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>From hypertext utopias to cooperative net-projects
By Heiko Idensen 

The explosive expansion of the WWW changed the use of hypertext-programs and 
concepts: from artistic and academic experiments in the seventies to a new kind of 
But what happend to the utopias of hypertext by the way?
- Did all readers become writers?
- Are avantgarde techniques in literature and art now available for all users?
- What about poetics/ethics within networks?

Visualizations and dramatizations of data presentations, simulation techniques, 
desktop publishing, desktop video, the hypertext revolution of the WWW ... make the 
screen as a virtual surface the favourite place of cultural exchange processes: 
on screen thinking - writing and reading on the net. 

The post-modern technologies and sciences leave human beings behind as nomads 
hooked up to the network of telematic multimedial systems: culturally imprinted 
by the alphabetic book-culture, informed, seduced, and emotionally fed by audio-
visual mass media, mentally stimulated, fascinated and inspired to speculations 
and visions by the new information technologies.
The myths of the text society - finite text, authorship, legitimization in the 
context of "great stories" (ideologies) - collapse in the interfaces of the 
information media, in the circulation of endlessly interchangeable information 
particles: texts, pictures, sounds are floating through information channels ... 
networking as an art of cross connections, of being on the way, of being 
everywhere. ... nomadic interwoven cultural techniques arise ...

Everything can be connected to everything!
The classic separations between production and reception (e.g. between author, 
text, and reader or of code, sender, and receiver) will be abolished in favour of a 
In active processes of intertextual generating of texts from texts, images from 
images, media from and within other media ..., reading and writing will overlap. 
The making of references substitutes the conventional receiving and sending of 
media documents.
Media Networks contrary to the linear-sequential writing of printed texts, 
electronic documents are divided in small, discrete units: the screen, the card of a 
hypertext system, one data record of a data base, the text, image or action window 
of an object oriented working surface, a message on the board of a mailbox ... have 
manifolds relations with each other. The network of such objects of ideas and 
mental images requires from the beginning a multiperspective way of organisation 
- a networked thinking which allows different approaches and connections.
One doesn't read texts anymore, one doesn't see pictures anymore, one doesn't 
listen to soundscapes anymore ... instead, one cuts together various media streams 
on-line (in real-time) - not only as chance mixtures - as, for example, in early 
multi-media happenings - but rather as integral constellations and configurations: 
Networking Hypertexts as "text's" late revenge on television and the audio-visual 

Although the apparative preconditions for the networking of various media are 
becoming ever more complex, artistic (non-affirmative) methods of using such 
networked systems are only slowly beginning to evolve. 
The artistic paradises of hyper-media, in contrast to the analogue media (writing, 
film, radio, TV), are no longer metaphorical representational machines: they refer 
to nothing, but are simply waiting for our input, actions and reactions.
Although the radical media transition from gramophone, film, typewriter (thus 
Friedrich Kittler's suggestive title) to CD, video and computers has radically 
changed the personal, cultural and political parameters of information processes - 
the foundations of literary culture (authorship, copyright, work- and product 
character of the media documents exchanged ...) are only now beginning to tremble 
with the rapid spread of digital media: The techniques and practises of non-linear 
forms of living, thinking, and production are now becoming standard operations 
with, through, over, under and around the new media ...
The place of knowledge and culture production thereby shifts to externalised 
networks of the most varied of media configurations. The "classical" (manipulated 
or to be mobilised) bourgeois or mass media produced public no longer exists - the 
question of media connections, of networking, sequencing and interrelating the 
"charges" (mixtures of texts, images, sounds, interactions) circulating in the 
network will become decisive for a tele-political culture - for the networked 
circulation of public images, texts and multi-media.

