Blog and Hypertext

Regina struggles to ‘get’ hypertext. While ‘self contained’ hypertexts are what are being discussed your blog has a lot of hypertextual qualities. It doesn’t really have a beginning or an end, it is pretty much all middle. The beginning, the first post, is not really a beginning like the first line of a novel, it is some other sort of beginning. And it doesn’t really have an end. You might think it does, but the link in this post to Regina’s blog, is that now a part of her blog, or not? Why? And the links out from her blog, are they part of the blog? Why? And if this blog post leaves a trackback on that blogpost, automatically, who is writing what, now? And we can arrange the material by category, tag, month, or just default reverse chronological order. So there is no privileged structure to your blog, unlike, say, an essay or a novel. Now, to ‘get hypertext, imagine you wrote a fictional work that had these sorts of qualities. That’s not quite there, but is a step towards what the implications are.

Abby has some good comments and then uses TV as a way to think about how audiences have changed in relation to texts. What she says here is correct, but isn’t really hypertext. In hypertext the actual thing we read/view changes as a result of our actions during the act of our viewing/reading. It is not a choose your own adventure, it is more poetic and complex than this. The most important thing that hypertext teaches is that when we think of narrative (fiction or nonfiction doesn’t matter) online it is the structural relations between its parts that matter. Think of a novel, think of paragraphs. In a novel they have one set of relations, they are serial and fixed. But if a system lets that paragraph maybe sometimes happen after that one, or that one, then how we write, what we write, and how we read, and what a text is, or become strange and different. Abby has another post and here I think the observation that we no longer consume or use media in a linear way is a really important point. As new media professionals we often make the mistake that audiences will treat what we make the way we treat what we make. Politely, from beginning to end, not doing anything else. Yet most of us, most of the time, don’t consume media like this ourselves. We pause, talk over it, skip bits, read in the wrong order, only read some of it, skip that track that you don’t much like. This is how people will use what you make. You can make a 20 minute short film and imagine everyone watching it full screen, headphones on, paying strict attention. But apart from an end of year screening, you and your family, and a small group of afficiandos, everyone else will watch it however. With several windows open, doing several things, not at full screen (sorry, you do not own my computer screen).

Lucy has an excellent quote from Landow about the 4 axes he proposes around the things that hypertext narrative plays with or uses. What is missing is the machine. In hypertext there is reader choice, but I can also make the computer decide things programmatically too. So it isn’t just reader and text but also machine. Lucy has another post too, and the really important idea in this is power. Writing is power, authors have authority. This is power. In hypertext (and the Web generally) the traditional role of power in relation to media, use, consumption is radically altered. In the case of hypertext even in the very form of the work where the author must surrender their authority to control order, in any absolute sense. This is a conversation about power. Who has power, and why.