Saturday, January 28, 2012

This is hypertext.

I took a look at Bieguelman's, "The Book After the Book" site before doing any of the readings for this week. I found the site to be confusing and with a number of broken links, I suspected that it was out of date. Ultimately, I was looking to find a starting point and then a listing of the different sections, so I would know that I had read the whole book. I left again in frustration.

After that experience I read "The End of Books" article by Robert Coover which discusses a class Coover lead in hyperfiction. The reading was quite compelling. Coover did a very good job of positioning hypermedia as something different from books - more over, something different even than e-books. As Coover says, "hypertext provides multiple paths between text segments" and so the reader is able to create their own narrative, which will be different from the narrative created by other readers and of course different from the narrative envisioned by the author (Something that Bush discussed when he talked about the Memex).

I revisited the Bieguelman site and it all became clear. This time, as I clicked the links I found myself relishing the experience of discovery as opposed to being frustrated about missing the story. I now knew that I had to create the narrative for myself and I had to be comfortable with creating a loop or with missing pieces of text entirely. This is hypertext.

I finished my exploration today by watching the Jay-Z Decoded video that Hillary had posted and the power of hypertext and the way in which it transformed reading and books was abundantly clear.

In the end, hypertext will not destroy or replace books. It truly is a new media. But, that does not mean that it will replace the old media of books. They will still have their place and their audience. Choose-your-own-adventure books were fascinating to read and disturbed the regular process of reading, yet many people still enjoyed to read narratives created by an author. This will continue to be the case. New media has the impact of segmenting audiences or segmenting spans of attention rather than displacing and killing old media.


  1. Atypical, I couldn't agree more!

    I also found Bieguelman's site disorienting and I was left wondering if I was reading it correctly. Did I click all the links? Did I visit all the pages? Were the pages displaying correctly on my computer?

    The same feeling again came while reading Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar's piece, Cruising. Part of the anxiety might be attributed to the fact that I read them for school as opposed to reading for pleasure, but the feeling was still prevalent.

    The directions/grammatology page in The Book after the Book explains how to navigate the site, but also hints that not all pages can be accessed from the index. It also ends with the cryptic question, “is there a better place than a forest to lose a leaf?” indicating that one can be lost in this web maze.

    Also, on the bottom of the webpages, it says that the site was last updated in Dec. 2000 and many of the links do not seem to work. Instead of pointing to a portion of the text, they now reveal pages selling the rights to the domain name. In traditional paper publishing, the readers does not have to worry that portions of the text will be removed. Unless the physical book is altered, all of the text and images remain. But in digital projects, especially ones that rely on links to external sites, the author/creator cannot guarantee that these sources will always be available. This adds a level of fragility to these digital pieces that does not exist with traditional publishing.

  2. Atypical I think your reflection of your own reading is what is a sea-change for the 21st C. I think that switch from frustration (where is the link, where is that image, where is the rest of the story?!) to a quest of discovery is what (optimistically!) new media and born digital fiction are trying to evoke/invoke. Perhaps it's also a bit of a postmodern continuation to make us aware that we, subjectivities, are reading something ephemeral, something that is different to each of us?