Hyper-media offers places to jump from, information nodes, intensification, 
network addresses, fragments, that must be used, stolen, traversed, "fed". Taken on 
their own they mean nothing. Hypermedia documents cannot be simply 
"transmitted" or "received" - they contain activating moments, invitations to 
manipulate the syntax and structure of the media, to discover new worlds, micro-
spaces and real-time-environments, extensions beyond the raster and resolution of 
the monitors:
- multicultural and interdisciplinary exchange of texts, images, sounds as opposed 
to the one-dimensional set channels of the mass communication media
- the development of a world wide network, a common electronic writing 
environment as the preliminary model for a hyper-media-culture
- thinking as travelling through information networks
- free access to networks, archives, data banks, media ...
The poetry should be created by everyone!

Each utopia is a network.
There are closed networks (religion, meditation, the aura of classical art, the book 
as a closed text, mass media...) and open ones (love affairs, social utopias, open 
artworks that allow participation, ecological cycles, the telephone system and 
naturally, digitalized telematic nets, open texts, interaction, hypertexts). Social 
networks can be found in artist groups and communities (Cobra, Fluxus, 
Situationists) as well as in the many initiatives of the counterculture since 1968 
(from food co-operatives, communes, neighbourhood groups, neighbourly help, to 
media co-operatives and socio-cultural centres). Nonetheless, it would be false to 
think that the Net-Work-Concept as such has an utopian character - the "System" 
(totalitarian or technocratic state, the bourgeoisie, the family etc.) is after all, 
also a complex network of dispositions: transmission, storage, distribution, and 
control mechanisms. Only a very specific use of networks can be utopian: (Network 
"radio" for example is employed by fascism as the central distribution unit for 
propaganda, while in the revolutionary struggle of the Tuparamos, it was used as a 
mobile guerrilla communication system - central "fascist" grouping of 
transmissions versus rhizomatic, nomadic networks.)


"What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward 
an experimentation in contact with the real.  The map does not reproduce an 
unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious.  It fosters 
connections between fields, the removal of blockages on bodies without organs, 
the maximum opening of bodies without organs onto a plane of consistency.  It is 
itself a part of the rhizome.  The map is open and connectable in all of its 
dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification.  It 
can be torn, reversed, adapted to an kind of mounting, reworked by an individual, 
group, or social formation.  It can be drawn on a wall, conceived as a work of art, 
constructed as a political action or as a meditation.  Perhaps one of the most 
important characteristics of the rhizome is that it always has multiple 

(Deleuze/Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus, p. 12)

tap in
The encyclopaedia projected the classical tree of knowledge onto a map, in order 
to show connecting lines and crossing points between the various disciplines. 
These concepts will be further developed into methods to interrelate and process 
idea-objects on the surfaces of information processing environments.
Experimental literary methods such as Cut-up, intertextual connections, 
interlockings, visualisations invade the realm of knowledge as discursive methods, 
speed up the general circulation and the confluence of information from various 
areas, create connective possibilities and interfaces to other areas of knowledge. 
Short circuits and interferences between discourses turn into productive fields, in 
which discoveries, inventions and innovations take place.
Thought itself happens in the spaces between, in the transition zone from one area 
to another. The process of transport and transfer of hypermedia develops through 
tapping into the information particles circulating in the network.

Media Myth
Especially today, after the presumed failure of social utopias and projects, utopian 
potentials are increasingly pushing their way into technologies and media: 
ecological technologies, recreation and psychological technologies, body and 
aesthetic technologies... While the mechanical age sang an ode in a myriad of 
variations to the myth of the machine as the universal instrument of production, 
the post-modern age delivers the myth of the Universal Network: the telematic 
technologies promise a liberalization, multiplication, and enrichment of the 
methods of communication. Social systems as open networks in which the 
messages flow out star-like in all directions - the myth is no longer "The medium 
is the message", but "The medium is the network!
The myth was first a narration, then a statement, now the network itself...

Subversive Use of Media
The dream of a critical theory of media: to tear the commodity character from the 
media, so that they can be put to a communicative, social use - from the capitalist 
application to the revolutionary subversive practise of miss-application, since the 
structure of media is "fundamentally egalitarian" (from a distribution to a "real 
communication tool"...). This is, however, not a technical problem but rather one of 
the networking of medial connections, social relationships, artistic forms of 
production, run of the mill daily practices...

