The thesis of my project is that reading and writing is a personal activity that allows people to express themselves.  It is best when the inspiration comes from within the person as opposed to being pushed onto someone from the outside.  One of the things that is working so far in my project is my personal reflection and examples of various writing and reading experiences.  This was the focal point on the original project and I think it was the strongest portion of my initial essay so I kept most of the personal reflection.  I feel like I do well at going into depth in order to solidify the points I try to make in the paper. With that said, I added and removed some parts of my reflections that I thought would strengthen my argument further.

            One of the things I would like to add to my project is a more detailed approach as to how reading is a personal activity and how my experiences have exemplified this.  I also want to use this aspect of personal experience to complicate my argument slightly going into how literature can also be social and interactive with others.  I plan to accomplish this by bringing hypertext into the argument briefly as an example of how literature is social through interaction of the reader with the text itself.  In addition, hypertext is a great example of how reading and writing are extremely creative because there are almost limitless ways to express oneself in literature.  It is yet another form of literature that people are expressing themselves through, which is the essence of what I believe reading and writing is.  With this I might include descriptions of “Faith”, which is a hypertext poem by Robert Kendall which I really enjoyed reading in class.        Aspects that I wanted to focus on in order to improve my essay, was transitioning from paragraph to paragraph and talking to the reader more directly.  I tried to reword a few opening and concluding sentences as well as rearrange paragraph order to address this.  Sometimes while writing I get preoccupied in what I say and forget that I am writing to an audience about an argument I wish to sell them on.  After reading the “Taking an Approach” section in Joseph Harris’ book Rewriting, I decided I wanted to add a few meta-text expressions to help me talk directly to the reader.

            The element from my to-do list that I would like to focus on is sentence structure, especially the problem of run on sentences.  I addressed this problem with proper placement of commas, breaking up sentences with too many components/thoughts, and thoroughly proofreading my paper. In addition to this, I also wanted to work on having a strong conclusion to end my essay on a positive note.  Throughout my whole writing career, so much emphasis has been placed on the thesis statement at the beginning.  In this project I wanted to be sure I did not neglect making a solid conclusion to compliment the thesis.

            I think that it is appropriate that the focus of this last project was revision because that is the most significant aspect of writing that I got out of this course.  One of the things that I struggled with in the past was changing what I wrote at first to make it better.  For the most part, I would write something and I would be satisfied with my first draft instead of trying to dig deeper and improve the work as a whole.  I feel that this course has greatly improved my ability to revise my writing and improve on what I have already written.  Things like complication and elaboration stand out for me as useful revision tools that I plan to use later in my writing career.

 

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The significance of reading and writing is to project inner feelings and thoughts to the outside world.  Whether the content is academic or creative, reading and writing take ideas and emotions that people have and make them real for others to experience.  In addition, reading and writing is a rewarding activity.  It can educate people and expand their horizons as well as be a spiritual way of expressing oneself that may not have been possible through speech.   I think that reading and writing should originate within someone.  It should not be pressed upon someone from the outside like many schools tend to approach it.  It should be a personally worthwhile activity instead of something that is done to receive a good grade by a teacher.  Reading and writing can be a very personal activity but it also has a creative and a social aspect in that a person interacts with another when they read or write.  This is true for creative writing and more contemporary forms of literature like hypertexts.  A reader interacts with the author by listening to what the author has to say and experiencing the literature in the form the author gave it.  On the other hand, a writer interacts with the reader, whether the reader is a teacher, peer, or a general reader by conversing and trying to convey the message to their audience.  The authors can also interact with themselves by being the reader and writer of their own work through reflection, contemplation and revision. 

