Sunday, September 28, 2008

Response to O'Gorman's E-Crit

I begin at one of the many utterances O'Gorman makes about electronics.

My strategy has been to 'show' this method in this chapter rather than explain it away with a series of easily replicable instructions. In this way, I am attempting to provoke a certain degree of misunderstanding, with the hope that readers might produce their own monstrous versions of hypericonomy. This is a strategy that, in Ulmer's terms, is designed to trigger a relay. (E-Crit 2006: 67)

There is no entry for 'relay' in the index of E-Crit, so we can treat it as something un-thought by the author, and fair game for reinterpretation if not punnery. So let our shared misunderstanding be the desire to take his statement literally, and solder together a circuit. Imagine a first view that is akin to a title page or book cover showing a zoomed-in piece of something that will later be displayed in a larger context, which could be anything, it may seem like nonsense at first, whether in (as part of) a painting, or illuminated manuscript, or blueprint, or electronic circuit schematic, alphabetic character labeled image, or computer program.

(image saying “you know that this symbol represents ground” and hyperlink everything)

This 'mystory' begins with a magico-mysterious picture of an electrical ground symbol, a single hyperlink that will in subsequent iterations via hyperlinks zoom out to reveal an example of a relay driver circuit from an electronics textbook, and then its position within a much larger system, finally reaching the “real world” example of myself as a youth playing a pinball game. Encapsulated in this diachrony-within-synchrony is a lesson in basic electronics, going from the concept of resistance to the theory of the transistor. I say electronics rather than electricity precisely because the transistor epitomizes a design science leveraging the one-way flow of electrons (holes, really, but this is a divergent hyperlink to be added later) to effect solid state switches, that is, the equivalent of a transition from infinite to zero resistance without any moving parts. So as not to remain entirely in the domain of technology - O'Gorman warns against this polarization, 'to be in technolgy, but not of technology' (113), as does Michael Heim when he describes the condition of 'technostress' in Electric Language - allow the links to trail off into a discourse on the amazing quality of these resistor symbols to refer to any resistance, from asymptotically approaching zero, through one Ohm, 200, to asymptotically approaching infinity.

(image of ground and wire symbol connecting it to the rest of the circuit running out of the view)

Next the image zooms out slightly to trace the zero-Ohm wires attaching to this grounding symbol. This literal electracy, playing with Ulmer's term, if my pictures are progressively conveying the tracing of electronic circuits, is followed next with a picture of a relay (solenoid) driver circuit hyperlinking each electronic symbol component to an explanation of its function in the circuit as well as the general theory behind it.

(image of relay driver circuit)

The two subsequent steps or iterations of the expanding view reveal this relay driver circuit to be, first, part of a larger circuit board assembly, the voltage regulator/solenoid driver assembly labeled 'A3', which, second, is just one major component in the electronic schematic of a Flash Gordon pinball machine manufactured by the Bally Corporation that I played at an arcade on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, when I was a child.

(image of voltage regulator/solenoid driver board schematic)

(image of pinball machine functional components)

It was a life-changing experience because my childhood friends with whom we were vacationing and I played this game all day long, since it had 80 credits on it. The synthesized voices such as “Flash! Emperor Ming awaits!” combined with a child's fascination with electronic devices led me to structure my entire masters work around the pinball machine, developing a reverse engineering methodology based on Socrates' method of binary division for analysis of any phenomenon in Plato's Phaedrus. This conjoining of schematic and lived reality instantiates what O'Gorman calls

[t]he deferred understanding, or 'artificial stupidity,' might be considered as a form of Nachtraglichkeit, a psychoanalytic concept championed by Freud and Lacan. .. The point of recognition, then, can only take the form of a deferred understanding, an understanding-too-late, arrived at by means of a detour through the realm of nonsense (puns, anagrams, macaronics, etc.). .. When a hypericonomy such as 1\0 is finished, we are left with a veritable impression of its creator's unconscious (whether it be political, optical, or psychic). (89)

The sample O'Gorman gives of his 1\0 project and the 4Fold schema crossing the educational surface of his 'choral square', race relations, is here replaced by a lesson in electronics that forms the foundation, or ground (the puncept of this mystory) of a study that eventually involves computer programming and closed-loop, discrete process control systems.

What is not really captured in this response essay, even with the pictures, is the transformation of the classroom experience wrought by starting from the ground symbol and traversing introductory electronics through feedback from the participants via a question and answer poll conducted over an adhoc wireless network with their iPhones and notebook computers. O'Gorman writes,

Admittedly, the computer is the most far-reaching new media tool in education, but it is not the only electronic tool that influences learning. Television, video games, even cell phones - marginal electronic media from a scholarly point of view - all play a part in education, even though they may not be an integral element of the classroom experience. Whereas Katherine Hayles rightly calls for an increased emphasis on material-specific critique, I am calling for an increase in material-specific pedagogy, starting with the materiality for the Web. (82)

Thus, we both start with 'the materiality of the Web', coming at it in this case from the basic building blocks of electronic design all the way through complex digital computer systems that include TCP/IPv4 networking. I feel the control system metaphor is superior to Ulmer's 'tuning knobs', or rheostats, for these are passive devices hearkening from electrical, rather than electronic, technology. I want to do a little better than train students in what O'Gormans describes as “the art of 'well-informed dilettantism'” (94), following Heim's recommendation in “Heidegger and McLuhan: The Computer as Component” that scholarship requires a 'cybersage'. This is more in line with the degree of commitment to actually learning aspects of the technologies for techno-bureaucratic university administrators to sign off on a program in which, for example, “the Department of Electrical Engineering might offer a class in microcontroller programming that would involve students from both engineering and liberal arts in the creation of electronic devices suitable, for example, for a critical/digital art installation” (111).

