of God that the bible tries to impose on you as the one-and-only one there is. If you don't you are out of luck. Then, you should have a bible written in Greek, and you should know Greek as well as your mother tongue. This the Jesuites certainly did. It also works in Latin, but Greek is better. Of course, you must also be schooled in certain patterns of Jesuite Logic, and you won't get that outside the Jesuite circles either. If you know Sanskrit, you can do the same with the Rg Veda, or with the Bhagavad Gita, you can do it with the Koran, if you can read classical Arabic, or the Tora, if you read Hebrew, and so on. But you should be very careful with modern language translations. More on this in: ONOMA SEMEPHON, p.369.
This is why I have included the "database section" and why it is so important. One of the little tricks that I found out while experimenting with outlining techniques is that if you write as many headings as I do, you arrive at a kind of short story of the book in the collected "detailed table of contents". So you can go through this section first, and look up subjects that interest you. If you then want to go on to other, related chapters, you can follow the Hypertext jumps. Since they are bi-directional, you can also follow a jump backwards, to come to material that relates to any subject matter. The same thing can be done with the index. Just find words in the index that seem to be of interest to you and read the relating chapters. You will find entry points that are suited to your tastes.
This is called so because the structure of this book is like a grape. You can go on picking each paragraph one by one, without having to go through any prescribed sequence. If you think you don't want to read one paragraph, just skip to another one. The outline structure corresponds to the risp of the grape, and each paragraph corresponds to a berry. The content of each paragraph corresponds roughly to the idea of its headline. The connection is not systematic, and as you notice, I often chose headlines that are modelled in style after newspaper headlines. Why not apply the information methods of newspapers to books also? There is a lot of know-how involved in designing good headlines, and the newspaper journalists know very much about that.
Unfortunately, scientific and philosophical writers often consider it below their dignity to write headlines. Shopenhauer may be the most extreme case. He writes only four headlines in his whole work, and they are absolutely uninformative: Erstes Buch, Zweites Buch... (first book, second book...). This forces you to wade through all his verbiage because you have not the slightest idea what is written in all this verbal morass until you have read it all. I consider this close to mental rape. Today the fundamental requirement of anything presented in writing is that there must be a structure that gives an indication what you are about to read, before you have to read it itself. This was already executed with the most exquisite craftsmanship by John Locke in his essay "Of human understanding". The way how he wrote it and structured it, should be a stringent minimal structuring principle for all literature that asserts to be scientific. Unfortunately that is rarely the case.
Even though I am not formally systematic about it, I have taken care that there is usually not more talked about in the paragraph, than what I have outlined in the title. This is a subtle dialectic, and if you follow it for a while, I believe you will get the hang of it. This is a technique that I haven't be able to find in any other book so far. I believe, that it would improve the art of book writing about 100% if this technique were widely practised. With modern word processors supporting the outlining technique, there is no problem at all using the method. And it would make the fast reading of books so much more efficient than it is now.
This is the most exasperating and frustrating way to go about the reading. I have had to order the material in some way that seems logical to me today, and the same structure is entirely contra-productive tomorrow. I am quite glad I have the WinWord outline feature which allows me to move around whole sections of the book to different places, and I have used it often. I don't know how people in earlier ages could have written books without it. To choose an outline before writing confines you to one specific structure. If you know exactly what you are going to write, that is fine. But that is not the case with this book. This is the report of an ongoing work that is updated regularly. And if I get new insights, I must be able to change the structure of what I am writing.
Excerpt from INFRASTRUCTURES OF REPRESENTATION:
A QUEST FOR MULTIMEDIAL SYMBOLISATION SYSTEMS by Andreas Goppold. Via