Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Resources for class, 1/31

The "href" tag:

The "img" tag:

Aligning images with CSS:

Here's a downloadable zipped file with css and an image to play with:

Here's a paragraph from a story we'll be talking about today -- and creating some hyperlinks with as well:

I said out loud: I must flee. I sat up noiselessly, in a useless perfection of silence, as if Madden were already lying in wait for me. Something--perhaps the mere vain ostentation of proving my resources were nil--made me look through my pockets. I found what I knew I would find. The American watch, the nickel chain and the square coin, the key ring with the incriminating useless keys to Runeberg's apartment, the notebook, a letter which I resolved to destroy immediately (and which I did not destroy), a crown, two shillings and a few pence, the red and blue pencil, the handkerchief, the revolver with one bullet. Absurdly, I took it in my hand and weighed it in order to inspire courage within myself. Vaguely I thought that a pistol report can be heard at a great distance. In ten minutes my plan was perfected. The telephone book listed the name of the only person capable of transmitting the message; he lived in a suburb of Fenton, less than a half hour's train ride away.

Here's the wikipedia page for the story, which contains a link to the full text of it.

Lastly, for Tuesday's class, I'd like you to read the below article about hypertext (from the defunct website "five standing"), and answer the following questions (print out your responses and bring them to class):

a. List three ways in which reading on the internet is different than reading from a book.

b. How is the web-reading experience "non-linear"? And how does linear thinking differ from non-linear thinking?

c. In what way does non-linear reading invite us to be the "author" of texts that we read, even if we didn't in fact write those texts?

'Naturally my attention was caught by the sentence, "I leave to various future times, but not to all, my garden of forking paths." I had no sooner read this, than I understood. The Garden of Forking Paths was the chaotic novel itself. The phrase "to various future times, but not to all" suggested the image of bifurcating in time, not in space. Re-reading the whole work confirmed this theory. In all fiction, when a man is faced with alternatives he chooses one at the expense of the others. In the almost unfathomable Ts'ui Pen, he chooses - simultaneously - all of them. He thus creates various futures, various times which start others that will in turn branch out and bifurcate in other times. This is the cause of the contradiction in the novel.'
Jorge Luis Borges, 'The Garden of Forking Paths'

The Internet brings with it a new format of communication and thus affects and challenges our assumptions regarding textuality, reading, writing, and authorship. Hypertext implies and, paradoxically, demands new methods of writing and inevitably produces an extended text, one that is made up of individual, and sometimes, independent fragments that coalesce to create a whole greater than the sum of its constituent segments.

There are numerous essential differences between a hypertext and a written text. Primarily, instead of encountering it in a paper copy, the text is read on a computer screen. Contemporary screens, which have neither the portability (unless one owns a lap or palmtop computer) nor the tactility of printed books, make the act of reading somewhat more difficult - imagine sitting back on your bed or couch, a steaming cup of coffee on the table next to you and your favourite book in your lap. Now imagine doing this with a computer screen. Impossible. This is an immediate hindrance.

Reading a hypertext does, however, offer certain advantages - the reader can change the size and even style of font to facilitate the act of reading. Although such vacillate modifications cannot be permanently implemented in the text as seen by others, the reader is capable of making them whenever he or she wishes to. More importantly, the reader is in control of the text. He or she can move forwards and backwards through the text, changing and manipulating the text into fresh permutations, each alteration bringing new meaning to the text, increasing the interpretory vicissitude and creating a perceptual dissonance unique to the reader.

Hypertextual Consciousness is the science of writing displaced into a cyberspatial geography, a transcendental region where language is able to evolve, adapt and synchronise itself with the machine. Once this symbiotic interaction between language and narrative environment makes its way into cyberspace's eidolonic reality, then the Hypertextual Consciousness itself, as an 'event horizon' in the development of the gestalt-self, makes it possible for a discursive network to continually circulate without any need for something as overdetermined as the single reader (or indeed, the singleauthor.

Hypertext, as a concept, suggests an alternative to the more inflexible, authoritarian linearity of a conventional text. In the middle of reading a hypertext (and it is arguable that the reader is continuously in the middle of reading a hypertext), the reader is supplied with a number of options to select from so as to break away from the text-block being presently read, thus the reader become complicit in the manner in which the text unfolds and enabling him or her to immediately enter a new writing or textual space.

These options are reminiscent of the remote-control devices we use to 'channel-surf' with our televisions. A hypertextual viewing style would be one where the reader actively 'clicks' their way into new graphological, textual or audio-visual spaces. Hypertext, as a more narratologically-generated,
manually manipulated reading format, can be construed as a kind of literary MTV.