If humanities scholarship ever reaches into software design, then the notion of 'writing with' takes truly useful material possibilities, such as joining in the work of an free, open source software (FOSS) project or remediating obsolete technologies such as the electronic pinball machine by PMREK (a FOSS project hosted on that teaches digital electronics by building hardware and “source code for a Linux 2.6 kernel module and a user program to control Bally pinball machines manufactured between 1977 and 1985 via memory-mapped I/O”). If the chapter begins with an icon, the ground symbol, for grounding the study of electronic media with a study of electronics itself, then zooming reveals a relay driver circuit. O'Gorman's rhetoric enticing you to repeat his experiment of 'hypericonomy' succeeds as the impulse at the base of the transistor crossing the threshold to initiate current flow between the collector and emitter, in turn energizing the solenoid relay, which turns out to be a pop bumper momentarily energized during a game on the Flash Gordon pinball machine. As the ball drains and the game ends, its mechanical voice chimes out, "Try again, Earthling!"

Notes on Marcel O'Gorman's E-Crit

Notes for Marcel O'Gorman E-Crit: Digital Media, Critical Theory and the Humanities


New Media Calls for New Majors

(xiii) E-Crit is an interdisciplinary program that combines English, Communications, Computer Information Systems, and Fine Art.

(endnote 1) the term 'new media' is historically determined.

(xiii-xiv) E-Crit was born out of the Frankfurt School / poststructuralism sensibility of two of my colleagues and their students, who positioned resistance and vigilant critique as the cornerstones in a new media studies curriculum that opposes the compartmentalization of knowledge. .. The goal, then, is to position discourse in such a way that it can play a formative role in reshaping the academic apparatus.

(xiv) The question of the marketability of the humanities is central to this book, and I draw heavily on the work of John Guillory, whose Cultural Capital provides a realistic analysis of the state of the humanities in techno-bureaucratic culture - a culture whose 'fetishization of “rigor”' has led to a veritable crisis in the humanities' (ix). .. I think it's time to take a harder look at how disciplines rooted in the study and preservation of printed texts can remain relevant and viable in a digital, picture-oriented culture.

(xv) One way of explaining this sense of disappointment in the 'failure of theory' is to investigate how attempts to apply deconstruction toward the materialization of revolutionary scholarly practices have been largely ineffectual. .. somewhere in the early 1990s, the major tenets of deconstruction (death of the Author, intertextuality, etc.) were displaced into technology, that is, hypertext. Or to put it another way, philosophy was transformed, liquidated even, into the materiality of new media. This alchemical transformation did not result in the creation of new, experimental scholarly methods that mobilize deconstruction via technology, but in an academic fever for digital archiving and accelerated hermeneutics, both of which replicate, and render more efficient, traditional scholarly practices that belong to the print apparatus.

Recall the readings for A Companion to Digital Humanities.

(xv-xvi) Shaping a new apparatus also involves more than a scholarly remediation of printed texts. .. A large-scale institutional change of the type I am envisioning can only come about with a careful and deliberate implementation that targets not only discourse of scholars, but that of students and classrooms (including ergonomics), administrators and buildings (including architecture), campuses and cities (including urban planning).

(xvi) A large portion of this study involves an attempt to create a new method of scholarly research - which I have dubbed hypericonomy - that is more suitable to a picture-oriented, digital-centric culture. .. E-Crit is a glimpse at what 'knowledge production' might look like, after deconstruction, in an age of computer-mediated communication.

1. The Canon, the Archive, and the Remainder: Reimagining Scholarly Discourse

The Remainder: Structural, Material, Representational

(4) All of the linguistic tools that account for the poetics of this study - a poetics I have called hypericonomy - might be classified under what Jean-Jacques Lecercle has termed 'the remainder' of language. Puns, anagrams, false etymologies, macaronics, and metaphor of all breeds fall into this repressed category, this 'other of language' (99). More importantly here, the remainder is the 'other' of academic or scholarly language. It is deemed as nonsense or rubbish, classified as 'cute' or juvenile, the stuff of children's literature, fantasy, and folklore, and lately, as unstylish poststructural writing.

(4) E-Crit attempts to take this teratological science [study of monsers] a step further by viewing the 'remainder' not only as a means of illuminating conventional language, but as a language with a revolutionary potential of its own. If the remainder is the hidden or repressed, monstrous 'other' of the conventional academic discourse, then those who seek to change that conventional discourse might engage in a science of anagnorisis; that is, a science of invention and knowledge-production that depends on a face-to-face encounter with the monster.

(4) Like the relationship between common sense and nonsense, the relationship between scholarly academic language and the remainder is that of master and slave.

(5) By speaking of the remainder in these political terms, as a case of exclusion, repression, and otherness, I am hoping to supplement John Guillory's important study of canon formation in Cultural Capital. .. Guillory suggests that the canon is nothing more than a product of scholarly imaginary, and that the debate points essentially to a crisis in the humanities wrought by a fetishistic clinging to traditional conceptions of literature and scholarship. This is the fate of literary studies in universities dominated by a techno-bureaucratic culture that values 'rigor' above all else.

(5) While Guillory focuses primarily on the permutations of the category of 'literature,' this study is more concerned with the category of 'academic writing,' which is the primary vehicle for mediating the 'imaginary structures' of higher education. As Guillory suggests, the ideology of literary tradition that is at the root of the canon debate is always 'a history of writers and not of writing' (63). Guillory is interested, therefore, in how writing becomes literature. This study, however, asks how writing becomes scholarship, and it does so not only by examining the practices and structures of the academic apparatus, but also by imagining a new method of scholarly writing (hypericonomy) and a new curricular strategy (Electronic Critique).

(5-6) Four years ago, I submitted a hypertext essay, 'A Provisional Treatment for Archive Fever,' to a Web-based humanities journal. .. The journal referees, however, were not so enthusiastic upon first reviewing the hypertext, and the work was not accepted for publication.

(6) Since the essay I submitted to the journal was non-traditional from an academic prespective, the referee's comments, as reproduced here, should act as a sort of warning for the inventors of new modes of academic discourse, namely, this is what to expect when you submit 'remainder-work' to a traditional journal. .. The first type of remainder is taken directly from Lecercle and Deleuze/Guattari, and it relates to the rhizomatic principle of structure disdained by traditional, rigorous humanities scholars: the structural remainder. The second type is more grammatological in nature; it concerns the repressed technological element of humanities scholarship, and the resistance of scholars to certain communications technologies: the material remainder. The third type of remainder, which is closely allied to the second, accounts for a great deal of the theoretical writing in this book: the representational remainder of scholarly discourse, which might also be termed the pictorial remainder.

