While I was reading Nelson’s writing on Hypertext I couldn’t quite place my finger on what the concept reminded me of. I found it extremely prophetic given what the Web looks like right now, particularly in it’s absolute lack of beginning and end (to quote Adrian in one particular Symposium: the Internet is more of a “middle” than anything else). But there was something else that closely mirrored Nelson’s style of non-sequential writing from before I even knew what the Web was. I finally realised what this was a few hours later: hypertext, and by extension The Web, is undeniably similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure stories I used to read.
Even while the pages are chronologically numbered from page 1, these novels are read non-sequentially. The reader chooses where to go next – while one section may last any number of pages, eventually there will be the option to flick forwards or backwards and change the direction. You may be on page 8 and have the option to continue on to page 9, or otherwise to page 100, where an alternate chain of events will ensue. This seems eerily similar to the way I navigate through webpages via different links.
I’m surprised I’d never made this connection before.