Notes for Jay David Bolter Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print, Second Edition
Key concepts: applied deconstruction, Cartestian ego, hypermediacy, hyperbaton, hypertext, postmodern, print, remediation, reverse ekphrasis, text, writing technology.
Qualities of text shifts from print stability and authority to computer dynamic, flexible, interactive. Remediation is the basic cultural interaction between old and newer media; hypertext exemplar. Provides brief history of hypertext and Internet. Visual images usurp prior preeminence of character-based text. Comparison between Chinese landscapes, Greek vase painting, and religious icons to desktop GUIs. The progress of HTML and other hypermedia languages is tied to culture, corporations, and their values. Also remediated are ideas of great books, encyclopedia, libraries, and the book of nature. Gives typical examples of interactive fiction with analyses similar to those in Hayles' Electronic Literature. Explains how electronic writing disrupts Cartesian ego, linking to poststructuralism and postmodernism.
Related theorists: Barthes, Bush, Derrida, Hayles, Heim, Michael Joyce, Landow, Lantham, Nelson, Turkle, Ulmer.
(xiii) the computer is not leading to a new kind of orality, but rather to an increased emphasis on visual communication.
Introduction: Writing in the Late Age of Print
THE LATE AGE OF PRINT
(2) Although print remains indispensable, it no longer seems indispensable: that is its curious condition in the late age of print.
(3) This is also the best way to think of the late age of print, as a transformation of our social and cultural attitudes toward, and uses of, this familiar technology.
Text may become associated with qualities of computer rather than print; however, what goes in the parenthesis differentiating computer from text must not be assumed. A year later I read a completely different part as important, and note that this expresses the nature of text, something we do not try to describe or define directly even though it is part of the name of our degree program. Following this very important statement the question can be asked what goes in the parenthesis defining computer, and suggest also alien temporality, amplification, multiplexing, and distributed control. Well, he does mention speed of distribution. However, his conception may be oblivious to the other qualities of the computer that are relevant to the association of things with text.
(3) If our culture as a whole follows
their lead [groups allegiant to computer screen instead of books], we
may come to associate with text the qualities of the computer
(flexibility, interactivity, speed of distribution) rather than those
of print (stability and authority).
(4) Such tensions between monumentality and changeability and between the tendency to magnify the author and to empower the reader have already become part of our current economy of writing.
THE FUTURE OF PRINT
(6) The question is whether alphabetic
texts can compete effectively with the visual and aural sensorium
that surrounds us.
(7) Much of what American conservatives think of as the “culture wars” is in fact an argument about modes of representation.
THE OLD AND THE NEW IN DIGITAL WRITING
(9) the word processor is not so much a tool for writing, as it is a tool for typography. The word processor treats text like a scroll, a roll of pages sewn together at the ends, while its visual structures are still typographic. . . . Other forms of electronic writing do all these things, making the text from the writer's point of view a texture of possible readings.
REFASHIONING THE VOICE OF THE TEXT
The strict requirement of textual unity and homogeneity is relatively recent.
(10) Yet our definition of textual
unity comes from the published work we have read, or more generally,
from the current divisions of academic, literary, and scientific
disciplines, which themselves both depend on and reinforce the
economics of publishing. The material in a book must simply be
homogeneous by the standard of some book-buying audience.
(11) In the ideal, if not in practice, an electronic text can tailor itself to each reader's needs, and the reader can make choices in the very act of reading.
(11) This ideal of cultural unity through a shared literary inheritance, which has received so many assaults in the 20th century, must now suffer further by the introduction of new forms of highly individualized writing and reading.
REFASHIONING THE WRITING SPACE
Is Heim naive in assuming that word processing relieves the writer of the materiality of writing?
(13) Writing, even writing on a computer screen, is a material practice, and it becomes difficult for a culture to decide where thinking ends and the materiality of writing begins, where the mind ends and the writing space begins.
Writing as Technology
(14-15) The computer's capacity to adjust the text to each user's needs, which is uncharacteristic of the classic industrial machine, derives from the unmechanical materials of electronic technology.
Writing as technology for arranging verbal ideas in visual space.
(15) There are good historical (as well as etymological) reasons, however, for broadening the definition of technology to include skills as well as machines. . . . Ancient and modern writing are technologies in the sense that they are methods for arranging verbal ideas in a visual space.
WRITING TECHNOLOGIES AND MATERIAL CULTURE
(18) Electronic writing still requires
our physical interactions with terrestrial materials - with the
keyboard, the mouse, and the computer screen.
(19) The technical and the cultural dimensions of writing are so intimately related that it is not useful to try to separate them: together they constitute writing as a technology. . . . The technology of modern writing includes not only the techniques of printing, but also the practices of modern science and bureaucracy and the economic and social consequences of print literacy.
(19) technologies do not determine the course of culture or society, because they are not separate agents that can act on culture from the outside.
ECONOMIES OF WRITING
(22) Whenever a dominant technology is
challenged, there may be a major refashioning of the culture's
(23) In its role as a great refashioner, electronic writing is reintroducing characteristics that have belonged to a variety of marginal techniques of the past.
Remediation when new media takes place of older one while borrowing and reorganization many characteristics.
(23) We might call each such shift a
“remediation,” in the sense that a newer medium takes the place
of an older one, borrowing and reorganizing the characteristics of
writing in the older medium and reforming its cultural space.
(24) digital technology changes the “look and feel” of writing and reading.
(25) Each medium seems to follow this pattern of borrowing and refashioning other media, and rivalry as well as homage seems always to be at work.
Hypermediacy intense awareness of medium.
(25) In one sense the goal of
representation has been transparent presentation. . . . [On the other
hand,] Instead of transparency, they strive for hypermediacy,
an intense awareness of and even reveling in the medium.
(25) What all media and media forms have in common for our culture is the promise of immediacy.