   The writing of poetry is an example of writing in one of its best forms.  In my creative writing and poetry, I start with ideas that I come up with and develop myself.  I am able to write without fear of writing the wrong thing and jeopardizing a grade in the end.  This positive aspect of poetry encouraged me to write more outside of school when I was growing up.  I started creative writing when I was in school and it helped me realize that I had a talent for it.  I was able to write what I felt passionately about and I was able to express myself on paper which was new to me.  At first I thought that it would be a waste of time and just another assignment but it opened up a whole new world of expression for me.  Writing poetry made it possible for me to say things and express what I felt strongly about that otherwise I would have kept inside.  It became a new, creative outlet of expression and I really enjoyed it.  I wrote quite a few pieces including a journal.  Writing this journal was very important to me and it was something that I tended to keep to myself.  This is an example of how a writer can also be the reader by experiencing their own writing.  When I would write in the journal, I was not writing it for a specific audience but instead wrote it for myself to experience privately.  Even though this writing was not very academic, it was special and it felt as if it were a piece of me that I was sharing which was very therapeutic.  It was this passion for expressing myself through writing that made me realize that reading and writing was a personal activity for me.  My writing that I chose to do outside of the work assigned to me in school was always something that I felt strongly about or something that I wanted to get out into the open.  These things could range from happy memories from the past or hurtful emotions that when I put on paper helped to comfort me.

Sven Birkerts says that, “Literature holds meaning not as a content that can be abstracted and summarized but as experience.  It is a participatory arena” (Birkerts 31). I agree with this view because both reading and writing require action and effort in order for it to have meaning.  Literature without meaning can be a waste of time because the participant gets nothing out of the time put into the activity.  There ought to be some sort of redeeming value in literature whether it is education, entertainment, communication etc.  Writing and understanding reading at times can be a sudden revelation, but for the most part it is a process.  Readers and writers need to invest in their activity by sitting down, focusing and putting real work into their project in order to get anything out of it.  This is completely essential for the reader or writer to come away with something valuable and worthwhile.  It may be difficult to do but it takes effort to develop reading and writing skills.   These effects on me were also true when I read outside of school.  I have not read much outside of school and I am not an exceptionally fast reader so it is hard for me to get very interested in reading.  The most memorable experience that I have had with reading was following a series called Cirque Du Freak.  This series is about a boy named Darren Shan who makes the decision to become a vampire. The series tells the saga of his life and development as a vampire.  I was able to relate to many themes in this book like developing and changing over time.  This ability to connect with the text on a personal level made it entertaining and meaningful for me to read.  In this experience I started reading it and continued reading it because of my own desire.  Almost always when I am required to do a reading assignment, I am naturally disinterested because I am doing it because someone else has forced it upon me.  Even when I read something that I actually enjoy reading for an assignment it is not as interesting to me as if I had done the reading in my spare time.  Reading things for the experience of reading it are much more rewarding than if it is a required task.  I think that if someone had forced me to read the Cirque Du Freak series, it would have detracted from the satisfaction I got out of it. 

Although reading and writing are very personal endeavors, they have social aspects to them as well.  A great example of literature that is social is the new phenomenon of hypertexts.  Hypertexts are a new way of presenting literature through electronic mediums such as the internet and computers.  The ability of hypertexts to be presented in new ways allows for a great deal of interaction between the text and the reader.  Through various creative effects like moving words and sound, readers can experience text like never before.  An example of this is a mediated poem called “Faith” by Robert Kendall.  In this poem, words appear in segments and between the phases, the letters move and new ones appear to make new words and ideas in the same poem.  This hypertext works well as a piece of literature because not only is the poem pleasing to read but the medium through which it is presented adds to the poem in ways that just ink and paper could not accomplish.  This is true at the end of the poem when all of the letters seem to fall down in no particular pattern.  One of the themes in the poem is taking a leap of faith into the unknown.  The electronic text allowed the letters to perform the leap of faith that they had just previously described.  The mediation that the poem was presented through gave the letters themselves life and allowed the text to make a connection with the reader.  This social aspect of interaction enhances the overall experience of reading and writing and allows the individual to better connect to the piece of literature.

