Week 4, Hypertexts
- In "Hypertext, Hypermedia and Literary Studies: The State of the Art", Landow and Delany suggest that “hypertext can be expected to have important institutional as well as intellectual effects, for it is at the same time a form of electronic text, a radically new information technology, a mode of publication, and a resource for collaborative work… Hypertext historicizes many of our most commonplace assumptions, forcing them to descend from the ethereality of abstraction and appear as corollary to a particular technology and historical era. We can be sure that a new era of computerized textuality has begun; but what it will be like we are just beginning to imagine."
This passage was written in 1991, at a time when hypertext systems were available in somewhat limited forms such as Hypercard and Intermedia, use of the Internet was largely confined to academic institutions, and the term “World Wide Web” had only just been coined. Now, 15 years later, comment and reflect upon the impact hypertext has had on the world.
Computerisation has been changing, and is changing the world --- what it looks like, how it functions and et cetera. However, the power of computerisation is multiplied and amplified by the linking of computers into a network, a.k.a the Internet, and hyperlinks and hypertexts are the major components for the 'surfing' of internet to occur. and, unlike conventional methods of information exploration and gathering, hypertexts are changing the mindsets of people --- what and how they perceive the word, and how they react to their perceptions and observatios.
to comment and reflect upon the impact hypertext has had on the world is really a big topic. So let me start with the reading for this work first. In hypertext, hypermedia and literary studies, landow and delany examines the impact of hypertext on literary studies, or more generally, interlectuality and academia. they started off by arguing that the 'mental model of hypertext' buries deep in the academic tradition of referencing and cross-referencing. however on the other hand it breaks down the linear structure of traditional academia as extensive and reader-friendly hyperlinks continuously shifts the centre of the context. Hypertexts 'shifts the boundaries' between the producers of the text and the readers. (yes i avoided saying 'authors' because) the authors, in the context of hypertext, loses the 'authority' in them: they may start off with a beginning, but the readers may construct their own endings, or, the readers may have different paths, or experiences, before getting back to the same conclusion.
Let's go back to the reality of the world from academia. blogs and civilian journalism are offering altenrative perspectives on what is happening around us as well as around the world, and they are merely a few clicks away through the hyperlinks, compared to the hustel of flipping through newspaper and magazine articles. and essentially you and equal with the 'authors' of the blogs --- the common denominator of 'netizen' levels all other differences in wealth, power, race, and etc, thanks to the 'virtuality' and anonymity (all except IP address) internet gives to us. meanwhile, when we take a broader look of communitie on the internet, we see latent collaborations everywhere, from pure replication to editing to upgrading and et cetera. one example would be the open source softwares receiving contributions from professional or amateur programmers from all over the world.
it seems that i've wandered off quite far away. time to get back to hypertexts. landow and delany argue that collaboration invokes the dialectic thinking in human society: the sociable façon and the selfish side. Intellectual properties and copyrights well penetrates into hypertexting, although the violation of such on internet is still difficult to be traced an punished. (nonetheless we are working towards that)
one of the most important impact that the hypertexts have on the world, is how it changes the way people think and perceive things. in the past, bounded the the print media, and later, television, most people are passive receivers of information. in addition, referencing and cross referencing takes too much time and physical trouble. the so called academia, thus, is distant and how in the ivory tower where accessed to relevant resources are more ready. in the world now, hypertexts perovides the convenience of referencing and cross-referencing. in the past, the equilibrium of information source and the readers' acceptance is tilted towards the former. Nowadays, hypertextx reverses the order of the assymmetry.
As the result of the assymmetry, we are perhaps facing the problem of 'information overflow': there is just too much information gathered through browsing in hypertexts are ppl are confused about what to believe and how to structurise what they have found out. because of the de-centering implications of hypertexts, on one hand, people have enough individulism and uniqueness to play around; on the other hand, they find it difficult to make their work stand-out among the others, or in the other words, they need more intuition and thought to 'etheralise' what they find out from the hypertexts.