(26) The best way to understand electronic writing today is to see it as the remediation of printed text, with its claim to refashioning the presentation and status of alphabetic writing itself. . . . to say that electronic writing is flexible and interactive is to say that it is hypertextual.
Hypertext and the Remediation of Print
(29) We tend to conceive of hypertext spatially: the links constitute a path through a virtual space and the reader becomes a visitor or traveler in that space. . . . Despite is apparently ephemeral and ethereal quality, electronic writing maintains a sense of place in the physical world.
WORD PROCESSING AND TOPICAL WRITING
(29) The Greek word topos meant literally a place, and ancient rhetoric used the word to refer to commonplaces, conventional units or methods of thought. . . . Topics exist in a writing space that is not only a visual surface but also a data structure in the computer.
(30) By defining topical symbols, such as headings in an outline, the writer can, like the programmer or the mathematician, abstract herself temporarily from the details of the prose. The value of this abstraction lies in seeing more clearly the structural skeleton of the text.
(32) All this is possible, because the writing space itself has become a hierarchy of topical elements.
(34) By offering multiplicity in place of a single order of
paragraphs and pages, an index transforms a book from a tree into a
(34) The term “hypertext” was coined in the early 1960s by Ted Nelson.
(35) Bush and Nelson had identified the key characteristics of hypertext long before practical systems were built.
(36) In place of hierarchy, we have a writing space that is not only topical; we might even call it “topographic.” .. Topographic writing challenges the (logocentric) notion that writing should be merely the servant of spoken language.
WRITING AS CONSTRUCTION
(37) Electronic writing seems in some ways to be more like
hieroglyphics than it is like pure alphabetic writing. . . . What in
turn threatens to become marginal is precisely that quality that has
been central for the past 500 years: the fixed and monumental page of
print, the book that exists in thousands of identical copies and
heroically resists change.
(37) When she links one Web page to another, she is in effect creating two new writing elements, each of which has become a unitary sign. Whatever else the first element (page on the World Wide Web) means, it now has an added meaning as the source of a connection, and the second element now takes on meaning as a destination.
(38) Landow points out that departure and arrival have a rhetorical dimension; the presence of a link from element A to element B causes the reader to assume that B somehow explains A.
(38-39) the Internet itself constitutes a physical expression of
hypertext: each host computer or router is a node, and the
hypertextual relationships among these nodes are defined by the
cables and microware or satellite links.
(39) On this architectureal platform of the Internet, two global hypertext systems have been built. The first was the system of electronic mail that dates back to the 1970s, although this network was never explicitly recognized as hypertext.
(39) The World Wide Web was an explicit hypertext system from the beginning. As early as 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, had characterized his proposal for information management as hypertext.
(40) Mosiac transformed the Web from hypertext to hypermedia, in which multiple modes of representation constitute the units for hypertextual linking.
HYPERTEXT AS REMEDIATION
(42) Hypertext in all its electronic forms - the World Wide Web as well as the many stand-alone systems - is the remediation of print. . . . Where printed genres are linear or hierarchical, hypertext is multiple and associative. Where a printed text is static, a hypertext responds to the reader's touch.
(42) The supporters of hypertext may even argue that hypertext reflects the nature of the human mind itself - that because we think associatively, not linearly, hypertext allows us to write as we think.
(43) Electronic hypertext certainly pays homage to the medium that it is seeking to refashion.
(43) In following hypertextual links, the reader becomes conscious of the form or medium itself and of her interaction with it. In contrast, print has often been regarded as a medium that should disappear from the reader's conscious consideration.
THE OLD AND THE NEW IN HYPERTEXT
(45) The Web seems different although - indeed precisely because - it appeals to print for its own definition.
The Breakout of the Visual
(47) On the World Wide Web, the images often dominate. . . . hypermedia is participating in a process of remediation that has been going on for more than a century: the response of prose to the visual technologies of photography, cinema, and television.
(48) Writers in the age of print controlled the visual or sensory element by subsuming it into the text itself.
(48-49) As the dominant technology of representation, print has been a voracious remediator since the 15th century; refashioning many of the functions of the manuscript, of oral communication (the homily, the scientific lecture or disputation, the occasional speech), and of visual art (through engraving). . . . digital printing seems to foster heterogeneity in both form and content. . . . Printed books, magazines, and newspapers are changing typographically and visually by incorporating more elaborate graphics, while at the same time prose is attempting to remake itself in order to reflect and rival the cultural power of the image.
THE IMAGE AND THE PRINTED PAGE
(51) In graphic form and function, the newspaper is coming to resemble a computer screen, as the combination of text, images, and icons turns the newspaper page into a static snapshot of a World Wide Web page.
(51) Just as collage and photomontage worked at the intersection of typography and the contemporary visual arts of painting and photography, the cybermagazines today are aggressively remediating the visual style of television and digital media. Every page of WIRED is a visual allegory of McLuhan's apothegm that the medium is the message. Similar, but more sophisticated, is the work of David Carson, whose designs for magazines such as Ray Gun were extremely influential in the 1990s.
USA Today bar chart of safety razors example of visual metaphor.
(52) This [USA Today USA Snapshot] is a bar chart, and yet the bars
are drawn as safety razors - apparently to convince the viewer that
the graph is really about shaving.
(55) It is not only newspapers and magazines that are renegotiating the verbal and the visual. Other forms, including “serious” and popular fiction and academic prose, are also changing, and in all cases verbal text seems to be losing its power to contain and constrain the sensory.
Ekphrasis and reverse ekphrasis manifest desire for natural sign.
(56) Ekphrasis sets out to rival visual art in words, to demonstrate
that words can describe vivid scenes without recourse to pictures. .
. . Today, when neither the written nor the spoken word seems able to
exert such power, ekphrasis may be too ambitious. Instead, as we have
seen in digital media and even in print, we get a reverse
ekphrasis in which images are given the task of explaining
(57) Both ekphrasis and reverse ekphrasis are manifestations of what the literary critic Murray Krieger has described as the “desire for the natural sign.”