Tree vs. Roots - Structural Remainder

(7) In punceptual writing, data is organized according to the logic of the pun, the most base and primitive species of remainder; punning is what makes the work of Marshall McLuhan, for example, both brilliant and annoying.

(7) the puncept can also be pictorial.

(8) Hypericonomy emulates the structural characteristic of the rhizome by foregrounding the remainder in scholarly research and writing. The pun, then, even though it may be deemed as 'cute' or 'confusing' to those who are unaccustomed to its rhizomatic ways, can be used as a structuring tool in a scholarly research program.

Print vs. Electronic - Material Remainder

(8) My submission was, to borrow Lev Manovich's term, an attempt to write (in) the language of new media. The suggestion that it should be 'put into conventional essay form ... before it goes deconstructive' is indicative of the referee's oppressive print-centricity.

(9) As I will argue throughout this book, it is a definitive characteristic of traditional scholars to reject any mode of discourse that diverges from the path of the conventional, hierarchical essay format.

(11) However, although digital technologies provide us with the most effective archiving tools to date, archiving should not be the defining task of digital humanities scholars. In these archival projects, scholars are using only a portion of the potential of new media; it is the portion which most appeases: (a) their nostalgia for a print-oriented culture; and (b) the demands of a digital-oriented, techno-bureaucratic culture that values predictable techno-scientific methods (e.g., archiving) over interpretation and, most of all, invention.

Text vs. Picture - Representational Remainder

(11) from the conventional point of view, pictures are entities to be 'added' to an essay or lesson, and not inherent or repressed elements of the processes of writing, reading, and learning. In this particular case, pictures are seen as elements which might change 'readings of canonical texts,' but not as elements which might altogether change the processes of reading and writing.

(12) On several occasions in this study, the term 'heuretics,' borrowed from Gregory Ulmer, will be used to describe a supplementary or alternative logic to hermeneutic discourse, a way out of the hermeneutic circle. In short, heuretics provides us with a logic of invention, 'a form of generative productivity of the sort practiced in the avant-garde' (Ulmer 1994a: xii). What I am attempting to outline in this book is a heuretic approach to discourse that draws on the suggestive power of pictures as a means of generating new modes of writing suitable to an image-oriented culture. .. The purpose of this foregrounding, however, is not to interpret the picture, or to offer an authoritative reading of it in the conventional sense, but to draw on the picture as a tool for invention, as a generator of concepts and linkages unavailable to conventional scholarly practices. This is how hypericonomy breaks out of the hermeneutic circle.

(12) To understand pictures as generators is to view them much in the same way as Lecercle describes the pun and other forms of metaphor, all of which fall into the category of the remainder, which Lecercle describes as instances of 'diachrony-within-synchrony.' .. The notion of 'diachrony-within-synchrony' points to the capacity of the remainder to interrupt our synchronic understanding of a word by invoking a diachronic association.

(13) it may be possible to capture or at least re-create this sense of schizo 'indirection' [where all possible meanings of a metaphorical phrase are present at once] before it is funnelled, before it is transformed into common sense.

(14) I would like to believe that one purpose of hypericonomy is to provoke or mimic the fluidity of creative thought and crystallize it, transforming delire or schizophrenia into a theory and a discursive practice.

The Good Sense of Nonsense

(14) sense, according to Deleuze, is present in every utterance, even in so-called nonsense, which should not be understood as lack of sense (or direction) at all, but as an overproduction of sense (indirection=too many directions at once, no single direction). .. It is in this sense that the language of new media, with its multi-discursive, diachronic structure, is nonsensical.

This seems like a special kind of intellectual, intentional nonsense rather than the ramblings of a drug-crazed, street corner schizophrenic. I think of a certain story by Paul Auster..

(16) The who of good sense is obvious, then, and the why might be answered by pointing to the history and tradition of scholarly discourse, with its roots in early print technology and the structure of the first universities. But there are other, more political, more confrontational answers to this why of scholarly discourse, which have to do with the unlikely coupling of traditionalists who seek to maintain a certain complacent, bourgeois, academic status quo, and techno-bureaucratic university administrators seeking to run a viable business.

2. The Search for Exemplars: Discourse Networks and the Pictorial Turn


(19) Eye Socket, with its cyborgian electrical outlets, provides us with a fine mnenomic device. Consider the Gibb picture above, then, and the limen, the enchanted looking glass, between a network of discourses and the discourse of networks that I am developing here. In this context, Eye Socket has now become a 'hypericon': 'a piece of movable cultural apparatus, one which may serve a marginal role as illustrative device or a central role as a kind of summary image ... that encapsulates an entire episteme, a theory of knowledge' (Mitchell 1994: 49).

Discourse Networks

(20) This is the episteme of what Friedrich Kittler has called the Republic of Scholars, a republic entirely committed to 'endless circulation, a discourse network without producers or consumers, which simply heaves words around' (Kittler 1990: 4). It is this form of scholarly discourse, this discursive circuit, which renders itself visible through the production of banal treatises and dissertations.

(21) To put it in the bluntly economic terms of Katherine Hayles, we are in a situation of 'too many critics, too few texts,' and the result has not been innovation, but repetition, recycling, and reduction.

(endnote 5) a definition of heuretics.. 'Without relinquishing the presently established applications of theory in our disciplines (critique and hermeneutics), heuretics adds to these critical and interpretive practices a generative productivity of the sort practiced in the avant-garde' (Ulmer 1994a: xii).

(21-22) a traditional scholar might spurn Kittler's proposal altogether, and protest its lack of historical rigor. But an alternative reaction - the one I am supporting here - would be to recognize Kittler's methodology as a new way of conducting humanities research, a new method in which a specific scene or textual image (e.g., Faust's sigh, Gibb's Eye Socket, Las meninas) acts as a hypericon, a generative, multi-directional passageway, onto a research project.

(23) the new era demands thinking about the ways in which new media have impacted, and will continue to impact, literary theory. For this reason, Friedrich Kittler, an electrical engineer turned critical theorist, serves as an excellent exemplar of the type of 'fresh thinking' demanded by the new era. Although it's likely that most humanities scholars would shun the idea that in their spare time they should 'pick up the soldering iron and build circuits' (quoted in Griffin 1996: 731).

