Technofile

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The Independent Culture
We take for granted the sight of historic events taking place live on television, and feel they would be incomplete without the broadcast media. A similar role is now being played by hypermedia, but rather than supplying mainly visual images, these new forms are providing history with a simultaneous textual accompaniment.

Possibly the densest concentration of historical hypertext is to be found in the Academic Edition of Balkan Odyssey, a CD-ROM based around Lord Owen's memoir of his time as a negotiator in the Bosnian conflict (phone 01442 872617 for details). As well as a photo gallery and video footage from various TV programmes, including an entire Panorama, it contains batteries of official documents: correspondence, minutes of meetings, peace proposals, Security Council resolutions and so on. These are marshalled by a search engine, so that any document selected, whether textual, audio or visual, is accompanied by a list of related files. Lord Owen's own, controversial account of his activities is thus bound to a lode of academically irresistible documents, though he denies that adding historical ballast in this way was a consideration when he instigated the project.

The Dayton Accords are available at one of several Bosnia Web sites maintained by various organs of the US government - criticism of whose policies is a main theme of Lord Owen's account. Other interested parties also have Web pages, including the World Bank and IFOR, the NATO Implementation Force. The latter ranges from hearty military PR photos ("Hectic schedules don't keep soldiers from PT") to transcripts of press conferences, which are quicker to take in and more vivid than TV footage. One of these records a speech referring to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and these words are duly hyperlinked to the UN Web site bearing the text, like a sermon with a link to the Ten Commandments. A quick scroll reveals that the Bosnian Serbs have broken at least three-quarters of its precepts.

The best way into the Balkan Web is via the Bosnia Homepage, which is in California (http://www.cco. caltech.edu/bosnia/others/resources 3.html). One site you'll miss, however, is the Serbian site (http://www.yugoslavia.com) devoted to singing the praises of Serbia's tolerant multicultural democracy, while denouncing the country's Albanian minority in the next paragraph. Its graphics are smarter than that of its Croatian equivalent, but both employ a rhetoric of free communication which disguises the grip the governments of both countries exert over their media.

Many of the sites are the work of freelances. Some are professionals, like the pair who quit over US policy and set up the Balkan Institute, backed by a constellation of worthies including Saul Bellow, Walter Cronkite and Bianca Jagger. Others are enthusiasts, such as the Croatian stamp- collectors who have contributed their two cents to the record of historical documentation. You can download images of stamps issued by the Bosnian Croat "entity" of Herceg Bosna, including one showing the famous Old Bridge of Mostar, destroyed by artillery fire from the forces of the statelet which issued the stamp. Around it are the words "Herceg Bosna", "Republika Bosna i Hercegovina", and "Hrvatska zajednica" ("Croatian union"). The existence of the first is incompatible with the second, and what parties are united in the third is unclear. A demonstration in miniature of Owen's remark that "nothing is simple in the Balkans", the size of a postage stamp.

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