(57) For Derrida, as soon as culture invents an arbitrary sign system, there arises a yearning to close the gap between the sign and the signified. We would add that this yearning can take different forms depending on the available technologies of representation.
(58) the desire for a natural sign may lead to the desire to curtail arbitrary symbol systems, such as alphabetic writing. The breakout of the visual is the expression of that desire. . . . Everywhere we look in our media-saturated environment, we see efforts to “render” the symbolic - to color in and make figures out of arbitrary symbols.
(58) Hypermedia can be regarded as a kind of picture writing, which refashions the qualities of both traditional picture writing and phonetic writing.
ELECTRONIC PICTURE WRITING
(62) The defining element of the desktop GUI is the icon, which, although it often has a name, is above all a picture that performs or receives an action. . . . As functioning representations in computer writing, electronic icons realize what magic signs in the past could only suggest.
(63) The element oscillate between being signs and being images, or rather it is the reader who oscillates in her perception of the elements.
Pictorial and verbal space common in Chinese landscape and Greek vase painting remediated in electronic picture writing.
(63-64) Pictorial space and verbal space are therefore apparent opposites: the one claims to reflect a world outside of itself, and the other is arbitrary and self-contained. The situation becomes more complex when painters put words into the space of their pictures - an intermittent practice in Western art, although common in both Chinese landscape and ancient Greek vase painting. . . . The word seems to be trying to transform the world of the picture into a writing space, while at the same time the picture invites the viewer to consider the words as images or abstract shapes rather than signs.
Is this taking speech balloons too far,
applying remediation to Greek vase painting?
(64) We could also say that the space of the text was trying to remediate the image into discursive meaning, while the image was insisting on the formal significance of the word itself as an image.
(64) In Egyptian writing, for example, there was an intimate relationship between image and text. . . . The Greek and Roman writing space was not as friendly to pictures.
(65) Like computer icons, medieval illuminated letters functioned simultaneously as text and picture. . . . Medieval illumination embodied a dialectic between writing and the visual world; it was a means by which writing could describe or circumscribe the world - not symbolically through language, but visually through the shape of the letter itself.
(66) In uniting the verbal and the pictorial, the screen constitutes a visual unit that depends on but also attempts to surpass the typography of the printed page.
THE ELECTRONIC PAGE
(66) Although advertising and magazines present many possibilities for creative visual design, the layout of a book is as conservative as is the choice of fonts appropriate to the book.
Fleshes out details of the interface, surface level that Turkle argues embodies postmodern ideas in artifacts.
(67-68) In the GUI the windows is the defining feature of computer
typography. . . .The GUI presents the entire world of digital
information through a set of such manipulable, paned views. If, in
reading a printed book, we are offered only one view, one page at a
time, the GUI is a hypermediated world in which multiple windows
offer heterogeneous views at the same time.
(68) In an electronic text, however, both the reader's eye and the writing surface can be in motion. Electronic readers therefore shuttle between two modes of reading, or rather they learn to read in a way that combines verbal and picture reading.
THE WORLD WIDE WEB AND THE REMEDIATION OF GRAPHIC DESIGN
(69) if the Web as hypertext is the remediation of the printed book, the Web as hypermedia is the remediation of other, more ephemeral printed materials, the magazine and the newspaper.
The progress of HTML and other hypermedia languages is tied to culture, corporations, and their values; for example, the unreflective, default approach or best tool for the job versus crafting web pages that render well in a heterogeneity of systems.
(69) The original HTML tags did not afford the designer much control over the visual layout of the page: they provided for text that flowed in one dimension down the page, as it had in word processors. Images were simply inserted into this unidimensional flow. Graphic designers, however, have insisted on controlling the horizontal placement of images and texts, not just the vertical flow. They have exploited the HTML tags available and campaigned for new tags, and indeed whole new formats, in order to obtain that control.
Virtual reality and dynamic content generation in general represents a new form that does more than remediate statically produced media, even if they are moving (Manovich).
(70) Animation, streaming audio and video, and multimedia-style programmed interaction are all finding their way into Web pages. The Web also remediates photography, film, radio, and television, and each of these technologies of representation have their cultural constructions and their own design principles - principles that Web designers will necessarily refashion as they incorporate these media in their pages and sites. . . . All of their remediations will be in pursuit of the same goal: greater authenticity and immediacy of presentation.
TEXT IN CYBERSPACE
(72) Multimedia applications are in fact often characterized by their “buttoned style.” Pushing buttons or clicking on image maps call forth new images or activate videos, and this ongoing chain of visual and aural effects takes the place of discursive prose.
(72-73) Even in their purely textual form, email and newsgroups are beginning to show signs of the breakout of the visual. One of the peculiar characteristics of writing for email and newsgroups is the use of ASCII characters to form iconic faces. . . . The use of icons in email and newsgroups suggests that contemporary electronic writers are not interested in the distancing and ambiguity that prose offers and instead want to give their prose the immediacy of a single voice and if possible a face.
MUDS AND MOOS
(75) The verbal MOO is an heroic attempt to recreate in prose what many, perhaps most, of its users would already prefer to be a sensory experience. . . . So, along with email and newsgroups, MOOs seem destined to become video experiences.
The Electronic Book
THE CHANGING IDEA OF THE BOOK
(77) The physical unit of a writing technology helps to define the conceptual unit - what comes to be regarded as a written volume. . . . The codex has been associated with the idea that writing should be rounded into finite units of expression and that a writer or reader can and should close his text off from all other texts.
(77-78) The character and the length of these ancient texts were not determined by the size of the roll, but rather by the needs of performance. . . . The papyrus roll did not contribute to any cultural sense of closure, and it is no coincidence that many ancient poetic and historical texts do not have climactic endings.
(79) As we refashion the book through digital technology, we are diminishing the sense of closure that belonged to the codex and to print.
