| drew davidson |

1 & 2 text(s)

by drew davidson



            A fair question to ask of this manifestation of a theory is this:  Is it better or worse that we can now do and experience what the post structural theory describes as a reading process?  Or in other words, what's the point of realizing a theory?  The point is less about whether it is better or worse, and more about how to better utilize the medium of hypertext.   It becomes an issue of the quality of the content.  So, while Myst is no great masterpiece of literature or art, it is one of the best representatives of this new medium.  The goal should be to keep exploring how to better the content of this new medium so that one day we will have a masterpiece of hypertext comparable to those in literature and art. 



            "Theory and Technique"  theory online about online issues by Michael Shumate
















            The medium of a hypertextual multimedia CD-ROM creates new possibilities with narrative.  As George Landow notes, hypertext is composed of words, images, sounds linked by multiple paths in an open-ended perpetually unfinished form (3).The "reader" is allowed to explore the range of possibilities within the narrative of Myst (again, there are a couple of endings to both Myst and Riven).  I believe this overt multiplicity brings a new aura to a piece.  The "reader's" experience has a presence in time and space, it is your reading that opens the meaning of the story.  You puzzle it out as quickly or as carefully as you can or wish.  While there may be millions of copies of Myst out there, your reading has a unique sense of time and space to it.  You have to puzzle it out your way; which may be by buying a book that gives you clues to the puzzles, or talking to friends about how they are "playing" through the story, or by yourself.  Granted this aura is not a fixed one as Benjamin meant.  Instead, it is a performative one that occurs and resonates with the "reader's" experience and exploration of the narrative.















            The hypertextual aspects are an embodiment of Deleuze's paradox of pure becoming.  The meaning is fixed, but it is open.  You get a sense of the potentially "infinite identity of both directions and sense at the same time" (2).  The audience gets "two much and not enough"(2).  The medium allows for a multitude of possibilities, but it makes it hard to construct a narrative that can evoke responses.  Instead, the "reader" develops that story as s/he goes.  But the various possibilities can leave some gaps in the narrative since it is hard for a creator to second guess every possible action that audience may take. 




















            On top of these issues of reading multimedia are the hypertextual potentials of computers to allow for non-linearity and interactivity for the reader. The reader is more overtly empowered within the media of computers than any other media.  Unlimited choices are becoming more and more a reality as can be seen on the world wide web.  You point and click your way through graphics, movies and text, and are able to go a different way each time you experience this media.  Computers allow for documents to exist in the form of a multitude of nodes, web pages for instance.  Each web page is an individual node that is connected to a variety of other nodes (web pages).




















                                                                                    on line theory journal


Davidson, Drew and Andrew Glikman. "Reading the Web: The Maze & The Landscape."  http://www.actlab.utexas.edu:80/~maufrais/hyper.html



"Tree Fiction on the World Wide Web" by Gareth Rees




















            Now, to see how the computer is what it is, we need to read it.  And reading the text of a computer further depends on these issues of interface.  Again, depending on your OS, whether it be DOS, Windows, or Mac, these influence how you interact with the medium of the computer.  Also, each program you use will also have interface qualities that effect your reading.  So, your basic interaction is heavily mediated by the different hardware and software.  Within this interaction with your computer, the idea of verbal literacy is no longer enough.  A computer combines the multimedia of movies, animation, graphics, sounds, voice, music and text.  To read a computer well assumes that one is visually, aurally and verbally literate with a computer interface.  An audacious challenge for some of us who grew up without computers, but watch a kid who has had a computer around since s/he can remember and you will begin to get the idea of multi-literacy with a computer interface.  Multi-literate readers can confidently interact with a computer and easily slide within images, words and sounds via their mouse and keyboard.













