Feral Hypertext: When Hypertext Literature Escapes Control


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This presentation presents a historical view of hypertext looking at pre-
web hypertext as a domesticated species bred in captivity, and
arguing that on the web, some breeds of hypertext have gone feral.
Feral hypertext is no longer tame and domesticated, but is
fundamentally out of our control. In order to understand and work
with feral hypertext, we need to accept this and think more as
hunter-gatherers than as the farmers we have been for
domesticated hypertext. The presentation discusses hypertext in general
with an emphasis on literary and creative hypertext practice.

This is a presentation of a full paper given at ACM Hypertext 2005, in Salzburg, Austria. The full paper can be read at http://jilltxt.net/feralhypertext.pdf.

Published in: Technology, Education

Feral Hypertext: When Hypertext Literature Escapes Control

  1. 1. Feral Hypertext Hypertext Jill Walker, Dept of Humanistic Informatics, University of Bergen ACM Hypertext 2005 Salzburg, 6-9 September escapes When Literature Control
  2. 2. Definition of feral Feral (a): Of an animal: Wild, untamed. Of a plant, also (rarely), of ground: Uncultivated. Now often applied to animals or plants that have lapsed into a wild from a domesticated condition . (Oxford English Dictionary)
  3. 3. Image of Vannevar Bush Vannevar Bush
  4. 4. Image of Vannevar Bush <ul><ul><ul><li>Consider a future device for individual use , which is a sort of mechanized private file and library . It needs a name, and to coin one at random, “memex” will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  5. 5. You can and must understand computers NOW!
  6. 6. First hypertext systems developed on mainframes in research labs
  7. 7. MEMEX The dream of home hypertext
  8. 8. Early hypertext system bred for domestic use Example of a HyperCard hypertext Jakob Nielsen, www.useit.com/alertbox/ hypertextmodels.html
  9. 9. Tame hypertext literature Michael Joyce: afternoon, a story , 1987. Written in Storyspace.
  10. 10. Patchwork girl Shelley jackson, ”Patchwork Girl” Shelley Jackson, ”Patchwork Girl”
  11. 11. Shelley Jackson: Skin “ Author announces mortal work of art.”
  12. 12. Concerns in 1990s hypertext research and literature: <ul><li>cognitive overhead </li></ul><ul><li>lost in hyperspace </li></ul><ul><li>closure </li></ul>
  13. 13. “ How can one reduce the great peril, the great danger with which fiction threatens our world?” Foucault, 1969
  14. 14. Foucault wrote that we keep fiction under control though authors.
  15. 15. “ The author allows a limitation of the cancerous and dangerous proliferation of significations within a world where one is thrifty not only with one’s resources and riches, but also with one’s discourses and their significations. The author is the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning. ” Foucault, 1969
  16. 16. Nelson: authored Hyper-media are branching or performing presentations which respond to user actions, systems of prearranged words and pictures (for example) which may be explored freely or queried in stylized ways. They will not be “programmed,” but rather designed, written, drawn and edited, by authors, artists, designers and editors.
  17. 17. Unruly texts The concept of intertextuality and much other late twentieth century critical theory expresses an idea of texts as unruly and fundamentally beyond discipline. Much hypertext research, on the other hand, attempts to find ways to discipline and tame our thoughts, at the same time as its admits that our mind works associatively and that there are multiple ways of viewing connections in texts.
  18. 18. Trying to keep hypertext disciplined and tame <ul><li>typed links </li></ul><ul><li>Semantic web </li></ul><ul><li>web standards </li></ul><ul><li>+ + + ? </li></ul>
  19. 19. Then, the web... http://www.cybergeography.org/atlas/topology.html
  20. 20. battery farmed hens
  21. 21. Same Day Test
  22. 22. The Company Therapist
  23. 23. Links get messier... http://www.unknownhypertext.com/utah.htm
  24. 24. Everyone publishes
  25. 25. The Impermanence Agent Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Adam Chapman, Brion Moss and Duane Whitehurst, 1998-2002
  26. 26. The Impermanence Agent
  27. 27. “ folksonomies” The opposite of the semantic web?
  28. 28. Flickr
  29. 29. Discipline by categorisation <ul><li>Professionals </li></ul><ul><li>Authors </li></ul><ul><li>Users </li></ul>(All these assume there’s an object to classify.) Who creates the structure, the metadata?
  30. 30. Feral? Or a balanced ecology?
  31. 31. Killer hypertext?
  32. 32. Should we attempt to manage feral hypertext? (myxomytosis for hypertext? a rabbit-proof fence?)
  33. 33. No... Relax. Accept chaos. Forget closure. It belongs to the past.
  34. 34. [email_address] (jilltxt.net)