(81) The desire to make a great book, to set down all verbal knowledge in one place, was a dream shared by medieval writers and by the Greeks and Romans. In the cultures of the papyrus roll and of the codex, that desire expressed itself in two complementary forms: the library and the encyclopedia. A library amasses books, while an encyclopedia condenses them.
(83) printing made textual overload a permanent condition: more books were produced in each succeeding century, and new editions preserved all books that changing cultural norms continued to regard as important.
(85) The shift from hierarchical to alphabetic organization in dictionaries and encyclopedias was an acknowledgment that such systems as the seven liberal arts, which could be possessed by all educated readers, could no longer accommodate specialized knowledge in physics, anatomy, geography, and mathematics.
(86) More than a century later [than Coleridge's encyclopedia], the 15th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, first issued in 1974, became another curious hybrid, a book straining to break free of the limitations of print. Mortimer Adler gave the Britannica both a topical and an alphabetic arrangement.
THE ELECTRONIC ENCYCLOPEDIA
(88) Outlines or other topical arrangements can coexist with the alphabetical order, so that an electronic encyclopedia can be organized in as many ways as the editors and the readers can collectively imagine.
(90) Some portal sites like Yahoo! also provide a topical organization, a structure of nested menus that point the user to various categories of sites. This topical organization does not appear to come from any Baconian first principles or from consultation with scholars and scientists.
(91) What we have today is a view of knowledge as collections of (verbal and visual) ideas that can arrange themselves into a kaleidoscope of hierarchical and associative patterns - each pattern meeting the needs of one class of readers on one occasion.
THE LIBRARY AS A WRITING SPACE
(91) What the reader does metaphorically in the encyclopedia, he or she can do literally in the library - move into and through a textual space.
(95) what other goal have librarians ever had than to bring all books under their systematic control?
(96) for most readers and for most purposes, cyberspace itself in the form of the World Wide Web may come to be treated as if it were a universal library.
REFASHIONING THE BOOK OF NATURE
(98) the metaphor of the book of nature i snow moribund. Electronic writing technologies suggest a different metaphor: cyberspace, which blurs the distinction between nature and our networked culture.
THE READING PATH
Written text structures space while implying a structure in time; significance of spatial structure in medieval codex, printed books and computer windows as part of thorough reading.
(99) A written text is a structure in space that also implies a structure in time: in some sense writing turns time into space, with a written text being like a musical score. . . . Those who can only read music by playing it are like people who read verbal texts by saying the words aloud: they are almost entirely absorbed by the unfolding temporal structure of the music. . . . A thorough reading of text or music may require attention to the space as well as the time of the writing. . . . In a medieval codex the spatial structure is the pattern of rubrication and various sizes of letters; in a printed book it is the arrangement into paragraphed pages; in today's computers it is the pattern of text windows and images on the screen.
Etymology of reading suggests gathering signs and moving over writing surface, recalling Socrates claim in Xenophon that once he learned to gather together all the spoken things (xunienai ta legomena) he never failed to investigate any study.
(100) Lego literally means “to gather, to collect,” and
one of its figurative meanings is “to make one's way, to traverse.”
This etymology suggests that reading is the process of gathering up
signs while moving over the writing surface.
(101) In each historical moment, with each writing technology, and with each text, the question is: how and to what extent does the writer control the reader's experience of reading? To what extent does the reader actively participate in choosing his path through the text?
(103) Nostalgia, however, was not the key for Plato; the key was rather the question of control in the new space that writing created. Platonic dialogue was a consciously literary attempt to imitate philosophical conversation.
(104) What is true of all writing is sometimes painfully obvious in a Platonic dialogue: the form invites the reader to participate in a conversation and then denies him or her full participation.
FROM DIALOGUE TO ESSAY TO WEB PAGE
(105) It became more common to make hierarchical structures visible on the page by using different letter sizes and forms as well as different colors of ink, a trend reinforced with the invention of printing.
(105) Even today our major forms of nonfiction - the essay, the scientific article, and various genres of bureaucratic reports - are expected to be hierarchical in organization as they are linear in presentation.
The network structure as well as the linear-hierarchical order enforced by the underlying computer code and organization lends additional credibility to the authors work by fulfilling these layouts and not merely presenting words that, if read in a certain way, represent such structures; however, as Heim points out, these gains are accompanied by losses.
(105) All scholarly research is expected to culminate in writing. . .
. In order to be taken seriously, both scholarly and scientific
writing must be nonfiction in a hierarchical-linear form.
(106) If linear and hierarchical structures dominate current writing, our cultural construction of electronic writing is now adding a third: the network as a visible and operative structure.
(106) The computer can not only represent associations on the screen; it can also grant these associations the same status as the linear-hierarchical order.
THE END OF THE LINE?
(107) Why should a writer be forced to produce a single, linear argument or an exclusive analysis of cause and effect, when the writing space allows a writer to entertain and present several lines of thought at once?
(107) Roland Barthes was assiduous in breaking down linear form. . . . The great monographs of the 19th-century essayists and historians showed what printing could achieve; by comparison, Barthes was intentionally playful and perverse. These are traits he obviously shared with such earlier writers as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein, each of whom in his own way challenged the development of systematic, linear argument.
(108-109) At least for a time, then, Wittgenstein had conceived of the Philosophical Investigations as a true hypertext. . . . Some poststructuralist writers extended their attack to the typography of the book itself, creating antibooks that disrupted the traditional notion of how a book should look and behave.
(109) Derrida's  Glas was such an antibook. . . . Whatever else he was doing, Derrida was certainly writing topographically, as if for a medium as fluid as the electronic. . . . Derrida concluded that a new form of non-linear writing was possible, and this new writing would entail a new reading of earlier texts. . . . Derrida suggested that “[t]he end of linear writing is indeed the end of the book” (p. 86).
(110) Texts that were originally written for print or manuscript can be not only transferred to machine-readable form, but also translated into hypertextual structures.
