Hypertext Revisited

I know I am behind in updating but I’m back in school and loving every minute of it. My trip back was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. It’s fantastic to be home and have my little dog Tucker home with me again. Today I even won two tickets to Ladysmith Black Mambazo for tomorrow night!

I am taking a lot of amazing classes. Death and dying, which is turning into the odds on favorite so far. World Religions II, which initially I was excited about because we are studying Eastern Religions, then anxious about, because it’s a new teacher and I heard she’s hard and now am in love with, because by hard, they meant she’s GOOD. Then there is Philosophy of Religion, a very small class with just the four of us, it feels like pure entertainment so far. Chaplaincy Studies, where we have a whole bunch of new Chaplains to help grow the community here on campus and add even more energy to SRLA.

Then finally there is the hardest class so far: Literature and New Media. It’s my Big Q class, in other words it fulfills my Quantitative Reasoning requirement and helps me avoid any math. Yay! I say that it is is hard, but that is all relative of course. I mean that it’s hard because it’s an area of expertise and yet it’s from a literary perspective, a cul-de-sac of the medium. I am intrigued and sometimes aghast. Here’s an example. The word Hypertext in my world is used to mean any word in a document that links in a networked way whether locally or remotely to another location in the same or another document. There is a different definition in the literary world. Immediately I could feel my internal head shaking no-no-no.

In the literary world, Hypertext means: ” Text which does not form a single sequence and which may be read in various orders; specially text and graphics … which are interconnected in such a way that a reader of the material (as displayed at a computer terminal, etc.) can discontinue reading one document at certain points in order to consult other related matter.”

Similar but not the same. An example of this literary Hypertext can be seen in one of the stories we read called “The Jews Daughter”.

It’s a single page that has a couple of highlighted words. When you rollover the selected word, paragraphs on the page change, also changing elements of the story while you remain on the page. It is an interesting experience. You can come to know a lot about yourself as a reader by attempting the story. How do you interact with it? I found myself trying to read the story elements straight through at first because I love story so much, but when that proved difficult, I fell back on my second love, language and just let myself enjoy the poetry of the writing and the flow of the text across the page.

On the Electronic Literature Organization’s Website, they have this to say about the piece,The Jew’s Daughter is a work that renegotiates the concept of the hypertext to present a reconfigurative narrative. As the reader moves the mouse over links, segments of a page replace one another fluidly, giving the reader the sensation of watching a single page evolve step by step into another kind of textual instrument with its own sense of narrative rhythm.”

This form of writing and using technology to create an experience while gently reminding the reader that they are in fact using a medium to access story is called Metafiction. Wikipedia describes it as a type of fiction that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction. It is the literary term describing fictional writing that self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in posing questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, usually using irony and self-reflection. It can be compared to presentational theatre, which does not let the audience forget it is viewing a play; metafiction does not let the reader forget he or she is reading a fictional work. An online version of this can be seen in “The Garden of Forking Paths” which is a story which is labyrinth-like in it’s unfolding plot and is constructed online into a labyrinth-like experience.

Interesting. Lots of mind squishing classes in general, between the nature of reality in World Religions II, the nature of God in Philosophy of Religion, loss, life after death and grief in Death and Dying and the notion of media, authorship and technology in this class. Altogether intoxicating.

It’s shaping up to be an interesting semester and I haven’t even talked about the stuff outside the academic realm!


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