It may sound as if I think reading and writing should not be assigned to people in school because it usually does not encourage personal expression, but this is not the case. In fact, one of the most significant experiences I had with reading and writing was an assignment I was given in my freshman year of high school.  I was assigned an extensive research paper in my honors biology class.  To date, this paper was one of the most difficult things I have ever written.  I chose for my topic the effect of fertilizer runoff on the crab population in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  My paper was 15 pages in length and I worked on researching and writing it over a three month period including an oral presentation.  This assignment, despite its strenuous requirements, helped me greatly as a writer.  I think that writing should be a result of an inner urge or inspiration in order to express thoughts or feelings on a topic that one feels strongly about.  This paper was not a result of inner motivation and was not personal to me as a writer but it was significant in my growth as a writer.  The assignment lacked any creative aspects but instead originated outside of me forcing me go outside of my comfort level.  This difficulty though helped me become a better and more skilled writer. 

            Writing in school is often similar to this project I did in high school.  Usually it is not up to a student to pick what they read and write, but instead their teacher issues an assignment and the student does it in a way that hopefully will be well perceived by the teacher.  I think this is the wrong approach for writing at its basic roots but it is a necessary part of people’s literary development.  In the moment, things such as the paper I had to do seems like something that is only frustrating and simply a task that needs to be done.  Throughout my writing career I have come to realize that by completing challenging assignments, people better themselves and improve their skills for their own writing in the future.  Writing and reading can be both a painful and rewarding endeavor.  Just like a marathon runner or an Olympic weight lifter needs to stress themselves in order to improve, readers and writers need to be pushed to do things that might be painful in order for them to grow.  Muscle is built by rupturing old muscles through stress and having new muscles regenerate around the original ones.  The same is true for writing.  Learning various techniques of reading and writing and practicing these techniques throughout one’s life will make a person all the more capable in the long run.  Through doing assignments, readers and writers will be better prepared to read and write in the future for their own reasons and promote their ideas.  This can be through personal reading and writing or through academic literature like essays and journals.

            The way that people use the skills learned in school is up to them.  For me, I think that it is very valuable to be able to express my emotions when I feel inspired and to be able to relay my thoughts on an academic subject.  Reading and writing have such broad scopes from writing an article in a scholarly magazine to reading a comic book.  For the most part I tend to direct my actions toward reading and writing for my own expression and enjoyment.  This is not to say that assignments do not benefit people, but reading and writing are at their best when people decide to do them from their own motivation because it is something they feel is important and beneficial.  If people are given more freedom in how they experience literature, they will get more out of reading and writing.  This would help people to start with ideas that originate from within instead of having ideas pressed on them.  In doing this, people would have a more personal connection with their work.  Reading and writing are both activities in which all people should partake.  They help people to become more educated, interact with other people, and most importantly express themselves personally by conveying their beliefs and feelings.   

 

Works Cited

            Birkerts, Sven, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, Faber and Faber Inc., New York, 1994, Print

 

The significance of Reading and writing is to project inner feelings and thoughts to the outside world.  Whether the content is academic or creative, reading and writing take ideas and emotions that people have and makes them real for others to experience.  In addition, reading and writing is a rewarding activity.  It can educate people and expand their horizons as well as be a spiritual way of expressing oneself that may not have been possible through speech.   I think that reading and writing should originate within someone rather than be pressed upon someone from the outside.  It is not an activity that should simply be done to get it over with or be done in a way that will be rewarded by a good grade.  Reading and writing can be a very personal activity but it also has a social aspect in that a person interacts with another when they read or write.  A reader interacts with the author by listening to what the author has to say and using those ideas to form his or her own.  On the other hand, a writer interacts with the reader, whether the reader is a teacher, peer, or a general reader by conversing and trying to convey the message to their audience.  Also, the authors can even be interacting with themselves as the reader of their own work through reflection, contemplation and revision. 

