In this week’s workshop, Elliot brought up ‘hypertext’ for discussion, which I’m sure is something that everyone has encountered before. Hypertext is electronic text that consists of images and blocks of words that are linked together by many different paths that you yourself as the reader can choose.
You can choose how the story will begin and how it will end, just by what you click on. This forms a relationship between the reader and the text. The text reacts based on what you click and you click what you do based on what the text has given you.
Each thing you click on will lead you to a different lexia, which is the box of text that presents itself to you. Reading hypertext is not like reading anything else. You have to become a “cyborg reader” because of the relationship you create with the texts and the attitude you have to adopt.
When I was doing some research on hypertext, I stumbled upon Patchwork Girl. Patch girl, WHAT? It sounds interesting. Here’s what I found.
The plot of Patchwork Girl is about a girl who is “patched” together from different pieces of people, much like Frankenstein, to create a whole structure. It is about her figuring out her identity and her gender identity as well.
It tells the story through illustration of parts of female body that are stitched together through text and image. Like, you must piece together the different textual elements to come out with the full story.
“Not only does hypertext, by its very nature, resist closure and allow play, it also partakes of a condition of mutability, as the product leaves room for changes in the format colour, fonts, cascade, etc.
In this sense also, Patchwork Girl is not simply one more text that reflects the aesthetics of fragmentation and hybridity; it is a hypertext that allows for material and technological possibilities that would be unthinkable in a printed version.” (1)
This explains that you interact with the hypertext, and it allows you to change the story and the elements. There are more possibilities with hypertext than there are when reading a normal book. You can click different things that lead you to different places. You are basically in control of the order in which you read things and what you read.
“We typically come to a mystery novel much as we agree to a meeting with friends for coffee or a sip of wine: familiar images, rehashed tales, and the intimacy of shared experience and knowledge. Much of this, of course, has to do with rules. People love rules, which is one reason for the durability of games in culture. People also love to break rules on their own terms.” (2)
This explains that hypertext offers you something more than a normal story. Something normal would be within “the rules”, but hypertext breaks the rules by letting you interact with it and chose the path that you want the story to go down. A normal book is predictable. You know what to expect, and it is predictable. Hypertext is not, and this allows you to experience something different, something more interesting and unpredictable.
The hypertext, Patchwork Girl, contains many different parts. It starts out with five parts on the title page. They are “a graveyard”, “a journal”, “a quilt”, “a story”, “& broken accents”. You are able to click each of these and they will take you to images of Patchwork Girl and by clicking on the images you are brought to different texts.
You are also brought to webs that contain words that are all connected to each other and you can click on them as well (All of which you can see in the screenshots below). The images and texts all link together and the story can go in many different directions and orders, depending on what you click.
Everything you click on will bring you to something new, whether it is a picture or a new text. The first of the following screenshots shows the title page with the five parts on it that you can click on.
The second screenshot shows a picture of Patchwork Girl that is able to be clicked on to lead to other text.
The third screenshot shows a web of words in boxes that can lead you to different texts, and also a lexia with text in it.
By reading Patchwork Girl, you are supposed to understand Patchwork Girl’s structure and that these pieces that make her up have to be “patched” together to make one whole.
At first when I read Patchwork Girl I was very confused. I realized that the different texts had different authors. They are Shelley Jackson, the author of Patchwork Girl, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, the sources of her body parts, Patchwork Girl herself, and Victor Frankenstein.
Also, us, the readers, can be authors by choosing what part of the story to click. So, this was a bit confusing because it was difficult to tell who was saying what. As I spent some time with Patchwork Girl, I came to find that it was a story about a girl who did not find herself to be ideal or normal in any way, which she wasn’t.
She needed to find her place and find herself, which was difficult because there were many different parts of her that came from many different people. By reading this we need to find out how Patchwork Girl comes together as a whole structure.
I believe the best theme of this hypertext is that us as people, need to find ourselves in our own ways, and there are many different parts of us that make up who we are. So, we have to find out how these pieces go together and make us a whole.
1. Jackson, Shelley. Patchwork Girl. Watertown, MA: Eastgate Systems, 1995. CD-Rom.
2. Jackson, Shelley. My Body – A Wunderkammer. Alt-X Online Network, 1997.