| drew davidson |

1 & 2 literature

by drew davidson




            The performative nature of this hypertextual computer medium has led Brenda Laurel to look at computers as theatre.  For Laurel, computers have the "capacity to represent action in which humans [can] participate" (1). The "reader" is a performer within the hypertextual narrative, shaping the actions and outcomes by the choices s/he makes.  You perform the story by participating in the narrative, puzzling through the process.  And it is performative in the Derridean sense in that you are performing within a "'coded' or iterable" context (that of the creator's constraints on your choices).  So, while you may do something different from one time to the next within the story, it is also within an iterable context. 


















            The realization of this post structural theory of reading is not the final nail in the coffin of the author.  Instead, the role of the author has been repositioned as well.  The author is a director, writer, painter, choreographer, curator, artist, programmer and designer all at once.  On top of the mixing of multiple mediums, the creator has to script for multiple and open possibilities that hypertext allows so that the reader will have more choices and become more implicated in the narrative and more immersed in the environment. 





















            All of the above notwithstanding, we need to look at all the various levels of reading to be considered on a computer.  With the potential of non-linearity and interactivity, there is the distinct possibility that you have not necessarily read the same thing as me, instead we've read different versions of a similar text.  For example, what web are you talking about when you discuss the World Wide Web, it may be somewhat similar to my version of the web, but I can pretty much guarantee we have not been to and read the same web, page by page.  It is simply too large and sprawling of a text to be considered as a whole, except maybe in the abstract.  To get specific is to focus on one aspect from the many.  And then we may be texting the web differently.  You may be fascinated with the graphics of a page, while I've been focusing on the text, our readings themselves are different. 



















                                                            "As We May Think," by Vannevar Bush



"Degrees of Freedom,"  by Jay David Bolter























            The experience of reading a computer full of multimedia and interactivity can be looked at through the lens of Georges Poulet article, "Criticism and the Experience of Interiority."  Poulet begins with a discussion of how an un-opened book is merely an object, but once opened, a book becomes a world that subsumes him.  He gets lost as the subject of the book becomes him or vice-versa.  This notion is quite apt in terms of the computer.  If you have yet to get hooked into a chat room, or a MU*, or a good game, you will hopefully someday have such an experience.  I would describe the experience as addictive, it sucks you in and won't let go.  You become the subject of the medium of the computer.



















            I do not want to ignore the authorŐs role in the creation and performance of the meaning(s) around a hypertext.  The author of a text does not just put together a bunch of pages that are randomly linked and say that s/he has written a non-linear document that has no defined beginning, middle or end.  Granted, you can structure a piece that it temporally open-ended, but the reader's experience will always progress linearly- there will be a beginning, middle and end to their reading experience.  Taking into account the performative nature of the reader's experience, a writer can work to have a variety of options that proceed multilinearly.  In other words, instead of having no fixed start or finish, the writer can have multiple beginnings and endings that are experienced through a variety of choices and avenues made avilable to the reader(s). 

















            Now, if we step up to levels of writing that include multimedia production, text based writing, HTML, etc., we can see how this fits more with the type of writing Bloom is discussing.  The challenge is explicitly to write over your predecessor. A good example of this can be seen with the multimedia game/novel, MYST.  MYST set a standard in terms of technology and aesthetics that all other multimedia games/novels since have been judged.  You often see the phrases like, "it's a MYST style game that out MYSTs MYST."  It is on these levels of writing that Bloom's concept best fits the idea of writing on computer.  These authors have to write over those who came before. 



















            Ideas of authorship are turned inside out in Michel Foucault's article, "What is an Author?," which has some interesting connotations when applied to writing on computer.  With his idea of the author-function, one can look at the computer as writer in a similar light as that of us writing on our computers.  For, as Foucault quotes Samuel Beckett, "What matters who's speaking, someone said, what matters who's speaking" (139).  As I understand it, the author-function is a position within discourse itself.  It is a function that is created in a discourse.  So, in terms of writing, or discourse, on a computer, a computer can fulfill the author-function as well as not.  In this binary discourse, I see the computer hovering in an author-function position.  It is writing our inputted information, whether it be text or other, in binary code so that it can read it. 


            Bibliography on Robert Coover
















            In Riven, the creators tried to use narrative to create the illusion of free will for the "reader" (Carroll, "(D)Riven," 2).  But then it was hard to mix the story of the reader and the story of the narrative.  In hypertext, it's hard to tell a story.  The non linearity of the CD-ROM makes it difficult for the creators to actually build a narrative that can evoke emotional responses (Carroll, "(D)Riven," 4).  Too much of a structuring narrative would limit the possibilities.  Instead, the novels serve as a way to structure the narrative that the interactive, hypertext CD-ROMs do not allow.  The strength of the CD-ROM is also its weakness.  Having the reader be such an integral part of the story makes it hard to dictate their interactions with the piece.  So, the story has to be left open and fluid, instead of fixed and directed.   A new way of "writing" and "reading" to be sure.



