Goes counter to concern by Heim that contemplative, deeply informed reading is shunted by the psychic framework of word processing, although this procedure suggests an improvement on reading by altering the layout of a typographically formated text that was not laid out that way originally, such as Aristotle lecture notes and Plato dialogues.
(110) This moving back and forth is the way that scholars reread and
study Aristotle even now. The computer would therefore make explicit
the implicit act of deeply informed reading, which is itself a
dialogue with the text.
(110) A text always undergoes typographical changes as it moves from one writing space to another. Greek literature, for example, has moved from the papyrus roll, to codex, and finally to the printed book. When we read a paperback edition in English of Plato's dialogues or Greek tragedies, we are aware of the translation from ancient Greek to a modern language. But we should also remember that the original text was without book or scene divisions, paragraphing, indicies, punctuation, or even word division. All these conventions of modern printing are significant organizational intrusions into the original work.
THE HYPERTEXTUAL ESSAY?
(111) the traditional academic essay as a form has not changed much, if at all. Research essays in true hypertextual format remain uncommon even on the web.
(111) Academics are not publishing their most valued thoughts about new media - the ones for which they hope to obtain tenure or promotion - in new media. Although there is more experimentation than ever before, only the most consciously avant-garde among scholars are producing hypertextual “essays.”
(112) A hypertextual essay in the computer could in fact be fashioned as a dialogue between the writer and her readers, and the reader could be asked to share the responsibility for the outcome.
(113) The remediating potentials of hypertext and the Web are being explored, but in teaching rather than in research.
(115) These forms of digital dialogue make claims of immediacy or authenticity against the traditional essay. Unlike the traditional essay, they allow students to participate in an apparently immediate exchange of ideas and feelings that our culture associates with conversation.
(116) MOOs and chat rooms seem well-suited to exploring the issue of postmodern identity, perhaps because the student must construct her identity solely through her words.
(116) It is the capacity of hypertext for collective writing and growth that grounds the claim of [Landow's] The Victorian Web to an immediacy not available in most printed textbooks.
(117) cognitive scientists such as Rand Spiro have argued that hypertext is the mode of presentation best suited to “ill-structured” domains, such as the knowledge required for medical diagnosis.
(118-119) The individual home page, of which there must now be millions, is an act of self-expression and self-promotion that recalls several earlier forms, including the greeting card, the resume, and the photograph album. . . . In each case the designer is working in the collaborative spirit of the “old” Internet (of the 1980s), making a uncoerced contribution just as she benefits from the contributions of others - all without any organized economic exchange. Gift sites are utterly eclectic and may follow any design paradigm. . . . By contrast, access to the printing press is controlled by publishers, who pride themselves on their “gate-keeping” role, eliminating unworthy, uninteresting, and unprofitable submissions.
(119) the author's representation on the Web may depend as much on the look of the site as on its verbal content.
(119-120) Thus, designers on the Web are not only remediating the voice of the text, but also challenging the ideal of purely verbal communication that went largely unquestioned during hundreds of years in which printing was our dominant technology. Because scholars are still unwilling to confront that challenge, they have not refashioned the essay itself into a hypertextual form.
(122) The electronic literary forms constitute perhaps the most important and visible avant-garde in our contemporary, and otherwise conservative, literary culture.
(122) In its role as avant-garde expression, hypertext makes a claim to an authenticity different from the authenticity of print: it offers the reader a new literary experience in which she can share control of the text with the author.
(123) In its simplest form, interactive fiction requires only those two elements that we have already identified for electronic writing: episodes (topics) and decision points (links) between episodes.
(123-124) The computer does not create the verbal text: it presents that text to the reader according to the author's preconditions. . . . Nor is electronic fiction necessarily random.
(124) One of the earliest of the interactive fictions remains one of the most compelling: afternoon, a story by Michael Joyce. (Like many other standalone interactive fictions, afternoon was written using the hypertext editing system Storyspace, created by Bolter, Joyce, and Smith.)
(125) There is no single story of which each reading is a version, because each reading determines the story as it goes.
(127) The capacity to imitate the printed book is one important way in which afternoon makes its comment on the nature of reading. afternoon suggests to us that it can reform the act of reading by freeing us from the constraints of print forms we have come to associate with print. This hyperfiction's claim to greater authenticity is that it can do justice to the truth and sanctity of human recollection.
(128) When the reader's struggle with the story mirrors the struggle that the character goes through, afternoon becomes an allegory of the act of reading.
THE RHETORIC OF THE MULTILINEAR
(128) hypertext is not nonlinear, but multilinear. Each reading of a hypertext must be a linear experience, because the reader must move from episode to episode, activating links and reading the text that is presented.
(129) It might seem that chronological order is the “natural” way to represent a story in any technology of writing or communicating.
(130) Hyperbaton was the name given in particular to the departure from conventional word order in a sentence, but we can also think of the displaced order of episodes in a hypertext as hyperbaton.
AND REPETITION IN VICTORY GARDEN
(131) Victory Garden [by Stuart Moulthrop] offers the reader a second way to visualize the narrative. With hundreds of episodes and thousands of interconnections, this hypertext constitutes a labyrinth of possible reading paths. Appropriately it begins with a map.
(133) When the reader comes upon a quotation from Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, the relationship of this quotation to the rest of Victory Garden is problematic. It seems to be a gloss on the story.
(135) The ambiguity works both ways: Postman and Rather threaten to become characters in the fiction, no more real than Thea or Emily. And in this way the rhetorical device of hyperbaton seems to deconstruct itself. The device of displacement is itself displaced. This double displacement is what we would expect: that hypertext would use the device until it “used it up” and end as a critique of the received rhetorical division between the center and the digression.
(136) The reader understands the repeated episode differently precisely because of the path she has traveled to get to that repetition.
