Hypertext

Hypertext

And hypertext

And,

Hypertext

noun

COMPUTING

1.

a software system that links topics on the screen to related information and graphics, which are typically accessed by a point-and-click method. (Google search “hypertext definition).

 

I love creative writing, whether it’s poetry, non-fiction varieties like memoir or autobiography or witty blogs, or fiction or whatever. I love stories, all genres. So when reading Kirschenbaum’s Mechanisms I snapped back to attention upon meeting Michael Joyce and his hypertext novel, Afternoon. While Kirschenbaum’s wonder in the poem Agrippa and novel Afternoon had to do with the mechanisms behind the media, I was interested in new mediums for my craft and new ways to be delighted by storytelling.

The more I learned about Michael Joyce the more entranced I became. I got a copy of Afternoon from the library that will only run on my increasingly dated laptop. But Joyce has been busy and searching him two months ago on the internet looks different today (is he retiring? Why is he no longer maintaining  a presence? Oh and I bought his new book on my Kindle). This seems consistent with his work Of Two Minds however, which has three sections – an irony he does not fail to note. Joyce does not work in the linear, “these essays and/or narratives are less a collection than a concoction,” he writes (5). Is this how I justify my ‘concoction’ of a paper piece of writing? I can’t say that I know yet. But as a person that best understand academic speak when I stand it on its head, read it backwards, and “hypertext it” (look up author history, word definitions, definitions from definitions, topics within author history and wiki pages, etc.) I have to say I find Joyce compelling:

Hypertexthas been called the revenge of the text on television since under its sway the screen image becomes subject to the laws of syntax, allusion and association, which characterize the written language. Print literally gives way on hypermedia screens to digitized sound, animation, video, virtual reality, and computer networks or databases that are linked to it. Thus, images can be “read” as texts, and vice versa. Any hypertext holds the prospect of representing on the screen the sights, sounds, and experience of movement through virtual worlds that language previously only evoked in the imagination (23-24).

Joyce write this in the 90s and held a more accurate prediction of how screen-bound we would end up being than most people could have guessed.

Steven Johnson of the online magazine Wired wrote a short hypertext article discussing why the hypertext novel never caught on  despite having the real possibility and potential to:

By the early ’90s, Joyce and his hypertextual coconspirators had triggered a larger public conversation about the significance of this new form. Multiple print tomes appeared evangelizing hypertext storytelling, and a few even warned of the threat it posed to traditional narrative. The literary/philosophical world had been musing about the death of the author and fragmented, reader-centric text since the late 1960s, but suddenly all those abstract ideas were grounded in technological reality.

Johnson writes that nonlinear reading had issues, a big one being how difficult they were to write, “When you tried to make an argument or tell a journalistic story in which any individual section could be a starting or ending point, it wound up creating a whole host of technical problems,” so much so that the writing, or quality of writing petered out. But there are still quite a few hypertext novels to be read on the internet.