Chantelle ponders the idea of a book that changed each time you read it. This was Michael Joyce’s incentive to help build Storyspace, a hypertext writing and publishing program (before the World Wide Web), and is still one of the most elegant ways to think about the role of digital or new media in relation to making stories. There is order, but it changes, here is story, it is different. And it can’t be a book because paper makes it harder to do this. Rebecca picks up what we call a branching tree structure. I think I will talk about this a bit in the next unsymposium as the difference between a branching tree and a hypertextual structure is, perhaps, from the hypertext part of networked media one of the most important things to pick up.
Dominic has a brilliant post that points out why hypertext was a revolution. Yes, we now take it for granted, but to ‘get’ why it matters you really do need to realise what it was like before. I have taught in the past from hypertexts, but to answer Dominic’s question about why not present material this way? We are, it is niki, and you are building it. Brittany thinks about how a character that dies might be alive again. Two comments, this is a common trope in soap opera and so we don’t need multilinear narrative for it (well, except soap opera is also a particular form of multi-sequential narrative), though more importantly, if a character dies, and doesn’t, then the import, impact and empathy that happens in the death disappears. Which might risk diluting the experience?
Isabella discusses Landow, and likes the way that hypertext (and its progeny) lets questions be asked of narrative causality, character, plot, and story. Allison worries that if a reader can contribute to a text then the literary or narrative contract is broken. Except reader response theory, and all literary theory from around 1970 onwards shows, very clearly that when we read we do not, cannot, get access to the ‘mind of the author’. Their mind is not available, writing is not a pure expression of someone’s intent, even if it were it cannot survive into something else (all meaning is context based, no context is fixed around something, ever), and when we write or make we are as subject to language, grammar, genre, and the reader, as we are in charge (and depending on how far you push it, it is easy to see us as more dependent on these things that free from them). Nadine I think makes a very relevant observation, usefully bringing Bordwell’s film theories into hypertext. Art films pay more attention to reaction than action, they therefore appear cerebral, slow, contemplative. Compared to popular cinema they expand the moments between. This has, largely, been what the best hypertext fiction has, and more recently what a lot of the better interactive documentary does to.