(136-137) Hypertextual fiction often seems to attempt to take back what has been said and replace it with something better. This quality may be due to the experimental nature of the early hypertexts, but it is also a claim about the nature of electronic writing. Our understanding of print is that it is hard, indeed impossible, to erase and correct the published expression of an idea. In electronic writing, we may interpret everything as a palinode; the hard task is to achieve fixity.
DISRUPTING THE LINEAR
(137) In hypertext, clear narrative itself becomes ornamental, and, because the turning of clarity into ornamentation is never likely to appeal to a large audience, literary hypertext may never become a popular genre.
(137) The traditional and still popular view is that prose should be transparent: on analogy with illusionistic painting, the reader of a fiction should be able to believe that he is looking through a window onto a fictional world. . . . Richard Lantham (1993) has argued that modern (and postmodern) art constantly plays with the distinction between “looking at” and “looking through.” Hypertextual fiction does the same.
THE TRADITION OF EXPERIMENT
(138) It is certainly new to automate and animate the presentation of text, so that the reader's decisions are automatically registered and cause other words to appear. However, in disrupting the stability of the text, interactive fiction belongs in a “tradition” of experimental literature that has marked the 20th century - the era of modernism, futurism, Dada, surrealism, letterism, the nouveau roman, concrete poetry, and other movements of greater or lesser influence.
(139) Because the linear presentation of the printed book was so well suited to the conventions of plot and characters of the realist novel, to attack the form of the novel was also to question the technology of print.
(139) All of these writers were trying to establish new relationships between the moment-by-moment experience of reading a text and our perception of the text's organizing and controlling structures.
STERNE AND THE NOVEL AS CONVERSATION
(140) Readers have long recognized Sterne's Tristam Shandy as an assault on the form of the novel and its conventions of narration.
(141) It has long been pointed out the Tristam Shandy seems to anticipate the work of 20th century writers who have brought the novel to its end. We can now add that Tristam Shandy anticipates electronic writing in important ways.
JAMES JOYCE AS HYPERTEXT
(142-143) If in all modern fiction there is a tension between the linear experience of reading and the structure of allusion and reference, critics have recognized that this tension is particularly strong in the later works of James Joyce.
(143) What the reader finds is a self-referential text. Even without the work of disentangling the genesis, the reader must still move back and forth through the book in order to appreciate the complex relationships of its parts. Ulysses is not a book that can be understood by reading straight through or by listening to a sensitive reading.
(144) Kenner is saying that Joyce's writing is topographic and that topographic writing requires a technology that permits the reader to move freely through the text. . . . However, the interchangeable parts of print technology are merely letters, and they are interchangeable only during the production of the text, not during its reading. In print, production is separate from reading. . . . The reader is bound to miss many of the references that Joyed worked into the fabric of his text. Furthermore, there was no convenient way in a printed edition for Joyce to represent to his reader the generic development of his text, which Gordon discovered by insightful scholarship.
(145) Joyce could not have anticipated the electronic medium, but his works would be a rich source of experimentation for writers in that medium.
BORGES AND EXHAUSTION IN PRINT
(147) For Borges literature is exhausted because it is committed to a conclusive ending, to a single storyline and denoument. To renew literature one would have to write multiply, in a way that embraced possibilities rather than closed them off. Borges can imagine such a fiction, but he cannot produce it.
COMPOSITION NO. 1
(150) Saporta's experiment in chance fiction seems to position his work as an inevitable, final step in the exhaustion of printed literature. When all the other methods of fragmenting the novel have been tried, what remains but to tear the pages out of the book one by one and hand them to the reader?
MULTIPLE READING AND WRITING
(151) Both hypertext and their “forerunners” seem to define a new kind of reading. Both Composition No. 1 and afternoon encourage us t o read “multiply,” as Stuart Mouthrop described it.
(152) In each case, the printed fiction must work against its medium in order to be topographic.
Is this really true? Rather, the computer provides a frame that gives way in specific ways when the text strains against it. But it still has not realized the kind of ideal dialogue between minds, if that is the goal. And certainly hypertext can behave as stupidly as printed texts when the links don't work or do not take you where you want to go (since they are not intentionally motivated).
(152) By contrast, the computer provides a frame that gives way whenever the text strains against it; the stubbornness of the printed book seems to disappear.
(152-153) Readers of a printed book can write over or deface the text, but they cannot write in it. . . . In some hyperfictions, the reader may be invited to alter existing episodes and links and add new ones.
DIGITAL POETRY AND PERFORMATIVE TEXTS
(153) Breaking the conventions of typography from the perspective of the new electronic medium began as early as the 1980s, when William Dickey created his first interactive poems. In “Heresy: A Hyperpoem,” words, images, and icons compete on the screen for the reader's attention.
(155) In Book Unbound the order and appearance of the words themselves are determined by the interaction of the reader with a program created by the original programmer-poet. The reader thus fashions a book of poems as she reads.
HYPERMEDIA: POPULAR AND AVANT-GARDE
(157) This kind of manipulation (narrowing or broadening) of the reader's choices, which can occur metaphorically in print, can be realized operationally in presentation on the computer.
(158) Even in Patchwork Girl, however, the clickable images remain symbolic and operate in a space that is essentially verbal. As computer graphics and audio have improved, hypertexts have become hypermedia, using sounds as well as still and moving images for their own presentational effect, not as enhancements or complements to the verbal text.
(160) Doom, Quake, and many other video and computer games are busy remediating the genre of the action-adventure film. These computer games all have some hypertextual qualities. Although purely verbal hypertexts will probably continue to appeal to a relatively small audiences, popular hypermedia, perhaps in the form of interactive dramas, may eventually reach an audience that considers itself mainstream.
(160) hypermedia becomes a way to remediate the tradition of live performance art.
Critical Theory in a New Writing Space
(161) George Landow has made the authoritative case fore what he calls a “convergence” between hypertext and postcultural critical theory.