Sven Birkerts says that, “Literature holds meaning not as a content that can be abstracted and summarized but as experience.  It is a participatory arena” (Birkerts 31). I agree with this view because both reading and writing require action and effort in order for it to have meaning. Writing and understanding reading at times can be a sudden revelation but for the most part it is not.  Readers and writers need to invest in their activity by sitting down, focusing and putting real work into it in order to get anything out of it.  This is completely essential for the reader or writer to come away with something valuable and worthwhile.  It may be difficult to do but it takes hard work to develop reading and writing skills. 

I think that this idea of reading and writing being an experience is especially true for creative writing.  I started creative writing when I was in school and it helped me realize that I had a talent for it.  In 6th grade my teacher started a unit on poetry and I greatly enjoyed writing poetry.  I was able to write what I felt passionately about and I was able to express myself on paper which I was not used to doing.  At first I thought that it would be a waste of time and just another assignment but it opened up a whole new world of expression for me.  Writing poetry made it possible for me to say things and express what I felt strongly about that otherwise I would have kept inside.  It became a new outlet of expression and I really enjoyed it.

   My writing of poetry is a great example of writing in one of its best forms.  In my creative writing and poetry, I started with ideas that I came up with and developed myself.  I was able to write without fear of writing the wrong thing and jeopardizing a grade in the end.  This positive experience encouraged me to write more outside of school.  I wrote quite a few pieces including a journal.  Writing this journal was very important to me and it was something that I tended to keep private.  This is an example of how a writer can also be the reader by experiencing their own writing.  Even though this writing was not very academic it was very special and it felt as if it were a piece of me that I was sharing which was very therapeutic.  It was this passion for expressing myself through writing that made me realize that reading and writing was a personal activity for me.  My writing that I chose to do outside of the work assigned to me in school was always something that I felt passionate about or something that I wanted to get out into the open.  These things could either be happy memories that I had or hurtful feelings that when I put them on paper helped to comfort me.

These effects on me were also true for me when I read outside of school.  I have not read much outside of school and I am not an exceptionally fast reader so it is hard for me to get very interested in reading.  The most memorable experience that I have had with reading was following a series called Cirque Du Freak.  This series is about a boy named Darren Shan who makes the decision to become a vampire. The series tells the saga of his life and development as a vampire.  I was able to relate to many themes in this book like developing and changing over time which made it entertaining for me to read.  Once again in this experience I started reading it and continued reading it because of my own desire.  I think that if someone had forced me to do this reading it would not have had the same effect on me. 

One of the most significant experiences I had with reading and writing was surprisingly an assignment I was given in my freshman year of high school.  I was assigned an extensive research paper in my honors biology class.  To date, this paper was one of the most difficult things I have ever written.  I chose for my topic the effect of fertilizer runoff on the crab population in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  My paper ended up being about 15 pages and I worked on researching and writing it over a three month period including an oral presentation.  This assignment, despite its strenuous requirements, really helped me as a writer.  I think that writing should be a result of an inner urge or inspiration in order to express thoughts or a topic that one feels strongly about.  Obviously this assignment did not encourage me to write what I thought but instead originated outside of me forcing me go outside of my comfort level and find information that could assist my argument. 

            Writing in school is often similar to this project I did in high school.  Usually it is not up to a student to pick the assignment but instead their teacher issues an assignment and the student does it in a way that hopefully will be well perceived by the teacher.  I think this is a bad approach for writing at its basic roots but it is a necessary part of people’s literary development.  In the moment, things such as the paper I had to do seems like something that is only frustrating and simply a task that needs to be done.  Throughout my writing career I have come to realize that in the long run, it helps people better themselves and improve their skills for their own writing in the future.  Writing and reading can be both a painful and rewarding endeavor.  Just like a marathon runner or an Olympic weight lifter needs to stress themselves in order to improve, readers and writers need to be pushed to do things that might be painful in order for them to grow.  Muscle is built by rupturing old muscles through stress and having new muscles regenerate around the original ones.  The same is true for writing.  Learning various techniques of reading and writing and practicing these techniques throughout one’s life will make a person all the more talented in the long run.  Through doing assignments, readers and writers will be better prepared to read and write in the future for their own reasons and promote their own ideas. 