The old Marxist fantasy of the trans-specialist, jack-of-all-trades. Unfortunately, electronics seems to be a discipline born from print culture and abstract logic, requiring a great deal of learning to grasp. All the same, I like using the references to circuits and relays as electronic metaphors, or, better, hypericons, so that the trigger-image is from a circuit schematic.

(23-24) Kittler draws on a single scene as an inlet into a network of discourses that circulate through the text. .. The text is not something to critique or comment on, but a generator of theories.

Kittler, then, does not write about Faust or about Goethe; he writes with Goethe, just as he writes with Foucault, Lacan, and Derrida. This tendency of Kittler to write with several theorists at once is, according to David Wellberry, an innovation in scholarly method. .. It is by means of this writing with that Kittler departs from the discourse of the Republic of Scholars.

But there are plenty of examples of this style, such as Plato's Symposium, where Plato takes on the identity of each speaker whose name is significant of his psychic framework.

The Republic of Scholars

(24) I am writing under the aegis of electracy (elec-trace-y). .. This Republic of Scholars, with its faith in transparent language, scientific proof, and the text-based, linear, sequential essay, provides the methodology and discourse for all who wish to maintain affiliation within the academic apparatus.

(endnote 8) Gregory Ulmer, who coined the term 'electracy,' explains it in the following manner: 'In the history of human culture there are but three apparatuses: orality, literacy, and now electracy. We live in the moment of the emergence of electracy, comparable to the two principle moments of literacy (The Greece of Plato, and the Europe of Galileo)'.

This as any classicist will tell you is an incorrect plural form of the fourth-declension noun apparatus.

(25) Citing Michael Taussig, Ray suggests that 'what is at stake with such questions is “the issue of graphicness,” a quality generally disdained by materialist critics who associate it with the enemies - commerce and mystification' (9).

(25) If indeed we are in the thralls of a hypervisual, picture-oriented, digital age, then a scholarly discourse suitable to such an age must accept not only poststructuralism as prior knowledge, but also the fact that technologies of representation have induced a pictorial turn in our culture, subsequently placing us on the threshold of a new subjectivation that we are still in the process of understanding.

Picture Theory

(26) imagine the various intersections, linkages, and lines of flight incited by the following plotting of points on a graph: from Jonathan Crary's historical evalution of 'Scopic Regimes' to W.J.T. Mitchell's identification of a 'pictorial turn'; from E.H. Gombrich's theory of the 'mental set' to Rosalind Kraus's 'optical unconscious.'

You have to be familiar with them in order to visualize the graph.

(26) There is no print-based artifact so accommodating that it could represent the complex network of possibilities posed by the intersection of the various texts that I wish to gather here under the aegis of picture theory.

(endnote 10) The graphic elements of Hayles's text do succeed in pointing to the materiality of her subjects of investigation, but my goal is to have the graphicness drive the production of the text itself. I am attempting to invent a mode of discourse in which the images themselves are theories, and not merely reminders of the materiality of discourse.

(27) Perhaps a more accessible way to visualize such a model is to imagine the non-linear, graphic-rich environment of the Web. Would it complicate things to suggest that, if this essay were a hypertext, its explanation of picture theory would span various nodes?

(29) Gombrich's crucial theoretical contribution to this study is the 'mental set,' a subjective 'horizon of expectation' (60) that guides an individual's optical impressions. Vision, in Gombrich's model, is a form of projection, and each individual possesses mental schemata against which s/he attempts to match the shapes in her/his field of vision. Thus, that which 'we call “reading” an image,' Gombrich suggests, 'may perhaps be better described as testing it for its potentialities' (227).

(30) There are, however, certain methods of classification within 'the filing systems of our mind' (Gombrich 1969: 105) that are not culturally determined, but that are entirely personal and subjective, the result of an individual's psychic experience. These mental images may not even be recognized by the individual herself, although they may have radical effects on the way she organizes visual stimuli.

(31) In order to withstand the image bombardment being deployed in the current mediascape, readers and viewers must possess a means of filtration that will allow them to consciously organize visual information and arrange it into manageable patterns. But in order to develop such an apparatus, it seems that a reader must dismiss the notion of transparent communication, and accept the impossibility of a universal perspective, or of 'a purely responsive act of reading - an act which will decode the transmission in precisely the way that the sender desires' (McGann 1991: 37).

Recall Hayles' attack on Shannon's model of communication where neither the sender nor the receiver play any role in massaging the medium or the message. Of course this model exists for the sake of emphasizing the external, material, technological components of the system that is the object of electrical engineering.

Imagetext and the Sister Arts

(33) The image, he [Barthes] insists, is always subordinated to the message imposed upon it by the written text, whether it is a caption, a headline, or some other written form.

(34) Despite the apparent ingenuousness of Magritte's painting [La trahison des images], Foucault identifies it as a dialectical enigma, a scene of seduction into which the viewer is irresistibly drawn.

(34) When, years after painting La trahison des images, Magritte moved his pipe and caption to a blackboard mounted on an easel, it is as if he was directly targeting the academic apparatus, taunting it with a form of discourse which it could not possibly accommodate.

(34) According to W.J.T. Mitchell, Foucault's short essay ['Ceci n'est pas une pipe'] demonstrates that La trahison des images is not only a metapicture, a picture about pictures that instructs us on the 'infinite relation' between image and text; it is also a hypericon that 'provides a picture of Foucault's way of writing and his whole theory of the stratification of knowledge and the relations of power in the dialectic of the visible and the sayable' (1994: 71).

(37) what I am seeking in the development of a new mode of academic discourse lies between Drucker's 'serious' theoretical work and her artists's books.

(39) At the beginning of each chapter of The Optical Unconscious, we find an icon - a detail from a painting, drawing, or photograph - that serves as the title. The title of each chapter, then, is represented by a pictorial mise en abyme, a conceptually - and ideologically - loaded image that captures the central argument of each chapter.

Remediating Theory

(41) I would argue that Krauss's iconic methodology would be easily adaptable to an electronic environment, where the 'icon' appears as frequently as the written word and imagetexts are the most frequent mode of representation.