WRITING TECHNOLOGIES AND THE LITERARY CRITICAL TRADITION
(163) Serious consideration of the transmission of texts began in the Renaissance with scholars like Lorenzo Valla, who were trying to restore authoritative texts of the ancients by separating out interpolations and false ascriptions.
THE END OF AUTHORITY
(166) This debate over the canon was really a debate over the purpose and nature of reading. . . . Bennett's notion of reading as communion with great souls was in fact borrowed from the theory and practice of the romantics, who ultimately fashioned a religion of art to supplement or replace the truths of revealed religion.
(167) In printing, Western culture developed a technology that could foster the ideal of a single canon of great authors, whose works would be distributed in thousands of identical copies to readers throughout the world.
(170) traditional belief in the fixity of the text does not seem to be surviving the shift to electronic writing.
HYPERTEXT AND POSTSTRUCTURALISM
(171) In Teletheory (1989), Gregory Ulmer applied Derrida's work to electronic communication in the form of television. In The Mode of Information (1990) Mark Poster argued that electronic communication constituted a new mode of symbolic exchange, which could best be understood by applying the methods of poststructuralism. . . . It was George Landow in Hypertext (1992) and again in Hypertext 2.0 (1997) who indentified hypertext as the manifestation of electronic writing that “converged” with poststructural theory. . . . Hypertext also helps us to see how poststructuralism belong to a moment in the late age of print.
READER RESPONSE AND THE ARCHITECTURE OF HYPERTEXT
(171) The task of the literary criticism, then, was not to examine the text in isolation, but rather to understand the text through its effect on the reader - a technique called reader-response criticism.
(173) The author writes a set of potential texts, from which the reader chooses, and there is no single univocal text apart from the reader.
(173) This role of performer or interpreter now extends to all forms of hypertextual writings, so that in the electronic writing space all texts are like dramas or musical scores. . . . In this way electronic writing can serve to define new levels of creativity that fall between the apparent originality of the romantic artist and apparent passivity of the traditional reader.
(175) It is a key element in hypertext's remediation of print that references and allusions should work more easily in this new medium.
(175) In the electronic reading space, the author can make the process of reference contingent upon the reader's response or insist that the reader follow a particular path of references before following another.
Computer programming embodying semiosis suggestive of Bogost procedural rhetoric; see Tanaka-Ishii.
(176) Computer programming and indeed
all kinds of electronic writing and reading by computer are exercises
in applied semiotics. . . . The process of semiosis, the movement
from one sign to another in the act of reference, is embodied in the
(177) The electronic writing space seems to be not a metaphor for signification, but rather a technology of signification. Signs in the computer do precisely what students of semiotics have been claiming for their signs for more than a century as they generate text automatically.
(178) Intertextual relationships occur everywhere in print .. yet the electronic space seems to refashion print technology to allow the reader to visualize and realize intertextuality.
(179) Electronic writing with its graphical representations of structure encourages us to think that intertextual relations can be mapped out, made explicit - never fully, but with growing accuracy and completeness.
AND ELECTRONIC WRITING
(179) In hindsight, how could we avoid seeing the computer in Roland Barthes's influential distinction between the work and the Text?
(180) The deconstructionists asserted that the meaning of any written text is radically unstable, a vain attempt to fix meaning, when all writing is condemned to drift in a space of possible meanings.
(180-181) Derrida's characterization of a text again sounded very much like text in the electronic writing space. And yet, when Derrida spoke of marginality or of the text as extending beyond its borders, he was in fact appealing to the earlier technologies of writing, to codices and printed books. . . . In general, whenever the theorists set out to reverse a literary hierarchy, they were assuming the technology of print (or sometimes handwriting) that generated or enforced that hierarchy.
(181) To deconstruct a text, one used a vocabulary appropriate to the computer precisely because this vocabulary contradicted the assumptions of print.
(182) Deconstruction thus assumed the fixed character of a text in its effort to undermine that text. . . . Because deconstructive critics sought to drive latent ambiguities in the text into the open, they often focused on problem texts, whose “message” was hard to decipher.
Deconstruction, although playful, require seriousness, which complicates criticism of hypertext works.
Turkle also connects philosophizing with computers as applied deconstruction and postmodern theory.
(182-183) Deconstruction itself was playful, but its playful attitude required a fundamental seriousness in its object. The hypertext authors since 1980s have in general created playful, allusive hypertexts that do not take themselves too seriously, as a printed text seems inevitably to do. Why would anyone want to deconstruct a work entitled Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse? Such hypertexts are not hostile to criticism, but are instead self-referential and incorporate their own critique. . . . Electronic writing seems then to accept as strengths the very qualities - the play of signs, intertextuality, the lack of closure - that the poststructuralists posed as the ultimate limitations of literature and language.
NEW CONVERGENCES AND POPULAR FORMS
(183) As electronic communication - from hyperfiction to computer games and the Web - has actually developed in the 1990s, poststructural theory has seemed less adequate to describe its range of forms and genres. . . . Although poststructuralists were eager to open the canon to women or minority authors in print, they had less interest in other media.
LOOKING AT AND LOOKING THROUGH
(184) Lanham claimed that electronic technology could help to break down the boundaries between literature and the other arts.
(185) In a digital rhetoric, transparency need not be the only virtue. . . . In all these hypertexts, the links have the same status as the verbal episodes. It becomes therefore as appropriate for the reader to lok at the formal arrangement of the text, as it is to get lost in the story.
(185) Following on Lanham, Richard Grusin and I have suggested that the work of remediation in any medium relies on two apparently opposite strategies. Sometimes the artist tries to erase the traces of the prior medium in her work and seeks to convince us that her work in the new medium represents the world directly. At other times, she accepts and even foregrounds the older medium. We call the first strategy “transparent immediacy” and the second “hypermediacy”.
THE PRACTICE OF THEORY
Writing the Self
WRITING AS ANALYSIS
(190) The earlier view - that the computer as a writing surface extends and amplifies the reasoning powers of the (Cartesian) mind - has its roots in the earliest attempts to deploy the computer as a cultural metaphor.