            The point I want to make here is that these interface choices are just that, choices, your computer and programs do not necessarily have to run the way they do, but these choices have been made for you, so the text of the computer is constructed for your reading pleasure.  Vis-a-vis whatever system or program you are using, I have found it useful to think of texts in terms of a verb.  In other words, to text, is a method by which you address a set of information.  So, you text a book in a different manner than you would text a computer, but nevertheless you are treating each medium as a text, gleaning information from it as it were.  I find this active idea of texting to be helpful when looking at the text of a computer; a text that is full of a variety of media that can be addressed separately or together.   In this manner one would text the multimedic documents in a manner unique to the mixed media involved.


















            "An intertext is one or more texts which the reader must know in order to understand a work of literature in terms of its overall significance (Riffaterre, 56). While this opens a text, it also limits it, the connections are found by the reader, but they are found through the text, thus the "text maintains its identity despite changing times" (57).  "Intertextuality exists only when two texts interact . . . there cannot be an intertext without our awareness of it" (75).  "Intertext is to the text what the unconscious is to the conscious" (77).  Our experiences allow the intertextuality of a text to emerge. 




















            Then there's the issue of taking the media off the computer and reading it as such, in a different medium. How does this fit into the puzzle?  I am not too sure.  Is a video viewed on TV comparable to one viewed on the web?  If not, then what kind of reading community can be formed, or is this impossible?  Lots of questions that I do not have the answers to as of yet.  The one thing for certain is that the experience of interactive multiple media on a computer makes it very difficult to pin down Fish's idea of an interpretive community as it were.





















            Unpredictable interactivity can take place within the medium of a computer via chat rooms and MU*s.  Here we can actually look into the window of the computer screen and meet and even see other people (Leary 233).  Chat rooms are areas of the internet where one can go and log into a discussion with other people who are on line as well. The topics are basically limitless, if you have an interest, there will be a chat room out there with people talking.  As we speak, the technology exists in which these chat rooms are no longer just textual based, but instead you are represented by a graphical avatar (say for instance, Bugs Bunny, or any other image you so choose) of your design and can talk to the others via a microphone.  MU*s are multi-user domains that are the equivalent of  contextualized chat rooms with atmosphere.  Originally, MU*s were started up as a sort of online Dungeons and Dragons in which people could go and assume character roles and interact with other characters within the setting of that world (or database, it's all just 1's and 0's to the computer).















            A text does not function as a closed system (Still and Worton, 1)  The writer is a reader of texts, so the work is filled with "references, quatations and influences of every kind" (1).  "A text is available only through some process of reading" being viewd in the context of the readers' experiences (1).




            "Internet Textuality: Toward Interactive Multilinear Narrative"  how hypertext is shaping narrative by Jeffrey Johnson and Maurizio Oliva



















            Interactivity and multimedia are not the end of the reading experience of a computer though.  One can make a copy of a transcript of their MU* experience and then print it out, or mark it up with HTML so that the experience can be displayed as desired.  In fact, most of the digital data on a computer can be outputted onto other forms of media. You can construct a movie and then port it to VHS and watch it on your TV. The same can be done with audiotapes and compact discs.  Also, you can print out graphics and text and read them on paper.  The reading experience of a computer is not just multimedic, but can be extended into multiple media.




















            The author of a hypertextual document does not just write.  Indeed, the hypertext "writer" is so much more than a wordsmith.  A writer of hypertext also has to be a director, choreographer, curator, artist, programmer, performer and designer all at once.  In fact, Director by Macromedia (an authoring application that allows one to create interactive, hypertextual, multimedia documents) graphically and thematically uses the metaphor of a director from the stage and screen to help the ŇauthorÓ create a document. 






















            "Hypertext Sites"  links about hypertext by Tom Goldpaugh


            Intertextuality is the interplay between writers, texts and other texts (Dury, 616).  The play between and through texts that is engaged with the readers/writers attention. 





















            From the point of view of discourse theory, Harold Bloom and Michel Foucault are two theorists that come to my mind when thinking about writing on a computer.  Bloom, in his essay, "Poetry, Revisionism, Repression," discusses how a writer must rewrite, or write over, the one who preceded her/him (332).  Bloom is focusing on poets, but I find his oedipal dichotomy to be somewhat applicable to the various levels of writing on a computer.  On the binary level, there is always the drive to improve the systems of computers.  The coder is literally rewriting the program.  So, in a way, it is not just a person that is being written over, but the program itself.  There is this drive to make smarter, more flexible computers, ones that are that much more capable of meeting and adapting to our needs.  A coder is trying to improve and better what software is out there to offer us the new, hot technological software of the future.
















