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“What class is that for? I thought you were an English major--”

The title of this post is a comment that I received a number of times during my hours spent at ITS working on my final project. It came a couple of times while I was sprawled outside ITS, poring over my printouts of floor plan maps and hundreds of thumbnail images. And then several more times, while I was sitting in front of Dreamweaver's split coding/design screen, the same brightly colored printouts spread out all around me.

I've been frustrated writing critical papers before. I've been frustrated writing fiction. I've had writer's block. I have never, in my entire life as a student, been as frustrated as I was at many points during my work on this final project. A solid twenty-four hours of hair-pulling and tears spent trying and failing to recover the crashed (coughcoughpirated) copy of Dreamweaver and the pages I'd already built from off my computer (the ITS staff tells me Dreamweaver software will never run on my computer again); hours wasted figuring out how to convert full-size images into thumbnails; and don't even get me started on how long it took me to figure out silly, little things like that in order to lay out text/images in horizontal columns I had to use the "Insert Table" function.

Minute details. Mechanical repetition. Broken links. Target pages. I have left ITS feeling (probably looking) like I'd spent the last several hours smacking my head up against a computer screen, and feeling like the hours in front of that screen had not been much more productive than the head-smacking would have been. I know many of you had similar experiences (the one described by Grumpymutt in his project appendix immediately springs to mind). For me, the most infuriating aspect of all this was the feeling that wrestling so hard with the technology was preventing me from getting the actual WORK of the thing done.

In the literal sense, that was true, but listening to/reading other's accounts of trial and travail, blood, sweat and tears, led me to want to put a more constructive spin on the experience, and also reminded me of Hayles's discussion of materiality and how her encounters with it changed the way she thought about the world.

In Writing Machines, Hayles traces a narrative process of personal transformation that is a consequence of the passing of time that makes the person who writes incrementally or vastly different from the one written (10): after her early encounters with electronic literature in the form of hypertext, Hayles says of Kaye, print would never be the same as it was when she was programming assembly code in the sub-sub-basement--and neither would she (45); and then, after her explorations into artists' books, that the artists' books had permanently changed her mental landscape--and her senses as well, including vision, tactility, smell, and proprioception. She would never read books the same way again (75).

Likewise, my experience of working with the materiality of Dreamweaver to create my own online hypertext has forever changed the way I'll understand and read electronic texts; intimate acquaintance with the creative process behind making one gives me a totally different awareness of e-textuality and the connectivity of it. But I'll post more on that later. For now, I just want to say that in retrospect, I'm starting to appreciate the unbelievable frustration I underwent while building my hypertext as maybe the most consequential facet of the work and learning involved in this assignment, and that that in itself is an incredibly valuable lesson to take away from this experience.

Like you, I also felt the

Like you, I also felt the Dreamweaver experience to be a frustrating one, but I did learn a lot from it. I have a new-found respect now for hypertext authors, and now that I know how painful web-building and formatting and web-design is, I've realized that I really don't have a right to criticize other authors' minimalist layouts when I didn't even know how much work and time and tears and pain went into building just the format. So yeah, like you said, definitely a valuable lesson.