(191) Turing defined intelligence as writing and reading, which he in turn understood as the kind of symbol manipulation that computers accomplish.
(193) Writing in general becomes a technology for dividing the world into categories.
WRITING THE CARTESIAN MIND
Metaphors of writing including memory as writing space, writer Cartesian homunculus mind, Mystic writing pad.
Memory and reason become a special and indeed privileged form of
writing. The memory becomes a writing space, and the writer a
homunculus who looks out at the world through our eyes and records
what he sees.
(194) Cognitive psychology, under the influence of computer technology, is more than ever committed to the metaphor of writing. But so was Freud, who explicitly compared human memory to a child's toy, the magic writing pad.
(195-196) Descartes' reasoning agent can be understood as a writer who inscribes and therefore takes responsibility for his mental text. . . . Cartesian philosophy provides a philosophical foundation for the classic age of printing, in which the author indeed both validates and is validated by the texts he publishes.
HYPERTEXT AND THE CARTESIAN EGO
(197) So if the mind is a hypertext, then the same arguments about instability and contingency apply to the mind as to literary hypertexts. This version of the metaphor of electronic writing does not lead to artificial intelligence, with its faith in the unified, Cartesian ego, but rather to a fragmented and provisional identity, one that is often characterized as “postmodern.”
ELECTRONIC WRITING AND THE POSTMODERN SELF
(198) Almost the sole purpose of chat rooms and MUDs and MOOs is the construction of and experimentation with the user's identity. Those who participate in these electronic environments are suggesting a new set of cultural uses for the computer and a new metaphor by which to understand this machine.
(198) Spontaneous, playful, and personal, these technologies seem to lend themselves more readily to the construction of the self as a social agent rather than as a reasoning machine.
(199) A MOO is an electronic remediation of the printed novel, with its mixture of narrative and descriptive passages, and a chat room is the remediation of a play script, in which dialogue among the characters provides almost all of the text. The claim that test remediations make to heightened authenticity of experience is that they are collective and spontaneous.
(200) Various applications for virtual or augmented reality also allow their users to explore multiple identities through interactive, point-of-view graphics.
THE MATERIALITY OF THE ELECTRONIC SELF
Doubtful that Cartesian paradigm could survive in networked era, notwithstanding arguments of Edwards and Golumbia, invoking new metaphors of materiality and subjectivity.
(201) Hayles shows how embodied
philosophies such as Bourdieu's can be used to critique information
technologies. As early as the 1950s, Claude Shannon, Norbert Weiner,
and others had defined communication as the transfer of disembodied
information. In other words, they extended the Cartesian paradigm to
the new field of cybernetics, just as Turing and the artificial
intelligence movement were working within the same paradigm to define
human intelligence as a program. . . . This popular but naive view
has had its critics, such as Aluquere Rosanne Stone, Lisa Nakamura,
and Beth Kolko, who have argued that cultural and social constraints
are indeed carried over into electronic environments.
(202) It becomes hard to imagine how the Cartesian paradigm could survive in a era of networked communication. . . . Because the private and the public, the inner self and the outer persona, are so closely connected, the writer is never isolated from the material and cultural matrix of her networked culture.
THE NETWORK CULTURE
(204) The culture of interconnections both reflects and is reflected in our new technology of writing, so that, with all these transitions, the making and breaking of social links, people are beginning to function as elements in a hypertextual network of affiliations.
(205) As it continues to expand, the Web will likely remain limited to the middle and upper classes in the third world as elsewhere, so that the virtual communities that the Web and Internet mediate will remain exclusive as well.
(205) One consequence of this networking of culture is in fact the abandonment of the ideal of high culture (literature, music, the fine arts), as a unifying force. . . . Nor is there a single standard grammar or diction in writing.
(206-207) But the specialization in the sciences and the humanities and social sciences has gone too far to be recalled. . . . MacIntyre's analogy can be extended beyond moral philosophy to almost all humanistic fields today: each is an incomplete and disorganized hypertext that no one knows how to read in its entirety.
(207) The ease and equality of access to all the various forms of cultural representation (including pornography) appall traditionalists, who want to see a hierarchy that reinforces the distinction between respectable literature and forbidden images.
THE REMEDIATION OF CULTURE
(209) For them [traditionalists] the authenticity of print derives from the privileged nature of the dialogue it fosters - a dialogue in which the author is necessarily dominant.
Arguments against technological determinism.
(209) It seems clear that communication on the Internet could have
evolved differently. Instead of diversity and distribution,
communications systems on the Internet could have been designed to
emphasize uniformity and central control. . . . In the 1980s,
however, the Internet matured through the efforts of dedicated
computer specialists, mostly graduate students and faculty in
universities. They constructed a technology that was congenial to
their culture, in which individual autonomy was highly prized. That
the World Wide Web grew out of that same culture explains its
distributed architecture, lack of security, and use of the hypertext
model of associative linking.
(211) If technologies really determined cultural values, then the notion of copyright would already have been severely curtailed, if not abolished, at least for electronic publication. . . . Nevertheless, powerful economic forces (of late capitalism) are seeking to extend the notion of ownership of verbal and especially audiovisual materials throughout the realm of electronic media.
(211) Our late age of print is characterized by such struggles, as economically dominant groups and forces attempt to define the new technology to their advantage, usually by extending definitions appropriate to earlier technologies that they already dominate.
(213) multimedia remains a somewhat privileged mode of communication within the already privileged world of the Internet.
(213) Will they not look to other audiovisual media (television, film, and radio) as defining the authenticity of communication that they wish to capture and refashion in new media?
(213) It is fair to wonder whether the late age of print may also become the late age of prose itself.
The Web Site
(214) Perhaps the main reason for having a Web site is simply to extend the reach of the text, to establish a colony in the new territory of cyberspace.
Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Bolter, J. David. Writing Space : Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. 2nd ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2001. Print.