Likewise imagine starting with an image of the ground symbol in a relay driver circuit that itself is only a small part of the schematic diagram of a large circuit board, which is finally itself just one part of a device such as a pinball machine.

(42) In Heuretics, Gregory Ulmer suggests that electronic media might be used to invent a 'hyperrhetoric,' a rhetoric 'that replaces the logic governing argumentative writing with associational networks' (18). .. My approach here is to put poststructuralism to work as the software required for inventing new theories, new modes of discourse, new poetics capable of short-circuiting the discourse of the Republic of Scholars.

(42-43) There are no Microsoft software bundles that tell us how to invent a new scholarly methodology. .. I wonder what Blake would have done if his desktop was equipped not with burins, acids, and copper plates, but with a Mac (or would Blake prefer a PC?), Photoshop, Netscape, and Flash?

O'Gorman continues to employ electronic metaphors, but somewhat carelessly: short-circuiting is a destructive operation; shunting is better. And his appeal to Microsoft/PC, Macs, and commodity software reflects a consumer attitude toward electronic technology. He needs to take up the soldering iron!

3. The Hypericonic De-Vise: Peter Ramus Meets William Blake

Books for Little Boys: Thomas Murner and Peter Ramus

(46) Agricola's De inventione dialectica (1479) responds to information overload by providing a discourse on method that instructs readers in the ways of logical organization. Agricola's method, a form of pre-Renaissance new media, involves placing 'things' under their proper headings, and distributing then in an external writing space rather than containing them entirely in memory.

(47-48) The gender and youthfulness of MA students during the Renaissance may go a long way in explaining the methodologies and pedagogical materials used by their instructors. .. [Thomas] Wilson's sly attempt to engage students in a virtual foxhunt [in his 1553 The Rule of Reason] may well be one of the very first samples of an educational 'video game.'

Of course, there are more appropriate precedents to the tradition of teaching with visual aids, such as Thomas Murners Chartiludium logice or logical card game (1509). Murner provides young students with a woodcut set of iconic flashcards representing the elements of logical discourse. .. these texts document a shift from strictly mnemonic, internalized practices to methodologies that are reliant upon the external spatialization of thought.

(48-49) For Ramus, method referred specifically to the 'orderly pedagogical presentation of any subject by reputedly scientific descent from “general principles” to “species” by means of definition and bipartite division' (Ong 1958: 30). .. According to Ong, Ramus was simply responding to the need of universities to corporatize knowledge delivery.

(49) New media have done little to alter the practices of humanities scholars, except perhaps by accelerating - by means of more accessible databases - the rate at which hermeneutics can be performed. .. Just as Ramus's scholarly method had a great influence in shaping a print apparatus that has persisted for five centuries, might it not be possible to invent scholarly methods to shape the digital apparatus?

Rather than allow the default to prevail.

(49) Ulmer cites Andre Breton's co-option of Freud to invent surrealism. Since my goal is to invent a mode of discourse that challenges Ramist, print-based methods, I might very well co-opt a pre-Ramist methodology and ask the following question: Is it possible to do with Thomas Murner what Andre Breton did with Freud?

Books for Little Boys and Girls: William Blake

(55) Although such a 'booby-trap' beginning, as Geoffrey Summerfield calls it, would cause bells to go off in the head of the least satirically minded reader, this may not be the case if the reader is a child. An Island in the Moon, like many other satirical texts, from Gulliver's Travels to Animal Farm, works on a variety of levels, at least some of which can be appreciated by children. This concern for couching political and cultural critique in a form suitable for both children and adults is yet one more reason why Blake may have chosen to write children's books.

Digitization in the Age of Blake

(57) Unlike other Romantics, such as Rousseau, Blake was not an outright anti-technologist; his critique targets the mechanistic techniques tied into the apparatus, and not the apparatus itself. Rather than rejecting the apparatus of print production, then, he chose to invent his own, based on techniques that subverted the dehumanizing potential of mechanical reproduction.

Compare this to the free, open source software movement as a response to the dehumanizing potential of closed-source, 'cathedral' software epitomized by Microsoft.

(58) As [Morris] Eaves suggests [in The Counter-Arts Conspiracy: Art and Industry in the Age of Blake], 'digitization is not a notion confined to electronic devices but a technological norm that operates across a spectrum of materials and processes. As a rule of thumb, the more deeply digitization penetrates, the more efficient the process becomes' (186).

(58) At the heart of digitization is a praxis of 'division' that Blake strived to denounce through his 'chaosethetics.'

(61) As argued by Viscomi and other Blake scholars before him, Blake's references to 'corrosives ... melting apparent surfaces away' underscores the degree to which the materiality of his mode of production was etched into his visionary philosophy.

(62) Blake's work, informed by his notion of the 'contraries,' invovles a unification of form and content, material production and ideology.

(66) By creating execises such as 'Re-writing Blake,' instructors are not asking students to write about the poet/painter; they are asking students to write with him.

New Media for Everyone: Hypericonomy

(67) My strategy has been to 'show' this method in this chapter rather than explain it away with a series of easily replicable instructions. In this way, I am attempting to provoke a certain degree of misunderstanding, with the hope that readers might produce their own monstrous versions of hypericonomy. This is a strategy that, in Ulmer's terms, is designed to trigger a relay.

(endnote 11) Richard Coyne draws on the term 'technoromanticism' to identify narratives that promote an emancipatory vision of new technologies.

If humanities scholarship ever reaches into software design, then the notion of 'writing with' takes truly useful material possibilities, such as joining in the work of an FOS project or remediating obsolete technologies such as the electronic pinball machine by PMREK, so we do those projects. If the chapter begins with an icon, the ground symbol, for grounding the study of electronic media with a study of electronics itself, then zooming reveals a relay driver circuit. O'Gorman's rhetoric enticing you to repeat his experiment 'hypericonomy' succeeds as the impulse at the base of the transistor crossing the threshold to initiate current flow between the collector and emitter, in turn energizing the solenoid relay, which turns out to be a pop bumper momentarily energized during a game on the Flash Gordon pinball machine.

(68) It is this notion of a 'visual puncept' that is at the foot of hypericonomy, and which is also akin to the aesthetic techniques of William Blake.

