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Hypertext Nightmares

I just woke up from a dream in which my professors, instead of responding to my emails with straightforward, text responses, sent links into hypertexts. So to find the answer to my query I had to click through a maze of hypertextual links that looked like doorways, and the answer would vary depending on how I navigated the hypertext. It was stressful, to say the least, and the perfect note on which to begin a day of blogging.

Winchester's Nightmare

I finally got around to playing Winchester's Nightmare, and I have to say that I'm not very impressed. I agree with thenewblack that the context provided made some of the wandering more bearable. However, I would inevitably hit a point where I was stuck doing the same things over and over again, trying to figure out what I had missed. To be fair, I'm not exactly a gamer, so people who were better at Zork and Adventure might have a more rewarding experience with Winchester's Nightmare than I did. It seemed comparable to Zork and Adventure as a game.

Attack of the Hypertexts

Having submitted my final project for this class, I decided to be productive and work on my linguistics thesis for awhile. The funniest thing happened. As I stared at my mess of data, I found myself attacked by an overwhelming urge to write up my thesis as a hypertext! I doubt that the linguistics department would be too pleased with this idea, so I am contenting myself with blogging about my desire.

I'm not sure that I buy into McLuhan's claim that content is merely a distraction from the true message presented by the medium, but I am beginning to believe that my views of linearity and organization have been profoundly affected by the course material we've been exposed to this term.

The Legacy of "Lexia to Perplexia"

I was frustrated with "Lexia to Perplexia" when we read it in class a few weeks ago. While the piece was very innovative, it had a very gimmicky feel that left a bad taste in my mouth. Based on class discussion, I don't think I was alone in my opinion. Thus, I am rather intrigued by how many of our final projects (my own included) make extensive use of images and sounds. I believe it was Shock and Awe who complained that hypertexts frequently have "too much text and not enough hyper." While nobody came up with a project as odd or experimental as Memmott's, I began to see shades of Lexia in many of the presentations.

Linearity or lack thereof

Waaaaay back in the beginning of the semester, I posted something about how blogging wasn't for perfectionists, because it thrives on a kind of spontaneity that is in tension with the planning and revision that perfectionists need.

Reading (browsing? surfing? floating in?) GAM3R 7H30RY, I felt a similar tension--between linear and nonlinear modes of reading. In GAM3R 7H30RY, you read the text itself, on those digital index card-looking things, and then you have a choice about whether or not to read the comments. Now, it seems that the comments are often the most interesting part of the text, so you really shouldn't skip them. On the other hand, the importance of the comments doesn't seem to lessen the value of Wark's text, because without the original text, the comments wouldn't exist. So although there certainly is some sensation of the linear, of accomplishing something, of moving progressively forward as you advance from card to card, this sensation is undercut by the "digression" (into the most important part of the text) that is required when we choose to read the comments.

Editors in the World of Electronic Literature

Reading over the Electronic Book Review and the Future of the Book I was particularly interested in how the internet and the process of electronic writing will change the position of editor. It's my belief that it's only a matter of time before electronic literature gets commodified in some way, be it through an online publishing company of some sort or a community of writers/critics who filter and market content, or some other variation. The possibilities for creation within the form are so great and the internet audience is so large. There's big money to be made.

At the same time, it seems unrealistic to think this electronic editor will be similar to those that control the publishing world. Sure the basic task of cleaning up grammar and punctuation will still be needed, but in electronic literature the form and interaction between the different types of media and the user are in many ways as important as the words that make up the literature. Thus I see the electronic editor as having more in common with Hollywood talent scouts than with traditional publishers. The mark of a good electronic editor will be their ability to find and develop talent. Comb the internet for the next artist or face that can be sold to the internet public.

Help needed.

Okay, so my hypertext term project is a family tree of stories - of my own family. Now, I'm not filling it entirely with happy wonderful stories. Most stories are fine, but I really don't want my mom's stepsister to Google herself one day and see that I attribute her youngest daughter's having no fingers on one hand to the fact that she smoked the entirety of the pregnancy. Is a website through the school (I'm using pages.pomona.edu for this)going to be Googleable? This is a serious concern for me. If it is, will someone please tell me how to encode some sort of password protection on my entire project?

Mapping Hypertext

I just finished reading Magoo's post on hypertext. While his point was enlightening and interesting, I found that very little of it applied to the specific project I am working on. My project is based around the idea of taking existing narratives about a single event and combining them into a hypertext. Therefore, my challenges lie in selecting and linking the material together in interesting ways. Trying to keep myself organized has been quite a challenge. So far, I've been organizing my thoughts by creating a gigantic Microsoft Word file containing the material I want to use. I have it broken up into pages and italicized the words that I plan to link to something else.

Kind of Seductive

I've just delved into Scott Rettberg's Kind of Blue, and so far I'm impressed. It's the first hypertext we've looked at in which I really feel like the form is elevating the content. Kind of Blue could not function nearly as well in book form. It's the kind of story that needs to be a hypertext, and, as such, it doesn't feel forced--like the author is shaping the story to fit the form or vice-versa.

The device of emails from many senders allows the author to naturally assume many voices, and makes for the kind of story that I at least was seduced into trying to figure out. It's a simple concept: going through someone else's inbox and one common enough that it doesn't feel gimmicky. The multiple perspectives also give Rettberg tremendous freedom in his writing. You can tell he's having fun, throwing in cryptic snippets of poetry, lists, and the butchered spelling of children at different stages of keyboard adeptness.

Is narrative agency a contradiction?

I'm interested in the idea of "agency," as discussed at length in what we've been assigned to read so far in (you know, I'm really getting sick of trying to italicize things and bringing up my Favorites menu) First Person. I couldn't help but think of our experience with afternoon and other hypertexts when I read Michael Mateas' explanation of agency: "Agency is the feeling of empowerment that comes from being able to take actions in the world whose effects relate to the player's intention. This is not mere inferface activity. If there are many buttons and knobs for the player to twiddle, but all this twiddling has little effect on the experience, there is no agency. Furthermore, the effect must relate to the player intention" (21). I know Mateas is talking about games, but some of our complaints about hypertext and electronic fiction so far seem to stem from our lack of agency in determining the course of the text. The counterargument until now has been that this lack of agency is somehow artistically productive, that it demands more out of us, or makes us aware of the medium to which we are responding. But the first two segments of (I don't want my Favorites menu!) First Person suggest that our desire for agency in these works may simply be poorly founded. Assuming that the ambitions of Michael Joyce, et al are narrative, deprivation of reader agency may be essential; Ken Perlin says that this is exactly what the novel does. So Joyce and company are maybe just teasing us with the promise of agency, the result of which is not a feeling of empowerment but a feeling of frustration, which feeds into the narrative thrust.