Mia on how the WWW is a ‘web’ and thinking through that a bit more. Jane realises that things are immediately near to hand when writing online, and this makes a difference. More significantly it makes a difference to your own writing in an essay for now any paragraph is as far away from another paragraph as any other. Marina on Landow, hypertext, and usefulness. Interesting question, a part from convenience, what else does hypertext teach us? Angus on blogs and realising that medical research is blogged. I’m an academic, there are a lot of amazing academic blogs out there which are more active than many a book or journal. It’s the same with every area, once you realise that informed time based reflective writing lets experts share, then things change a lot. Monique has intriguing comments picking up the elegance (simplicity) of what lies behind Nelson’s things. 

Hypertext and Stuff

Mia on the Landow with a nice observation that blogs aren’t really like blogs, for instance blogs are ‘backwards’, and unlike diaries are public. Tilly pauses on just one thing in there and realises that it inverts 400 years of print. Rebecca writes a post that plays off links (though HTML is a very diluted form of hypertext), and Evan realises hypertext is the name for what has been there all along. Evan realising that perhaps we aren’t readers anymore, a nice realisation, and Gemma wondering if Ted would like choose your own adventure (as hypertext definitely not). Louis realising that linking and joining, deeply, and everything, is a pretty intriguing concept (one that it is still not realised).

Multi Hyper Stuff

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.

Landow, Hypertext, the Mess of it All

Alois has some riffs on the idea of hypertext that are speculative and helpful. Necklace I’m less convinced of personally since things only have a before and after on a necklace. Gabrielle discusses hypertext and narrative and the question of plot. In narratology plot very specifically means the order in which a story is told. So you have a story, what happened, and plot, how it is told. Some stories have plots where they’re told in order, some don’t. In hypertext, order is one of the key things that comes to matter as order always changes. Jennifer does an interesting speculative turn where if hypertext keep changing, then are they, in some small way, alive, or at least, like something living? I think the answer’s probably no, but there is an interesting relation between the complexity that some sorts of hypertext (particularly the fiction discussed by Landow), network graphs, and the living world that is worth thinking about. Most of that last sentence will only make sense after the next two lots of readings… So keep it in mind. Complex networks share common self organising structures/patterns, in both the natural world, and in hypertexts. Which is kinda spooky, kinda sci-fi, and kinda exciting. Anh thinks the idea of hypertext fiction is exciting, only to then decide the novel is the way to go. Except what if we just think of hypertextual fiction as not a novel, but still a work of literature? Then you get both. In relation to ‘authorial voice’ to date most hypertext fiction very much has an authorial voice, certainly as much as a novel. On the other hand there is plenty of experimental fiction, electronic and plain paper, that deliberately messes with any notion of authorial voice. So hypertext does not equal no author, though it can, but print has played that same game for a long time.

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.

More George

Denham muses on the Landow, in particular beginning to think about the implications for readers and authors that systems such as hypertext require. (Hypertext is not the only thing here, it’s just a good way to get into rethinking readers, texts, writers/makers in the context of network specific work.) Isabella also picks this up, as well as the dissolution of the private and the public that blogs, and now in their wake social media (blogs largely paved the way for social media) have introduced into the public sphere.


Chantelle thinking about the Landow reading, in a long list of things, notes that in hypertext our texts don’t have edges anymore. We sort of might take this for granted and nod, “of course” (though some of you will be schocked by your experience of this made literal in Niki) but in practice most of us haven’t taken this on board. Our essays are on paper, they don’t’ really weave out, or in, or through, and still, in lots of ways, lots of media are silos. (mixbit is interesting here in relation to video as it starts to change this a little for video.) Allison worries about linearity, narrative and hypertext. Linearity is like the hegemonic elephant in the room with it’s bedmate narrative here. Why (I’m serious) does narrative always seem to be used to trump other things? When there are so many forms that don’t really rely on narrative – games, sport, music, lots of poetry. We can make moving works without narrative. If that is the case then we can probably, quite easily, making moving works that are multilinear. Yes? Laura-Jayne has good sketch notes on hypertext, though the copy and paste or typing from the Douglas jumbled down there at the end! Daniel has thumbnail points on hypertext. In hypertext the link is fundamental, which might get discussed, might not, depends on how much unpacking it might do.