Reference Systems
It is true that the telematic utopias resemble all too closely the promises of the 
free market, free elections, or media feed-back mechanisms such as reader 
submissions, listener telephone calls, questionnaires: "minimal effort on the part 
of voters/viewers" (Enzensberger 70, 161), whereby, however, the answers are 
already present in the questions. 
The telematic-cybernetic illusion: everyone can switch from the status of 
recipient to the status of transmitter, to become the active operator of their 
mental constructs! However, the model of social mass communication doesn't 
change at all if the users of telematic networks can only alternate from the status 
of recipient to the status of transmitter, without destroying the immanent 
implicit reference and code structures of media systems. 
Therefore, hypertext-systems that only allow for stripped-down, read-only 
versions of electronic documents are also completely unacceptable. This implies 
the complete disposability of all texts in the network for collaborative writing 
projects: Everyone can enter at any point, delete, enter text, interconnect ...

Artistic telematic projects go beyond the conventional dialectic of transmission 
and reception; therefore they change the code, the message, the technological 
structure and the social contexts in which these things operate. The network as 
utopian potential, is therefore not the simple knotting together of that which 
circulates through existing telematic networks, but rather the network/the 
matrix/the tissue/the rhizome as a model, as texture, as form, program, activity, 
way of telling, way of living... Moments of immediate, unheralded connections, 
references, cross-references, new forms of a symbolic exchange, that is 
completely unfiltered by any social, languistic, bureaucratic, commercial norms - 
no transmitter and receiver, but rather, people who respond to each other...

Rhizome - Network
Through nomadic wandering in telematic networks, centrallized systems (like the 
branching model of trees and roots) are converted into de-centralized systems, "in 
which communication is established between neighbours, in which streams and 
channels have no previous existence (...)" (Deleuze/Guattari 92, 30). Writing in the 
network has nothing to do with literature in the classical sense - as in the system 
author-work-meaning-market, - but rather with surveying virgin land in the 
telematic domain, establishing landscapes of text, even to understand writing and 
reading as a nomadic act of wandering through text-networks! 
The additional dimensions of the hyper-textual tailoring of random text particles 
that circulate among various mailboxes through permanent up and downloading, 
liberate the mental effort of producing texts as a social network. These text 
particles can be interrupted, ripped apart, altered (and sent again) in any position - 
while being simultaneously held together in a variable network while constantly 
referring to each other. 

Writing (as ecriture in the poetic sense, as activity, as doing, as generation...) 
takes place (already) always 'on-line': hooked up to the projection apparatus (of a 
writing system) the writing process constantly switches back and forth between 
transmission/reception, remembering/forgetting, continuation/termination ...
The processes of structuring, revision, of setting in contexts (repetitions, 
recursions, the interlocking of phrases, casual events ...) that take place in the 
minds (or on the margin of the manuscript, between the lines of a proof copy ...) of 
individual authors, are already happening now in the public domain: distributed 
collective - collaborative de-sign, development-processing of text in the truest 
sense of the word.
Perhaps in such a net-work of interterchange it is no longer important who has 
written something but rather where it has been written, to what it relates, how it 
is distributed in the networks, what replies it elicits ...

Text, Collective
The utopian vision of a collective TEXTUALITY: as already found in socially 
turbulent situations (French revolution, operative writer collectives in the Russian 
revolution ...) and in communal text-net-works. But neither the encyclopaedia, nor 
literary circles (Nouveau Romanciers, Tel-Quel) really eliminate the bourgeois 
author-subject, even when this belongs to the central demands of the respective 
literary program! Perhaps this is really (operatively) a question of the technology 
of writing (recording and distribution): There is neither room for a signature 
("signature" is the file with a personal farewell greeting which can be added to a 
mail-message), nor the necessary consistency of information to provide 
conventional authorship. That which applies theoretically and conceptually to 
written literature - in the system of literature as an inter-textual network - 
applies also to the net-work-text-tours at every moment of 
generation/structuring and distribution: The difference between writing and 
reading in the network is approaching nil.