            The way that people use the skills learned in school is up to them.  For me, I think that it is very valuable to be able to express my emotions when I feel inspired and to be able to relay my thoughts on an academic subject.  Reading and writing have such broad scopes from writing an article in a scholarly magazine to reading a comic book.  For the most part I tend to direct my actions toward reading and writing for my own expression and enjoyment.  I think that it would help the development of people’s literary skills to give them a little more freedom in the books they can read for assignments and in the topics that they can write about.  This would help people to start with ideas that originate from within instead of having ideas pressed on them.  In doing this, people would have more of a connection with their work.  If students were allowed to do more work on things that they were interested in it would help them embrace reading and writing as a form of expression and develop important skills without all of the resistance.   

 

 

Works Cited

            Birkerts, Sven, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, Faber and Faber Inc., New York, 1994, Print

 

Reading and writing is a personal activity that allows people to express themselves.  It is best when the inspiration comes from within the person as opposed to being pushed onto someone from the outside.  One of the things that is working so far in my project is my personal reflection and examples of various writing and reading experiences.  I feel like I do well at going into depth in order to solidify the points I try to make in the paper.  With that said, I would like to add to and remove some parts of my reflections that I noticed would strengthen my argument further.

One of the things I would like to add is a more detailed approach as to how reading is a personal activity and how my experiences have exemplified this.  I also want to use this aspect of personal experience to complicate my argument slightly going into how literature can also be social and interactive with others.  In addition, after learning so much about hypertext, I would like to add a section on hypertext and how it is a good example of being creative.  It is yet another form of literature that people are expressing themselves through, which is the essence of what I believe reading and writing is.  With this I might include descriptions of “Faith”, a hypertext poem.  Aspects that I want to focus on are my transitioning from paragraph to paragraph and talking to the reader more directly.  Sometimes while writing I get preoccupied in what I say and forget that I am writing to an audience about an argument I wish to sell them on.

The element from my to-do list that I would like to focus on is sentence structure, especially the problem of run on sentences.  I plan to address this problem with proper placement of commas, breaking up sentences with too many components/thoughts, and thoroughly proofreading my paper.

In the modern world, technology seems to improve at a rate that is hard for most people to keep up with.  Along with the improvements of technology, there has been an increase in the popularity of intermediated texts and “hypertexts”.  These can come in many different types such as interactive books, virtual worlds, and literature accompanied by music and moving effects.  As the reading that people take part in becomes more and more electronic and mediated, there is the possibility that the experience of reading as a whole could diminish.  The ways in which people experience literature are changing along with people’s lifestyles and devices they use such as computers and other electronics.  Instead of diminishing the experience of reading literature, I believe that the horizons of reading can be broadened through different types of intermediated texts like The Invention of Victor Hugo Cabret and Faith.  This is done through the use of pictures, animations and sound effects which enhance the process of reading.  Like anything new, these hypertexts have pros and cons that go along with them.  I think that despite some of their limitations, they can expand literature and the way people experience it.