4. Nonsense and Play: The Figure/Ground Shift in New Media Discourse

Visualization and Intelligence

We are adding computed intelligence to O'Gorman's “visualization and intelligence” that is probably biased human intelligence.

(73) Could our visual culture, then, the culture which is making us 'sillier by the minute,' actually be responsible for a certain intellectual (r)evolution? The pedagogical avant-garde, from the U.S. Army to the Baby Einstein Company, seem to think so.

These paragons of collective intelligence, thinking, unconscious collective bargaining, and so on are instantiating Nietzsche's silliness?

(74)(figure 4.1) Wendy and Michael Magnifier, 1998: McDonald's Peter Pan Happy Meal toy.

That this occurs in a text means, minimally, a picture (ta zoographia) is involved.

(76) My argument, then, is not that visual media have made us, or our children, more intelligent than our predecessors, but that development in the materiality of media lead to shifts in the hierarchy or matrix of cognitive processes.

Heim's historical drift and gains and losses.

(77) The camera obscura, as described by Krauss, might serve as a convenient hypericon for encapsulating the classical understanding of visuality which the avant-garde challenged.

Influence of Lacan? I am not sufficiently a member of this world to say any more about Lacan.

(78) In The Optical Unconscious, Krauss relies heavily on the work of Max Ernst in order to demonstrate the surrealists' undoing of the figure/ground binary.

(80) the contemporary popularity of surrealist imagery which stunned and baffled its initial audience, demonstrates the advanced level of optical sophistication possessed by the average contemporary consumer.

Figure/Ground 2: Children's Literature

(80) In general, surrealism involved a sort of psychoanalytic revision of childhood experiences, not as a means of therapy, however, but in order to apply these experiences to the transformation of everyday life.

(81) one can reverse the conventional figure/ground relationship by putting greater emphasis on the frame, or even, on the act of enframing, rather than on the content of an image or text.

Does this permit garbage to slip through the text uncriticized? Isn't that what we mean by “the unconscious”? Can't we detect it with computer programs that analyze what we have written?

(81) Nonsense, then, can take us across cultural and cognitive fields, forcing us to confront the other, and his/her methods of organization. If the form and logic of print textuality began with books for 'little boys' (i.e., Ramus's textbooks), then the model for an electronic textuality might also come from books for children - nonsense books, that is. And not only from children's books, but from their video games and television shows as well.

(endnote 10) It might also be appropriate to consider, here, Heidegger's conception of enframing (gestell) as the essence of technology, and the way in which nonsense thwarts the technological drive toward efficiency.

Invites analysis of computer software, books written for 'the other'. But are they really examples of the intellectual sort of nonsense proposed here, and not just “very stupid phenomena”?

Figure/Ground 3: Digital Media

(81-82) Susan Stewart characterizes nonsense, as a strikingly intertextual mode of discourse, one which cannot occur without transgression, without contraband, without a little help of the bricoleur's hand. To view nonsense in this way is to view communication as a constant interplay of 'universes of discourse' which are incessantly 'involved in borrowing from one another and transforming one another at every step as they are employed in an ongoing social process' (ibid.). .. The Web can facilitate a rapid shift between various modes of discourse and cognition, all within the same perceptual field. .. hypertext offers us a form, a material space, in which we can build our own models.

Note that O'Gorman does not italicize the 's in “bricoleur's” - yes, it is that educated nonsense. But he seems to be taking the print-centric position of writing texts for humans to read and not participating more in development of free, open source software.

(82) Admittedly, the computer is the most far-reaching new media tool in education, but it is not the only electronic tool that influences learning. Television, video games, even cell phones - marginal electronic media from a scholarly point of view - all play a part in education, even though they may not be an integral element of the classroom experience. Whereas Katherine Hayles rightly calls for an increased emphasis on material-specific critique, I am calling for an increase in material-specific pedagogy, starting with the materiality for the Web.

Experiment with adding web-enabled mobile devices to the classroom experience using the poller software as an integral part of a presentation.

(83) What [Richard, writer of The Electronic Word] Lanham neglects to consider is that hypertext may be used not only as a sort of light switch between the classical, academic binary of rhetoric vs. philosophy, but also as a multivalent switch, or rheostat, if you will, for toggling between cultural, epistemological, autobiographical, political, and historical categories. .. It may be useful here to leave behind the binary, light-switch model of electronic writing and consider another model, that of Gregory Ulmer's argumentative 'tuning knobs.'

(84-85) If, alongside the knobs for narration, exposition, and poetics, we include knobs for politics, popular culture, theory, autobiography, etc., then we have indeed built a machine (a graphic equalizer?) capable of generating a mode of academic discourse more suitable to a culture of computing.

Tuning knobs are indeed rheostats if [] is what they control: your choices are (a) capacitance, (b) inductance, (c) resistance, (d) reactance, and (e), none of these.

Figure/Ground 4: 1\0

(86) The semiotic square, employed on its own, is a much too rigid and positivist apparatus. For this reason, 1\0 relies heavily on a more pliable apparatus known as the 'choral square.' The choral square, which first appears in Ulmer's Heuretics, is a descendant of Plato's notion of chora, which was picked up by Jacques Derrida. Like the mnemonic strategy of classical rhetoric or oratory, chorography relies upon the generative potential of a specific place. In Ulmer's chorography, the subject provides the place of invention, with the intention of generating a poetics. The term place here is somewhat inadequate, however, since it actually refers to the space of a quadripode graph which Ulmer calls the popcycle, and within which the chorographer (or mystorian) plots him/herself by filling in the following coordinates or slots: 'Family, Entertainment, School, Discipline.'

Unfamiliarity with Derrida signifies what? Is this the first time O'Gorman really invokes Derrida directly? If so, I'd like to note my astonishment that he never, throughout this entire book, as far as I can tell, nor in his bibliography mentions Memoirs of the Blind, Derrida's picture-driven meditation.

(86-87) What really matters for the sake of mystory, however, is that the categories are filled in before the project actually begins, and they are pursued faithfully as if they formed a set of rules for the deployment of the project.