            "My boots. Two completely unremarkable boots.  They were right where they belonged, on the ends of my legs.  Presumably my feet were inside" (Stone, 1).    "An extension of my will, of my instrumentality . . . that's a prosthesis, all right '(3).

























                                                "I felt a sudden thrill of terror" (Stone, 1).



            Williams notes that, "all this is the birth of a new language.  It is a new allotment of significance.  It is the cracking up of phrases which have stopped the mind (Crawford, 674). 






















            The idea of being an active creator is strengthened via non-linearity and interactivity.  This pulls the reader into this world even more.  You have the power, the control.  You can go whither your heart desires at any moment.  The sense of self becomes more empowered, more active.  Poulet discusses falling into the book, in a computer, you fall in where you want to and can essentially do as you please (within the rules of conduct for the MU* or chat room of course).  A MU* is basically only limited by the physical memory that has been allotted to it.  In other words, you can build onto it and add to it as long as you do not exceed a certain amount of memory space.  Talk about getting lost in reading experience.




















            "The concept of intertextuality requires that we understand the concept of text as . . . differential and historical" (Frow, 45).  We have to remeber the space and time of our engagement with the text.  Texts are traces (45).  "The identification of an intertext is an act of interpretation" (46).  We are recognizing the traces of others. 























            As an "author" using Director you work with a cast.  Your cast is made up of members that consist of every element that makes up your piece.  A cast member can be a video clip, a sound bite, a piece of text, a graphic, and so on.  You situate these cast members in a score.  Your score is what helps you pace and place the action of your piece.  It is here that you make certain that at such a time, such a choice made by the reader will result in such a video clip playing.  You script out the action of your piece through programming in lingo (Macromedia's proprietary programming language) and in words, images and sounds and movement (all of which form your cast).  To view and explore the work in progress you watch it on the stage, which is really just a part of your computer screen. 


















This parallels Roger Shattuck's point, made in his article, "How to Rescue Literature." Shattuck is looking at how the performative oral readings of texts will help to better understand our experience with a text. We should perform the text to better experience it.  This occurs naturally in a computer, where meaning is produced through "enactment (acting out instead of telling or describing)" (Holmqvist 225). We act on the computer as we create pseudonyms and surf the web and point and click our way through this medium.





















            I still find it useful to look at how a narrative can develop across mediums.  The story that is related in Myst could not have occurred in one medium.   You would lose unique qualities of one of the mediums, if you used only the other one.  The novels give us linear structure for storytelling.  The CD-ROMs put us in the story itself, puzzling through the narrative.  Combining the narrative across two mediums gives us a story in which we are not only a reader, but a "co-author, theater goer, movie goer, museum visitor and player, all at the same time" (Miles 4).





















            As such, I am interested in created a interactive multimedia piece that is to be read in the medium of a computer.  This piece will deal with issues of reading, writing and texting in the medium of a computer. I will be focusing on the end user's experience with this computer document that they point and click their way through.  I believe it would be a performative experience, one in which the end user has the power to decide where to go and overtly performs the reading of the piece.  The reader of the piece will actively create her/his subjectivity as s/he submerges into the story.  The trick, as I see it, will be to create an interface that allows the reader to enact and engage this performative reading on a computer (and that is some trick).



















            "Hypertheory is characterized by spatial metaphors" (Schmundt, 311).  "If you truly believe in hypertext then you must be prepared for those who believe that we have not arrived at hypertext until we begin forming individual thoughts are hypertext, thoughts that cannot be expressed in any other way" (314).



            "A New Art Form: Hypertext Fiction" hyperfiction as new art form by Howard S. Becker






















| drew davidson |