Utopia Telematics
Travel routes, departure and arrival points draw tracks, paths, and traffic routes, 
mark nodes, bases and cities in the landscapes of telematic networks. With each 
journey, each on-line adventure, the network of interconnections expands... If these 
communicative connections, communication acts, up and down-loads, acts of 
sending and receiving ... combine with object oriented hypertext programs, then the 
most disparate data forms, information carriers, cultural production forms mix on 
a communal surface: the utopian vision of a comprehensive telematic network, in 
which the forms of individual production change into social communication. 

"The rhizome is altogether different, a map and not a tracing.  Make a map, not a 
tracing... "  
(Deleuze/Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus, p. 12)

European Diary
A Network-Project addresses precisely this space in between 
power/powerlessness, centre/periphery, private/public - the personal form of the 
diary is written directly into the network: starting from the "Zagreb Diary", in 
which the Dutchman Wam Kat makes public via computer networks his personal 
impressions of the events of the war in the former Yugoslavia, personal entries, 
subjective stories and experiences are collected and compiled in networks 
throughout Europe - and thereby opposed to the always repetitive news agency 
reports of the official media and information structures.
POETRONIC (Peter Glaser) has taken on the translations and co-ordination of this 
project which can be found on news-Servers in the directory T-Netz / Tagebuch or 
in local Mail-Boxes (e.g. //BIONIC (Bielefeld): germany /0521/68000): 
Those who wish to participate can send contributions to the Board /T-

"First, a quick word about the structure of World 3. We've tried to
design the space to reflect one of the most remarkable attributes
of hypertext. Namely, its ability to connect ideas, to draw
analogies, to create intelligence.
The decidedly non-linear Deus Ludens or "No Thought Is More Than
One Connection From Any Other" weighs in with some heavy concepts
(heck, we're talking Big Ideas here!) about the nature of
cyberspace. Think of it as metahypertext. One Thought."
W3 Voices:

Compact for Responsive Electronic Writing
We believe in Hypermedia and the World Wide Web ...
Hyperdocuments are not simply Collections of Nodes and Links, but Articulations of 
Nodes and Links in Space ...
... the Space of Hypermedia is not the Space of the Book ...
We feel "the need to use computer networks as a means for creating new forms of 
collective intelligence, of getting humans to interact with one another in novel 
ways" (De Landa) ...
It's better to do it than to write about it.
What is C.R.E.W.? 
       Compact for Responsive Electronic Writing: a non-binding, strictly
       symbolic agreement among World Wide Web authors promising to open
       their documents to links proposed by others in the community. 
Why bother? 
       Because presently the World Wide Web is more like a gigantic index than a
       true hypertext system. Hypertext requires the ability to create links as well
       as follow them. 
The CREW Preamble:

WAXweb (
 is the hypermedia version of David Blair's feature-length independent
film, "WAX or the discovery of television among the bees" (85:00, 1991). It
combines one of the largest hypermedia narrative databases on the Internet with
an authoring interface which allows users to collaboratively add to the story.

Hi Pitched Voices 
A collaborative WWW-Hypertext work in the "Hypertext- Hotel" (at Brown 
University, where you find a lot of hypertext-projects).
Some kind of MOO-inspired collaction of "voices", which inspire further wandering
within their often meanderings.

Imaginary Library
* All texts (sorry, mostly in german language!), projects, bibliographies of the 
project PooL-Processing are part of the "Imaginary Library":
(some kind of literary micro-model of a hypertext-docuverse like the WWW.

"Literature is an ongoing system of interconnecting documents."(Ted Nelson)

** more links to cooperative hypertext projects:

*** email Heiko

connect it!

Find the places in the network that you can do something with. Copy the 
material, scan it, import it, work with it...

Wunschmaschinen (Machines of Desire)
The wishing machines aren't stuck in our heads, are not figments of the 
imagination, but exist in the technical and social machines themselves.
(Gilles Deleuze; Felix Guattari)