(87) The popcycle first appeared in Ulmer's Teletheory as a set of guidelines employed in the creation of a mystory, a new critical genre which adds autobiography and pop culture to the scholarly mix. .. What remains essential in any case is that: (a) the academic category is forced to collide with other influential aspects of an individual's life; and (b) the categories are staged around the resolution of a specific problem.

This language is intended to be silly in the sort of indirectional nonsense that is like Blake's children's works.

(87-88) This resolution to not analyse the recurrent pictorial theme deserves further commentary here, since it is an essential element of mystory and of hypericonomy. If, according to Paul Feyerabend, 'by incorporation into a language of the future ... one must learn to argue with unexplained terms and to use sentences for which no clear rules of usage are as yet available' (1975: 256-7), then the commitment to deferring any in-depth analysis of one's thoughts and images during the time of hypericonomising must be considered as a seminal element of the method. In Ulmer's terms, by filling in the slots of the popcycle, we are 'learning how to write an intuition, and this writing is what distinguishes electronic logic (conduction) from the abductive (Baker Street) reasoning of the detective' (1994a: 37).

Isn't this an attempt to snatch meaning from the semi-conscious, like interpreting slips of the tongue but closer to the point where consciousness steers production? I bet Zizek crosses this innovative approach.

(88) Through this process of simulated intuition, or 'artificial stupidity,' the writer, completely unaware, performs an outering of the ideological categories that structure his or her organization of knowledge (1994a: 38). Hypericonomy, then, involves the invention of a new relation to knowledge itself, a techno-ideo-logical relation which Ulmer calls a 'knowledge of enframing' (1989: 183).

(89) The deferred understanding, or 'artificial stupidity,' might be considered as a form of Nachtraglichkeit, a psychoanalytic concept championed by Freud and Lacan. .. The point of recognition, then, can only take the form of a deferred understanding, an understanding-too-late, arrived at by means of a detour through the realm of nonsense (puns, anagrams, macaronics, etc.). .. When a hypericonomy such as 1\0 is finished, we are left with a veritable impression of its creator's unconscious (whether it be political, optical, or psychic).

(90) Lacan frequently employed images to instill this 'sublime of stupidity' in his audience. On the cover of each volume of his seminars, for example, is a hypericonic image taken from classical painting - an 'organizing image of the discourse, not to be interpreted but to serve as a point of departure for working through a theoretical problem' (Ulmer 1989: 194). .. In Lacan's mnemonic technique, we have the precursor, the theoretical bud, of which hypericonomy is indeed in full bloom.

This is the connection between O'Gorman's avant-garde method and 'science' (Freud and Lacan, which poststructuralists will endorse: “I am poststructuralism, and I approve of this message.”).

(94) Could it be that to produce a hypericonomy of this sort is to place oneself in the presence of a sublime object? An object which, in the Kantian/Derridean sense, invokes a 'violence done to the senses' (Derrida 1987: 130)? An object beyond the grasp of comprehension, beyond calculation and without end?

(94) The method reflects the current situation in which computer users approach their extremely complex and powerful machines as dilettantes. The sense of nausea that I feel when confronting 1\0 today has to do with the fact that I am confronting my own assumptions in 1996, my own lack of skill with Web design. .. The point of underscoring this design issue is to demonstrate that, with the rapid and incessant changes in software and hardware manufacturing, the best way to approach digital media pedagogy may well be to train students in the art of 'well-informed dilettantism.' This is why William Blake, a poet, painter, philosopher, printmaker, and visionary, serves as an excellent exemplar for students in the humanities today.

The cyperpunk/cybersage position. Careful to position between ignorant users and too-entrenched (technostressed); go back to his position wanting Microsoft to offer him a solution, and, lacking that, to permit dilettantism at the state of the art.

5. From Ecriture to E-Crit: On Postmodern Curriculum

Language of the Future

The 4fold Vision

(102) the 4fold Vision asks students to engage in a form of pattern recognition; it asks them to devise a method for organizing and producing knowledge that is suitable to a culture facing an onslaught of information, much of which is pictorial.

Critical Theory, Digital Media Studies, and the Curriculum of the Future

(103) In The Digital Revolution and the Coming of the Postmodern University [Carl A.] Raschke opposes interactivity (a common term in both pedagogy and new media development) to transactivity, which he sees as the pedagogical future of the 'postmodern university.' .. Web-based distance education has already changed the way we understand the university, but it has simply transposed print-centric habits (with varied success) into a new learning space. I believe that the transformation of the academic apparatus is most likely to occur by means of physical agents that engage directly with the traditional material structures of learning, from the essay, to the classroom, to the entire campus itself.

(104) Perhaps what needs to be developed most of all, however, in programs such as DMS, is the study of metastructure. But, to date, this has been the specialty of English departments, where critical theory found a home a few decades ago and is now ready to migrate from its literary, print-oriented focus to the realm of digital artifacts.

(105) As John Guillory has argued in Cultural Capital, the successful integration of critical theory into university education is a result of its being introduced - as a sort of contraband - at the graduate level.

(106) The 'off-the-radar' status of literary studies is capable of provoking severe self-pity in the traditional Romantics scholar. But to a Romatics scholar with an interest in critical theory and the materiality of visual communication, this state of neglect provides room for much-needed experimentation and revolution.

Electronic Critique: A Case Study in Curricular Remediation

(106-107) This leads Guillory to the conclusion that 'the moment of theory is determined, then, by a certain defunctioning of the literary curriculum, a crisis in the market value of its cultural capital occasioned by the emergence of a professional-managerial class which no longer requires the (primarily literary) cultural capital of the old bourgeoisie' (xii). .. The answer, I propose, lies in new media.

(107) The study of new media artifacts must coincide with the development of new media research methods.

(108) From the perspective of university administrators, however, E-Crit remains a nebulous sort of computer art studio that encourages students to take on Web and video projects on campus (this has earned them a reputation as the institution's leading media developers). These projects allow the administrators to tout E-Crit as a cutting-edge program when questioned by alumni and suspicious senior faculty, but the conversation usually ends there.

