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Re: <nettime> Hypertext pre.0.1
Adrian Miles on Sat, 5 Oct 2002 10:06:58 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Hypertext pre.0.1

at 19:03 on 2/10/02 Henning Ziegler said:

>Why Hypertext became Uncool
>Notes on the Power Struggles of the Cultural Interface
>Henning Ziegler

hi Henning

while the ideological aspects of what you are proposing are of interest i am going to rail, *very* strongly, against your caricature of 'hypertext'. now i don't have time, nor to be honest the inclination, to fill in all the blanks for you, but do want to point out the following. i apologise now if you've already done this, if you haven't, then do it.

to base a critique of hypertext as a theoretical undertaking in general on 2 or 3 books (one written in 1991 the other from memory 1992) is as academically valid as visiting a cineplex in a middle western american city, watching 2 (or 3) films, and then stating that cinema (and by that you would mean *all* of cinema) is only about explosions and fx, etc. ie. it is a nonsense. 

this practice is extremely common amongst those who dismiss hypertext, largely because they base their understanding of hypertext on 2 books written before http existed, when there was 1 major extant hypertext system commonly available, and so remain completely unfamiliar with the literature. it is like reading film theory from 1920 and on that basis declaring that any medium that lacked colour and sound just wasn't going to make it. 

as an example of why this is poor scholarship i cite this from your introduction:

>But hypermedia,
>understood as the totality of computers that are linked through the
>internet, on a formal level promote an authoritative shift in new media
>objects such as the Communicator: the software comes with an HTML
>(hypertext mark-up language) editor-unlike old media, reading and
>manipulating a Website now become two equal choices in the 'file' menu.
>This ability to manipulate data (and to redistribute the manipulated
>data) of computer programs such as the Communicator suite, finally,
>might constitute a socio-political function of hypermedia that
>contributed to the success of the World Wide Web

it is in fact hypertext theory that has the terminology for this, and the distinction you describe is the distinction between exploratory and constructive hypertext. the reason this was developed via a browser in html is because the people who developed such tools were/are familiar with the literature on hypertext, in particular that associated with the ACM hypertext conferences (which is to hypertext theory what Ars Electronica or ISEA is to new media art). in other words the desire to be able to make constructive hypertexts is a desire (idealised at that) that was developed by, nurtured in and maintained by hypertext theorists. the person who first defined the distinction between constructive and exploratory hypertexts, btw, is michael joyce, the same one who wrote afternoon: a story. 

this is also one of the major strengths of a system like storyspace, where it is possible (though David Kolb is nearly the only theorist who has done this) to distribute your work as a constructive hypertext. that means any reader can add/annotate/delete content. that this has not happened is more to do with the ideology of writing and academic culture and its failure, rather than hypertext per se. 

i'd also suggest there are major problems with your characterisation of "victory garden" but all i'll point out is that (and again it is unclear how you read it) that the major mode of storyspace based hyperfiction and hypernonfiction is musical. this is not easy to explain, but they only 'work' as narratives through being reread, that is because of their use of conditional links, etc, you actually have to read them at least twice, usually more, for them to work as parts will remain unavailable in a single reading. (i teach these texts, if students read them once for 40 minutes they hate them, read them 3 x 20 minutes and they really start to enjoy them, particularly when they realise that something like afternoon is more like a sampling and mixing engine rather than a novel, though sometimes i characterise their reading as more like possible jazz improvisations.) now some people find this crazy, but only if you rely on the context of the novel. poems often require multiple !
readings, and more to the point music thrives on repetition. these works are the same. just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it doesn't work (and hypertext theory has very strongly theorised repetition in a way that makes most recent new media theory on looping appear, well, insular). 

finally, i'd point out that it is largely the hypertext community that is informing most of the recent critical research into blogs and wikis, both forms that very strongly owe their parentage to hypertext research. given the strength of these formats i think it is an ambitious argument to suggest that hypertext is in decline. though of course the success of these genres does support your thesis that the success of the WWW is largely socio-cultural, since both blogs and wikis are primarily about distributed networked writing rather than consumption. 

and yes, i am tired of academic writing that feels the need to start by inventing a straw man argument. the ideas on hci are good and interesting, have faith in those. 

adrian miles

+  lecturer in new media and cinema studies 
+  [http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/vog/vlog]
+  interactive desktop video developer  [http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/vog/]
+  hypertext rmit [http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au] 
+  InterMedia:UiB. university of bergen [http://www.intermedia.uib.no]

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