            Barthes say that that in the ideal text "the networks are many and interact, without any one of them being able to surpass the rest; this text is a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning; it is reversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, non of which can be authoritatively declared the main one" (Crawford, 669).





















            Hypertext as an electronic medium started back in 1945 with Vannevar Bush's memex system (Berk and Devlin, 13).  For Bush, memex was an associative storage system that was supposed to be similar in function to how he thought our brains stored information and how we remembered things.   In the early 60's, Douglas Engelbart,  like Bush, thought of an electronic medium with links between texts that could augment our intellectual capabilities (13).






















            Bush believed that "the human mind . . . operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain" (Crawford, 665-6).
























            In 1965, Theodor Nelson coined the term, "hypertext,"  and invented the hypertextual, operating system, Xanadu (Berk and Devlin, 14).  In the late 60's, Andries Van Dam worked with several hypertextual systems at Brown University in order to help teach classes.  His latest project is called Intermedia (14).  In the early 70's ZOG was developed at Carnegie-Mellon and was one of the last of the first generation hypertext systems that ran on mainframes only (14). 






















            In the early 80's there was the emergence of second generation, workstation based hypertexts products, such as Intermedia and KMS (a new version of ZOG) (Berk and Devlin, 14).  The faster computers allowed more people to utilize hypertext technology.  In 85, Peter Brown introduced hypertext to personal computer users with Guide (15).  A year later, Xerox released Notecards that supported graphics and animation as well as text (as did Intermedia and KMs at this time) (15).






















            The following year, Apple bundles Hypercard with all its Macintoshes, allowing millions the chance to explore hypertext documents (Berk and Devlin, 15).  In the 90's the explosion of the Internet and the hypertext-based World Wide Wide has opened the floodgates to a plethora of products and browsers that allow users to read and write in hypertext (15).























            Interetextuality is about the limits of a texts, hypertextuality is about the limitlessness of a text (Riffaterre, 781).  Intertextuality is a "structured network of text-generated contraints on the reader's perceptions," hypertextuality is the "reader-generated loose web of free association" (781). Both are connectors (782).   Hypertext allows the collection of every available datum, intertexuality excludes irrelevant data (786).


            "Writing for the New Millennium:  The Birth of Electronic Literature"  

                                                                        by Robert Kendall




















            On the radio, soundmen "represented fire by crumpling cellophane, because to the audience it sounded more like fire than holding a microphone to a real fire did" (Stone, 7).

























 In Paterson, Williams' was concerned with how the human mind processes information (Crawford, 667).


























            Intertextualizing is to "break up a single text by intercutting other texts into it" (Gray and VanOosting, 212).  This empowers another viewpoint in relation to the text, opening new possibilities in the meaning of the text (215).

























Stone asks in reference to Stephen Hawking and his Vortrax (artifical speech device).  "Where does he stop?  Where are his edges?" (Stone, 5).

























            Every text is a point of centrifugual and centripetal forces are brought to bear (Bakhtin, 272).  This is what unifies it with other texts and sets it apart as its own.


























Borges, Jorge Luis, various works.

       "Seemingly, about any Borges story you read could be seen as a predecessor of hypertext, though I've been  re-reading him lately and found a few of particular interest. "The Garden of Forking Paths" is about a fictional fiction writer named Ts'ui Pen who set out to construct a novel that was an enormous labyrinth of forking paths. The story suggests but does not actually embody some of the concepts of "tree fiction."               "The Library of Babel" sounds like a premonition of W3 itself--a library that contains all possible books and interpretations of books."

Joyce, James

       "The entire oeuvre, but especially Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake."



















"Look at this quote: "This much is already known: for every sensible line of straightforward statement, there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal jumbles and incoherences." If that's not a description of the world of homepages, I don't know what is" (Shumate).



            "From Page to Screen"  print fiction that can be seen as hypertextual by




















            Words serve as intersections of textual surfaces, rather than points, as a dialogue among several writings (Kristeva, 36). 

            A text has the caracteristic of iterability (Derrida, 321).  It has the possibility of being repeated if not reproduced, because there is a performative aspect to reading.

            Texts have two makers, before and after, writer and reader (Bloom, 19).  























            Hypertext pieces can be "read through multiple times -theoretically endless times as interest fades - each reading creating overlapping, but never matching, impressions" (Lu, 499).




Glikman, Andrew. "The Maze & The Landscape: A Rhetoric of Expectations,             Warrants, and Links." http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~glik/mz-land/start.html







| drew davidson |