            One example of an intermediated text is The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.  This book appears to be a typical book from the outside but once it is opened, the reader realizes that it is told mostly through illustrations.  The book itself is meant to imitate an old fashion silent movie.  The pictures are matted as if they are on a movie screen and instead of the pictures just going along with what occurs in the text, they move the story forward.  The reader actually experiences the story through looking at pictures in addition to written descriptions and dialogue of characters.  At the very beginning of the book, the reader is shown a long succession of just pictures.  During this progression of pictures, the reader is introduced to the setting in Paris, Hugo going to the clock tower where he lived, George Melies at the toy booth, and even Hugo’s friend Isabel, before a word is even read in the text.  The way that this story is presented to the reader is obviously unique because of the way it imitates film.  There have been countless films made to replicate a book but The Invention of Hugo Cabret does the opposite and tries to mimic a motion picture with a static book.  This presentation of the book actually goes hand in hand with the storyline of the book which is about a boy trying to fix an automaton while working at the toy stand owned by the famous filmmaker, George Melies.  The magic of making film ends up being a theme which helps Hugo finally figure out how to repair the automaton.  The connection of film in the book to the physical book held in the reader’s hands links the reader to the book and helps to immerse the reader in the story.  Through the structure of the book, the book receives a whole new creative aspect that would not have been possible if it were not for the use of consistent pictures throughout.  In the case of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the added media of pictures interspersed in the book gives it a unique and engaging experience which adds to the work as a whole. 

            Although The Invention of Hugo Cabret is an intermediated text, it does not contain electronic aspects to it.  A text that uses electronic intermediation to enhance its content is a piece called Faith  by Robert Kendall.  In this poem, words appear in segments and between the phases, the letters move and new ones appear to make new words and ideas in the same poem.  As well as the effects that the letters go through, there are sound effects that go along with the motion of the words.  This hypertext works well as a piece of literature because not only is the poem pleasing to read but the medium through which it is presented adds to the poem in ways that just ink and paper could not accomplish.  An example of this is at the end of the poem, all of the letters seem to fall down in no particular pattern.  One of the themes in the poem is taking a leap of faith into the unknown in order to live one’s life fully.  The electronic text allowed the letters to perform the leap of faith that they had just previously described.  The mediation that the poem was presented through gave the letters themselves life and made the poem more interactive with the reader.  Once again with the motion and sound that the letters made, I felt absorbed in the work in a way that I had not been from any book I had read before.  The interaction that the text made with me when I read it made the experience of the literature progressive and distinctive thanks to the electronic medium in which it was written. 

            On the other hand, hypertext does have the potential to be distracting at times.  Sometimes hypertext can be too mediated in the way it is written and can leave a reader lost in the text.  For some literature, becoming lost in a text is a good thing because a reader is captivated and engrossed with what they are reading.  This is not what I mean here when I say lost.  Instead, the reader does not know where to go or even where they have been inside the text.  They can lack awareness of the text and comprehension of where the text is attempting to take them in the reading.  Nicholas Carr says in his essay titled, “Is Google Making Us Stupid”, “What the net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for contemplation and concentration.  My mind now expects to take in information the way the net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles”. (Carr) With all of the many options that some hypertexts present readers with, readers can become impatient with the reading.  I noticed this phenomenon myself when I read a story called The Museum by Adam Kenney.  In this, the reader is free to explore a virtual Museum where each link leads to a new page that has to do with another work of art and a story to go along with it.  I thought that this experience came across as being too mediated.  The Museum is a good example of what Sven Birkerts said in his book, The Gutenberg Elegies, that hypertexts tend to emphasize “process over product”. (pg. 158) The story seemed so concerned with the navigation through the museum itself that it lost the significance of what the story was about.  It lacked character development and a fluid storyline.  After reading it, I could have told you what occurred in the reading but there lacked a cohesive meaning.  The text was so disjointed that it was hard to focus and have a feel for where I was inside the story.  With trying to make the reading experience as if I was in a real museum, I lost the significance of what I was actually reading.  With every screen I looked at, my first thought was how to get to the next screen instead of what the present screen was trying to tell me.  I think that hypertexts work better when they are relatively short because it avoids this problem of impatience and getting overwhelmed with the text itself.

