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The hypertext reader explores rather than consumes

An example from print: Bottom's Dream bottoms_dream_extracts_page_7.pdf

Link from Hegemony and Hypertext

What makes reading hypertext so difficult?

To read hypertext, to use its links to make meaning, readers must act and be able to act as explorers and constructors of text and meaning rather than consumers of givens. But the habit of reading sequential text over-rules the directions hypertext make possible: even hypertext casts the reader as consumer as in Hegemony and Hypertext. Readers and writers must resist. Writers must write to enable and encourage constructing, and publishers permit such construction with their texts and outside their texts. Readers must take up what hypertext writers set in front of them. This is not easy.

Example from Print: Bottom's Dream

We consume words. The design of Bottom's Dream pushes for construction and exploration rather than consumption. At the content level, it touts a lit=theory of etyms as construction elements. Stylistically, it ranges from vernacular to literary-formal. Narratively, it challenges focalization. At every turn, it keeps the active construction of meaning not encoded at the front. It also gives guidance to how to construct.

The page attached illustrates how B'sD works at the content level and the stylistic level to push the reader to construct, explore, rather than consume.

Even materially, B'sD is constructed to resist to consumer hegemony. It's too long (over 1300 pages). It's too big (folio). It's too heavy (13+ lbs). It looks “too difficult to read.” The lack of paragraphing, non-standard quotation marks, columns, images, drawings, scholarly-looking side notes. The sentences seem to be a challenge to parse, demanding too much attention. In its design, it even prohibits teaching the text.

yes, but

I haven't found B’sD difficult to read. I find it easier to read at the sentence level than Ulysses and FW, which are notoriously difficult. Listen to it:

»Have’Y ever actually cunsiderd exactly : why it=is He had this=or=that fav’rite book?« / — : »Nope why should l?« (he said, gratuitously licking lips, then) »First I‘m not gettin' paid for it. And it‘d be pretty unpindownable too — wouldn‘t it?«

That's readable at first pass. Over a few pages, the use of = and moves such as « / — : » become, if not clear, then familiar: They are indicators of reactions of characters, used a little like emoticons.

As for teaching the book, it would be a medieval carnival: 15 students and an aging professor lugging 13 lb folios to class each week. The size would demand lecterns or full-sized desks. The classroom would resemble a monastery. But we would need to cover a mere 100 pages pushing week - a dawdle in a grad course.

By design, B'sD demands exploration rather than consumption.

and so hypertext

In design, materiality can | must | will set limits. Thirteen-hundred pages operates as a constraint. But it also operates as an affordance. It may be that tension that suggest the work is “difficult.” Efficient consuming comes of aligning affordances and constraints. [Read DAKOTA for an example of affordance pushing constraint right over the edge. Speed reading. Text and drums. Every multi-tasker’s dream. It’ll take you only 9:35. And then you can go on and consume something more.] Books are designed in size, weight, typeface, paper, line length to be readily consumable - and writers contribute in never-too-challenging syntax. No choices in meaning: clarity.

Then hypertext: choices, directions, links to other unknown and decontextual texts. The reader must explore. Or wander.

Readers and writers of hypertext can resist a print hegemony.

the_hypertext_reader_explores.txt · Last modified: 2019/12/23 12:50 by morgan