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Pre-Historic Hypertext


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Pre-Historic Hypertext

  1. 1. Prehistoric Hypertext Literature: Problems of defining a print-based hypertext corpus University of Bournemouth 28th November 2012 Simon Rowberry
  2. 2. Hypertext • “Hyper” + “Text” • Non-sequential? • Multi-linear? • Link-and-node? Beyond link-and-node • Electronic only? • Spatial? • Association? • Tactical
  3. 3. Defining Hypertext Historically Ted Nelson (1965): “Let me introduce the word "hypertext” - to mean a body of written or pictorial material interconnected in such a complex way that it could not conveniently be presented or represented on paper. It may contain summaries, or maps of its contents and their interrelations; it may contain annotations, additions and footnotes from scholars who have examined it. Let me suggest that such an object and system, properly designed and administered, could have great potential for education, increasing the student's range of choices, his sense of freedom, his motivation, and his intellectual grasp” (“Complex Information Processing”)
  4. 4. Defining Hypertext Historically Ted Nelson (1992): “Hypertext was an audacious choice: hyper- has a bad odor in some fields and can suggest agitation and pathology, as it does in medicine and psychology. But in other sciences hyper- connotes extension and generality, as in the mathematical hyper- space, and this was the connotation I wanted to give the idea” (“Opening Hypertext: A Memoir”)
  5. 5. Defining Hypertext Historically • Robert Coover (1992): "Hypertext" is not a system but a generic term, coined a quarter of a century ago by a computer populist named Ted Nelson to describe the writing done in the nonlinear or nonsequential space made possible by the computer.” (“The End of Books,” New York Times, June 21)
  6. 6. Defining Hypertext Historically Espen Aarseth (2003 [1994]): "Hypertext, for all its packaging and theories, is an amazingly simple concept. It is merely a direct connection from one position in a text to another.” (“Nonlinearity and Literary Theory” in New Media Reader, 770)
  7. 7. Defining Hypertext Historically Michael Joyce (2002): "Hypertext is, before anything else, a visual form. Hypertext embodies information and communications, artistic and affective constructs, and conceptual abstractions alike into symbolic structures made visible on a computer controlled display.” (Of Two Minds, 19)
  8. 8. Defining Hypertext Historically Andries van Dam (1987): “Hypertext is basically clay, and we have to mold it” (“Hypertext „87 Keynote”)
  9. 9. Hypertext History and Prehistory • Borrowing Chris Funkhouser‟s term via Ian Bogost • 1986/7 as starting point: • Institutionalisation • ACM Hypertext conference • Storyspace/NoteCards/Hypercard • Or could it be with the widespread adoption of the WWW despite HT proponents?
  10. 10. Implicit and Explicit linking • Linking through bibliographical codes: • Table of contents • Indexes • The hyperlink • Linking through linguistic codes: • Intertextuality/Intratextuality • Genres • Neologisms • “Textual space and textual time are n-dimensional simply because they locate embodied actions and events” (McGann, Radiant Textuality, xiv)
  11. 11. Technical Innovations Literary Hypertexts Print Hypertexts
  12. 12. Against Proto-Hypertext • Several of the texts frequently referred to as proto-hypertext were written post- 1965 • Hypertext is not fundamentally an electronic concept • Often far too broad • (Pre-)Historic hypertext is a better term
  13. 13. Jorges Luis Borges‟ Ficciones • Frequently alluded to, particularly: • “The Book of Sand” • “The Library of Babel” • “The Garden of Forking Paths” • NOT hypertextual • Often a criticism of hypertext principles
  14. 14. Marc Saporta‟s Composition No. 1 • Loose leaf book with no structure • Card metaphor – c.f. Shuffle literature & historic hypertext • Anti-narrative • To what extent can nodes alone sustain a hypertext narrative?
  15. 15. Choose Your Own Adventure Books • First anecdotal response when print hypertext is suggested • Often very linear • No looping • Very little, if any, recursion • More puzzle than narrative
  16. 16. Edward Packard, The Cave of Time (1979) Diagram from
  17. 17. Gamebooks • Simulation • Dungeons & Dragons • Closer to Interactive Fiction • Performative – hypertext as performative • Reading to play vs. reading to read
  18. 18. Single-player Gamebooks • Dice on pages • Guardfields – “If you‟ve been to this paragraph before…” (The Hypnosis Engima, passim) • Breadcrumb trails • “When you think you have the answer [to a riddle], take each letter of the answer… convert it to it corresponding number in the alphabet… If the paragraph you turn to is the wrong one (it won‟t make sense!), turn to 26” (Sword of the Samurai, 2) • Choosing the correct party members • Recursion – more like computing
  19. 19. Complexity in The Hypnosis Engima
  20. 20. Italo Calvino‟s Invisible Cities • Linguistic linking • No central linking mechanism • Xanadu-Venice connection • Does this fit into the same category as Marc Saporta‟s Composition No. 1
  21. 21. Vladimir Nabokov‟s Pale Fire • link-and-node network model (1st generation) • Extensive use of paratextual devices (2nd generation) • Both uni- and multi-cursal (ergodic) - Aarseth • Both modular and continuous • 3 ways of reading in preface • Complexity on multiple levels
  22. 22. Vladimir Nabokov‟s Pale Fire
  23. 23. What, then, does it mean to be hypertextual?