            Birkerts’ argument in The Gutenberg Elegies consists of a concern that electric mediation of literature is changing the way people read for the worse.  Birkerts is a firm believer that the experience a person has while reading a tangible book is a personal activity that cannot be replicated by letters portrayed on a screen that appear and disappear.  He thinks that unless people realize the negative effects of intermediated texts, the tradition of reading books that has lasted for so long will be in danger of becoming extinct.  I agree that reading in an electronic world does indeed change the way that people take in information compared to when printing presses were first invented.  Also, I admit that hypertexts are not a perfect convention and contain flaws that have the possibility of detracting from or distracting the reader from a full reading experience.  In my opinion though, Birkerts goes too far in his argument against mediated and electronic texts. 

            In response to reading things on a computer, Birkerts believes that readers lose the significant relationship they receive through reading a book.  I think that the internet and computers have made many people more engaged with literature than when literature was found in books alone.  Computers have made literature more accessible than ever thought possible.  People can share literature with other people, and they have the capability of being exposed to literature with ease and convenience.  These changes in literature should not be considered a bad thing simply because they are different from what people have done in the past.  Birkerts in his conclusion acts as if he is a prophet warning people of the terrible fate of electronic literature.  He even goes so far to draw a parallel of electronic literature to a satanic device because of the loss of the real experience a book provides.  He says, “We seem to believe that our instruments can get us there, but they can’t”… “From deep in the heart I hear the voice that says, ‘Refuse it.’”. (p. 229) In Birkerts’ analysis, he gets so occupied in condemning intermediation of literature that he blinds himself of its benefits.  One of the things that Birkerts leaves out in his argument is that literature has its roots long before words were printed on a page.  Oral civilizations, stone tablets and papyrus were all predecessors to words being put on paper bound in books.  I believe that literature itself has never been a static tradition but has evolved consistently along with the people who take part in writing and reading it.  Right now humans are at a point where lifestyles are changing toward a more electronically dependent world because of the advances in technology that have been made recently.  Literature is in essence dependent on humans for its existence and it is inevitable that literature will continue to change with them.

            Hypertexts are not a replacement of the conventional book but instead an extension of it.  It is simply another option in which authors can express themselves creatively.  The world of hypertext expands the possibilities of what can be accomplished in the author reader relationship in ways that books cannot.  As long as humans progress and change, so will the mediums through which information is expressed.  It is only natural for some people to be hesitant to use new things that they are not used to.  This feeling of resistance that some people may have toward intermediated texts has been consistent throughout history along with various shifts of lifestyle.  When times change, some people embrace it and others resist it.  Hypertext is something that should be embraced for its creative elements.  It may not be for everyone but literature revolves around personal preference.  Hypertext, through the use of pictures, movement of text, and navigation through the text, engages readers in the literature in new ways.    Intermediated texts are not the first change literature has gone through, and will most likely not be the last.  Therefore, people should take advantage of the beneficial characteristics that hypertext has to offer in order to improve the activity of reading.

 

 

Works Cited

Birkerts, Sven, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, Faber and        Faber Inc., New York, 1994, Print

Carr, Nicholas, “Is Google Making Us Stupid”,        http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/6868/.         (Accessed November 29, 2011).

A World of Hypertext

In the modern world, technology seems to improve at a rate that is hard for most people to keep up with.  Along with the improvements of technology, there has been an increase in the popularity of intermediated texts and “hypertexts”.  These can come in many different types such as interactive books, virtual worlds, and literature accompanied by music and moving effects.  As the reading that people take part in becomes more and more electronic and mediated, there is the possibility that the experience of reading as a whole could diminish.  The ways in which people experience literature are changing along with people’s lifestyles and devices they use such as computers and other electronics.  Instead of diminishing the experience of reading literature, I think that the horizons of reading can be broadened through different types of intermediated texts.  Like anything new, these new hypertexts have pros and cons that go along with them.  I think that despite some of their limitations, they can expand literature and the way people experience it. 