Roland Barthes describes an ideal textuality that precisely matches that which has come to be called hypertext. That is to say, a text composed of blocks of words (or images) linked electronically by multiple paths, chains, or trails in an open-ended, perpetually unfinished textuality described by the terms link, node, network, web, and path: 'In this ideal text,' says Barthes, 'the networks are many and interact, without any one of them being able to surpass the rest; this text is a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning; it is reversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one; the codes it mobilises extend as far as the eye can reach, they are indeterminable...; the systems of meaning can take over this absolutely plural text, but their number is never closed, based as it is on the infinity of language'.

Like Barthes, Michel Foucault conceives of text in terms of network and links. In The Archaeology of Knowledge, he points out that the 'frontiers of a book are never clear-cut,' because it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network... a network of references'.

Like almost all structuralists and poststructuralists, Barthes and Foucault describe text, the world of letters, and the power and status relations they involve in terms shared by the field of computer hypertext. Hypertext, a term coined by Theodor H. Nelson in the 1960s, refers also to a form of electronic text, a radically new information technology, and a mode of publication. 'By 'hypertext,'' Nelson explains, 'I mean non-sequential writing - text that branches and allows choices to the reader, best read at an interactive screen. As popularly conceived, this is a series of text chunks connected by links which offer the reader different pathways'. Hypertext denotes text composed of blocks of text - what Barthes terms a lexia - and the electronic links that join them.

Hypermedia extends the notion of the text in hypertext by including visual information, sound, animation, and other forms of data. As hypertext links one passage of verbal discourse to images, maps, diagrams, and sound as easily as to another verbal passage, it is relatively easy for the computer based medium to effectively combine these into an aggregate product - hypertext intimates an information medium that links verbal and nonverbal information. Electronic links connect lexias 'external' to a work as well as within it, thereby creating a text that is experienced as a nonlinear, or, more properly, as multilinear or multisequential. Although conventional reading habits apply within each lexia, once one leaves the shadowy bounds of any text unit, new rules and new experience apply.

If you wish to continue investigating 'hypertext' and 'narrative theory', you may find it beneficial to examine the weblinks provided in the 'links' section of this website, as it is far easier to unearth information online than from physical texts. However, if you prefer to examine text books, I suggest you track down some of the following.

  • Amiran, Eyal and John Unsworth; Essays in Postmodern Culture, (Oxford University Press, 1993)
  • Bal, Mieke; Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative, (University of Toronto Press, 1997)
  • Barthes, Roland; S/Z, trans. Richard Miller, (1970)
  • Coste, Didier; Narrative As Communication, (University of Minnesota Press, 1989)
  • Currie, Mark; Postmodern Narrative Theory, (Macmillan Press Ltd, 1998)
  • Danow, David K.; Models of Narrative: Theory and Practice, (St. Martin's Press, 1997)
  • Genette, Gerard; Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method, (Cornell University Press, 1979)
  • Gibson, Andrew; Towards a Postmodern Theory of Narrative, (Edinburgh University Press, 1996)
  • Landow, George; Hypertext: the Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology, (1992)
  • Landow, George; Hyper/Text/Theory, (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994)
  • Lehman, Daniel W.; Matters of Fact: Reading Nonfiction over the Edge, (Ohio State University, 1997)
  • Martin, Wallace; Recent Theories of Narrative, (Cornell University Press, 1986)
  • Mitchell, W.J.T.; On Narrative, (University of Chicago Press, 1981)
  • Phelan, James; Narrative As Rhetoric: Technique, Audiences, Ethics, Ideology, (Ohio State University, 1996)
  • Rabinowitz, Peter J.; Before Reading: Narrative Conventions and the Politics of Interpretation, (Ohio State University, 1997)
  • Richardson, Brian; Unlikely Stories: Causality and the Nature of Modern Narrative, (Univeristy of Delaware Press, 1997)
  • Richter, David H.; Narrative/Theory, (Longman Publishers, 1995)
  • Roemer, Michael; Telling Stories: Postmodernism and the Invalidation of Traditional Narrative, (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1995)
  • Schank, Roger C. and Gary Saul Morson; Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence, (Northwestern University Press, 1995)
  • Tabbi, Joseph and Michael Wutz; Reading Matters: Narrative in the New Media Ecology, (Cornell University Press, 1997)

Last updated: Monday, 10th May 1999
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