(109) In many ways, theory's failure has much in common with a culture that identifies with online dating, genetic engineering, and self-replication through increasingly sophisticated recordable media. When I propose that critical theory needs digital media and vice versa, I am proposing a curriculum that supports the thoughtful application of theory to the production of digital media artifacts, the creation of humane technologies and tech-related policies, and the investigation of the impact of technology on human being; or, to borrow Eagleton's shamelessly simple-minded words, I am proposing that educators can combine media and theory to 'find out how life can become more pleasant for more people' (2003: 5).

Notice the E-Crit program has a 15 credits “Programming Track” that includes data communications and networks and requirements and design with no focus on any particular programming language.

(111) For example, the Department of Electrical Engineering might offer a class in microcontroller programming that would involve students from both engineering and liberal arts in the creation of electronic devices suitable, for example, for a critical/digital art installation.

(112) The '' bust only serves to increase resistance to changes in academia, but university administrators still recognize the powerful cultural capital of digital media, as evidenced in the persistence of distance education projects. But a legion of University of Pheonix's will certainly not spur a knowledge revolution.

E-Crit and ecriture

(113) As [Hugh] Culik indicates, E-Crit was formed out of a need for resistance, specifically, resistance to 'the ideologies that make up electronic culture.' .. E-Crit requires students and faculty to take an ironic stance toward technology; to be 'in technology, but not of technology,' as a deceased colleague of ours once said.

(114) As Lev Manovich has suggested, 'One general effect of the digital revolution is that avant-garde aesthetic strategies came to be embedded in the commands and interface metaphors of computer software. In short, the avant-garde became materialized in a computer' (2000: 306-7). Rather than turn the political and intellectual dynamics of poststructuralism or the avant-garde into a selection of menu items in a design program, E-Crit is an attempt to remotivate those dynamic strategies, and recouple them with their (now digitized) aesthetic strategies.

Not surprising at all that avant-garde techniques have been used in consumer-oriented human-machine interface design. O'Gorman's strategy is to reincorporate the philosophies behind avant-garde aesthetics into the new mode of material critique through imitation (writing-with). Be sure to consider this in the context of Drucker and McVarish.

(115) As a final statement on 'postmodern curriculum,' then, I will suggest that it must be as agile and ironic as the ecriture of Barthes and Derrida.

A Final Note on Techno-Romantic Idealism

(116) Between the repressive constraints of 'legacy' and the techno-fetishistic demand for 'progress' levied by the ruling managerial class, curricular innovation has very little chance of leaving the confines of an idealistic vision statement.

I begin at one of the many utterances O'Gorman makes about electronics. This has to be published on media that can support dynamic HTTP delivery of HTML in a certain range of refresh rates. This is how artificial automata think about texts radically differently than natural automata, that is, we humans, us, people, 'wetware', thinking-things, psyche, mind, soul, unconscious signifiers, preconscious, and so on and so on. Imagine a first view that is akin to a title page or book cover showing a zoomed-in piece of something that will later be displayed in a larger context, whether in (as part of) a painting or illuminated manuscript or (sic) electronic circuit schematics, or computer programs.

(image saying “you know that this symbol represents ground” and hyperlink everything)

This is what we have left of Latin, logical operators for steering the reader like sic, ibid., versus, etc. but carrying very little of what Heim referred to when arguing for commemorating ancient Greek thought/writing: (insert appropriate Heim quote). This is where we can slip into depravities of style if not downright mistakes in our comprehension of our core beliefs, values, ideals, ethics, etc., when we do not read in this way, or, for that matter, listen to words and music. Because we can reproduce words and music via the mediation of electronic devices, we can think thoughts impossible to knowledge workers in the print-centric culture of industries, institutions, and other collective phenomena. Now add as the 'other' thinks with us networks to refer to their electronics-centric culture. We are already a few iterations into the generation of the initial generation (what O'Gorman may be eager to call hypericon), and our asking about the larger picture from which the title icon-size shot was built.

When it comes to writing software for your natural language research, be careful about well formed formulas of your natural language confusing MySQL such as O'Gorman delimiting incorrectly two fields, 'O' and 'Gorman response'. For now we will change the text.

O'Gorman, Marcel. (2006). E-crit: Digital Media, Critical Theory and the Humanities. Buffalo, NY: University of Toronto Press.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ENG_6801 Idea for Module 2

Here is an example of a graphic image that I would like to overlay with changeable text similar to how Paul Czech created his very amusing chart of Ong's Argument ( Basically, overlay HTML table on the graphic image background. I need a crash course in Cascading Sytle Sheets (CSS). Something else I need help with is finding close matches to the fonts used by Drucker and McVarish .. free, open source GNU GPL equivalent license only, please! The 1250 word essay will be displayed primarily in the right-hand box as if it was part of the original Wired image. I've "mashed" it up quite a bit, a term Wired loves to use.

Notes for Bolter's Writing Space

Notes for Jay David Bolter Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print

Second Edition


(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


(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.

(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.

The strict requirement of unity and homogeneity is relatively recent.

(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.


(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.

Is Heim's analysis naive in assuming that word processing relieves the writer of the materiality of writing?


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.

(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.


(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.


(22) Whenever a dominant technology is challenged, there may be a major refashioning of the culture's writing space.

(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.


(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.

(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.


(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 network.

(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.


(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.

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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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 words.

(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.


(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.

(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.

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.

Is this taking speech balloons too far (for Greek vase painting)?

(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.


(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.

(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.


(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.

(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.

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.

(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.

Virtual reality and dynamic content generation in general represents a new form that does more than remediate statically produced media, even if that are “moving.”


(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.


(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


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


Refashioned Dialogues


(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.

(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.

Xenophon's Socrates claims that once he learned to “gather together all the spoken things” (xunienai ta legomena) he never failed to investigate any study. It almost sounds like he meant “learned to read.”

(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.


(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.

(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 network structure as well as the linear-hierarchical order enforced by the underlying computer code and organization lends additional credibility to the author's 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.


(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.

Derrida's [1974] 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.

(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.

Goes counter to Heim's concern 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's lecture notes and Plato's dialogues.

(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.


(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.


Interactive Fiction

(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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?


(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.

(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.

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).

(152-153) 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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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 computer.

(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.


(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.

(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.


(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.


(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.

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”.



Writing the Self


(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.


(193) 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.


(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.”


(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.


(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.


Writing 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.


(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.

(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.