Welcome back. I hope you all enjoyed your holidays despite our current travel limitations. In my last blog I briefly touched on the choice to navigate hypertext and make the reading experience a little more interactive. This week I’ll expand on that.
According to Astrid Ensslin and Lyle Skains hypertext is a term that encompasses a kind of electronic document structure containing digital media, files, and documents, in an interactive network that can be navigated through hyperlinks (296). As we all know now, hypertext is written in Hyper Text Mark-Up Language, or HTML (Ensslin and Skains 296). This enables the reader to access works in a distinctive way to encourage greater interactivity. As the story unfolds the reader chooses what will be read next by opening a new ‘lexia’ or text screen.
In creating my Twine narrative, I encountered the non-linear aspects of hypertext and contemplated the advantages and obstacles presented. My original narrative was structured in the straightforward linear way of stories with a beginning, middle and an end. However, I had to change direction when working with Twine. Thus, I opted for a game-like number of dead ends where the reader is required to return to earlier texts to find alternate pathways. However, this interrupted the flow of the narrative. Perhaps a longer story would solve the issue.
Electronic literature, or E-lit, might be defined as works that offer a literary facet and are created using the resources and environment offered by the computer. According to Jessica Pressman in her article Navigating Electronic Literature hypertext is an example of a navigational structure and one of the earliest and most prevalent forms of E-lit. It stems from early texts in print such as Tristram Shandy created by Laurence Sterne (1759). ‘Literature,’ in the case of E-lit, is distinct from ‘literary’ as texts included may be without the written word. However, these texts do allude to language or literature in some way (Rettberg 171).
Pressman notes that the frustration involved in navigating hypertext along with the exploration of electronic literature can highlight differences between the non-digital and digital worlds to engender questions. This brings us back to Belinda Barnet’s In the Garden of Forking Paths: Contingency, Interactivity and Play in Hypertext where it is noted that, although artists might view the computer as created in conflict, hypermedia offers an opportunity for marginal senses to explore embodied ways of reading. This might be a form of human to computer interactivity and participation as the reader clicks on various hyperlinks to engage with the work. One of the works I particularly enjoyed looking at this week was my body – a Wunderkammer by Shelley Jackson which gives voice to difference through procedural storytelling in an altered space
The large slabs of writing tell a story about the artist’s body through clicking on hyperlinks and body parts. The text is formatted strategically around illustration to incorporate a spatial aspect along with the sound of breathing as you enter. Thus, the text is multimodal as well as non-linear. The engagement of multiple senses here may offer greater opportunity for involvement and immersion. Although a reader is never literally transported to the story realm, the representation of an alternate world can be constructed within the reader’s mind (Thon 271).
For those of us who are keen to explore outside of tradition, we might reflect on hypertext and the way it is different to traditional literature and art. Is the text a disruption to convention? Is there really any way to step away from the conventional in a historically and culturally coded language system? When artists explore these ideas, does this diversion encompass a move away from what we have known into a place where the marginalised can be seen and heard as a recognition of our human differences? This brings us full circle to reflect on last week’s blog and the work of Anna Anthropy which addressed the lack of diverse experience in the gaming world. Perhaps we can only continue to try.
Ensslin, Astrid, and Lyle Skains. “Hypertext: Storyspace to Twine.” The Bloomsbury Handbook of Electronic Literature. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017.
Rettberg, Scott. “Electronic Literature.” The John Hopkins Guide to Digital Media, edited by Marie-Laure Ryan, et al., Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.federation.edu.au/lib/ballarat/detail.action?docID=3318802.
Tabbi, Joseph, ed. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Electronic Literature. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017. https://web-b-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.federation.edu.au/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=16f0bb20-a3a1-4c87-850c-52f710e60869%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=1619242&db=nlebk
Thon, Jan-Noel. “Immersion.” The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media, edited by Marie-Laure Ryan, et al., Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.federation.edu.au/lib/ballarat/detail.action?docID=3318802.