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Netologia : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

The Hypertext – A Short Hyperdefinition in A Netologic Context

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Conceptually, the hypertext emerges in 1965, and is “instituted” by Ted Nelson, an initiator of what we today call, familiarly, non-linear writing or hyper-writing. The first soft bearing this kind of text is the famous “Storyspace”, made by Eastgate Systems; the program is still in use nowadays by – for instance – the self-denominated “Bates’ Group” (which is actually an experimental grouping wherein the students are instructed and stimulated to write in hypertext) or by Adrian Miles, professor of hypertextual technique at the University of Melbourne.

There are issued, later on, programs edited by Apple (HyperCard) or by IBM (Linkway). The decisive part in spreading the new cybernetic “invention” into belles-lettres’ world is the one played by Apple Macintosh who, starting from 1987, includes the HyperCard in all the accessible configurations, making it extremely popular.

From 1987, we may, therefore, speak about the introduction in the commercial circuit of a “tool”, representing the possible technical materialization of the ideal, evident or dormant, of the writers and philosophers of all times. The hypertext seems to accomplish at least a part of their dreams, either if they were contemplating a conceptual common language of sophia, an “opera aperta”, Umberto Eco’s ideal, the “absolute book” (Leibnitz – “ Essays of Teodicee”) or a “code” as a direct link with the idea of “universal language” (Marshall McLuhan – “Understanding Media”, 1965). Further on, we shall see why and how...

In 1992, Robert Coover was writing (“The End of Books”) that the hypertext is carrying out “the reader’s release from the supremacy of the author”, apart from offering and “encouraging a plurality of discourses” (“discourse” in the meaning of a kind of writing, a way of conceiving and transposing an idea into text, or a way of comparison with the formal materiality of the textuation). How is this possible, - we could ask ourselves -, after the famously decreed “death of the author” (Roland Barthes)? To say the least, we might find it dubious to keep talking of “author” and of auctorial personality (as dictatorship) in the virtual context of the more and more accentuated orality of the net-inhabitants, living in the virtual space of a “global village” (McLuhan). Consequently, the new conventions of writing and reading – which I will denominate, in comparison with the classical way of writing and with the reader-consumer, as “personal-differential” - are releasing the reader from the tyranny of the producers, conceding him the freedom of shifting along the hypertext as he likes, allowing him to endlessly (de)modulate the informational bytes.

This is, to some extent, a false idea, which comes out of reader’s excessive need for self-personalization, a reader who gains his freedom of thinking only in a friendly context, which he can interpret at will, considering he can manipulate it and make use of it in his own interest. I have previously stated that this impression, of an emancipation from the text and from its author, is false at some extent because it relies on a conceptual illusion the reader has about a supposed honesty and probity of the one who releases his own ideas and arguments into the world. Any kind of ideatical construction displays (in the subtext that is, actually, the strength point of its structure - hidden or camouflaged in rigorous and solid demonstration -) a certain “perversion of the intelligence” (copyright Miron Ghiu & Ana Maria Caia); no author is so “fool” to reveal it as it represents the foundation of his performance, and constitutes its unmistakably originality and persuasion. Are we able to say why, for instance, we prefer Derrida to Deluze, Jimi Hendrix to John Lee Hooker or why we surf on the web through Netscape instead of Microsoft Internet Explorer? No, we are not. We have on purpose chosen these examples at chance, in order to prove that, either it concerns a post-structuralist philosophy, the blues or the software, there is always a “poetic” of the art of “making yourself enjoyable”, regardless the domain.

As concerning a certain release from a refuting auctorial personality, I consider it an illusion for that, as long as you find yourself in a modulating context, - even if a fragmented one -, full of links and escapings in and out of the text, - as the hypertext produced by an author is (and I would pick the famous experiment of writing philosophy in hypertext – even as primitive as it is – of Bates’ Group: “Socrates’ Apology”, as an example), you actually find yourself implicitly under the ideatic “tyranny” of its author. He no longer offers you a thinking and a demonstration of a linear type (the classic way), in an order he pre-establishes (that is correct), order which you - “dominated” and “oppressed” - may disapprove of, while being in the reader’s self-defensive position, and therefore reject it. The self-defense reflex in front of a kind of discourse is perfectly normal and it relies on a very natural critical sense (which we must always preserve on the Internet, due to disruptive persons and to doubtful sources, as I was stating in my previous article). The caution has to increase while hyperreading, as inhere the danger of becoming the slave of certain ideas is even greater since we are apparently given the maximum liberty of transgressing from exterior. The trap is well-hidden in the very invitation to choose your own kind of literary work and to appropriate the more suitable text (“au voyage, hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frere...”); from this point the vigilance decreases and the enchantment of roving from one idea to another with every click of the mouse (also invented in 1965, just as the hypertext, by a certain Englebart...shall we not seek for any connection?) turns into blindness in front of the subtle “manipulation” performed by that “perversion”, which I was reminding initially. That is how, a fervent anti-kantian (as I am...) who cannot even stand the idea of kantian philosophical system, may turn out to be one of Kant’s great admirers if accessing (to) him from the perspective of the fragmentarium exercised by postmodernism over all kinds of systemic reading of philosophy. It could be at the same time a disadvantage and an advantage, for Rimbaud’s lines, even introduced and re-introduced in the atmosphere of cyberpunk novel (Kathy Acker – “Empire of Senseless, N.Y., 1988, who writes about certain “line of verses by Rimbaud made into cyberpunk science-fiction”) are still Rimbaud’s and have the same value even in a hypertextual environment.

By way of hypertext, the writing tends to become much more than a hybrid language, than a mixture, a melange, a mix of styles and discourses, of inter-, -meta and sub-texts. Writing and thinking, as linear vectors, tend to vanish, making room for a higher degree of intrusion in the text and in the argumentation (facile sometimes) and opening towards an always stated and admitted, even if indirectly, humanist ideal, towards a freedom of mind in the individual, no longer submitted to rules that petrify his mind in dogmas and official formulas. By way of hypertext, any of us is free to choose (or not) his own way, to go out of text and follow his own way. Still, the Internet surfer will be more careful as long as, (like I “undogmatically” just proved) the author cannot “die” or disappear, his tyranny is implicit to the text which is, somehow, the body (Derrida), of the textuation wherein he is to be found. We shall once talk about the texture-epidermis.

Even if it gives the right to sample various kinds of discourses, set free the thinking-in-the-net we are undoubtfully heading to (and not toward an inevitable “end-of-game” that Baudrillard keeps threatening us with), and it offers almost infinite ways of intruding and using the ideas presented fragmentarily in text modules, this cannot at once drive us away from the auctoriality of the one “behind” the screen, laying his hands on a possibly identical keyboard. Everything may be interpreted and rearranged as we want but risking to perform in false, artificially.

How artificial is or not the hypertext as an attitude and as a new media environment, we shall see in our next article wherein we shall analyze its qualities as primarily a mean of communication, of the new space of writing and of difference which is the net. Until then, we shall not forget that “the medium is the message”, in the spirit of the one we owe the very idea of virtual community. By the way, to whom does belong the quotation whose homonym is the title of a recently issued Romanian translation?

Looking forward for your possible queries and comments at: cybernomad57@hotmail.com

Miron Ghiu

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