            One example of an intermediated text is The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.  This book appears to be a typical book from the outside but once it is opened, the reader realizes that it is told mostly through illustrations.  The book itself is meant to imitate an old fashion silent movie.  The pictures are matted as if they are on a movie screen and instead of the pictures just going along with what occurs in the text, they move the story forward.  The reader actually experiences the story through looking at pictures in addition to written descriptions and dialogue of characters.  The way that this story is presented to the reader is obviously unique because of the way it imitates film.  There have been countless films made to replicate a book but The Invention of Hugo Cabret does the opposite and tries to mimic a motion picture with a static book.  This presentation of the book actually goes hand in hand with the storyline of the book which is about a boy trying to fix an automaton while working at the toy stand owned by a famous filmmaker, George Melies.  The magic of making film ends up being a theme which helps Hugo finally figure out how to repair the automaton.  The connection film in the book and to the physical book held in the reader’s hands connects the reader to the book and helps to immerse the reader in the story.  Through the structure of the book, the book receives a whole new creative aspect that would not have been possible if it were not for the use of consistent pictures throughout.  In the case of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the added media of pictures interspersed in the book gives it a unique and engaging experience which adds to the work as a whole. 

            Although The Invention of Hugo Cabret is an intermediated text, it does not contain electronic aspects to it.  A text that uses electronic intermediation to enhance its content is a piece called Faith  by Robert Kendall.  In this poem, words appear in phases and between the phases the letters move and new ones appear to make new words and ideas in the same poem.  As well as the effects that the letters go through, there are sound effects that go along with the motion of the words.  This hypertext works well as a piece of literature because not only is the poem pleasing to read but the medium through which it is presented adds to the poem in ways that would not be possible with just ink and paper.  An example of this is at the end of the poem, all of the letters seem to fall down in no particular pattern.  One of the themes in the poem is taking a leap of faith into the unknown in order to experience things.  The electronic text allowed the letters to perform the leap of faith that they had just previously described.  The mediation that the poem was presented through gave the letters themselves life and made the poem more interactive with the reader.  Once again with the motion and sound that the letters made, I felt as the reader, absorbed in the work in a way that I had not been from any book I had read before.  The interaction that the text made with me when I read it made the experience of the literature progressive and distinctive thanks to the electronic medium it was written in. 

            Hypertext does have the potential to be distracting at times.  Sometimes hypertext can be too mediated in the way it is written and leave a reader lost in the text not knowing where to go or even where they have been inside the text.  An example of hypertext being too mediated for me is a hypertext called The Museum by Adam Kenney.  In this, the reader is free to explore a virtual Museum where each link leads to a new page that has to do with another work of art and a story to go along with it.  The Museum holds true to what Sven Birkerts said in his book, The Gutenberg Elegies, that hypertexts tend to emphasize “process over product”.  The story seemed so concerned with the navigation through the museum itself that it lost the significance of what the story was about.  It lacked character development and a fluid storyline.  After reading it, I could have told you what occurred in the reading but there lacked a cohesive meaning that I could take away from it.  The text was so disjointed that it was hard to focus and have a feel for where I was in the story.  With trying to make the reading experience as if I was in a real museum, I lost the significance of what I was reading.  With every screen I looked at, my first thought was to how to get to the next screen instead of what the present screen was trying to tell me.  Nicholas Carr brings up this phenomenon in his essay titled, “Is Google Making Us Stupid”.  Carr says, “What the net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for contemplation and concentration.  My mind now expects to take in information the way the net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles”.  With all of the many options that the story could have taken by clicking on different links, I became impatient with the reading and wanted to get to the next one waiting for me to click on.

          Hypertext is obviously a very different form of writing than anything that has come before it.  This was illustrated in the hypertexts I read called The Dreamlife of Letters and Faith.   The dream life of Letters was a Poem that progressed on its own on the screen.  It moved through the alphabet starting with “A” and various words danced along the screen according to what letter of the alphabet it was on.  Faith was another poem which required the reader to click to continue with the various progressions the poem went through.  Although the words it used were all a part of the final version of the poem at the end, the poem changed order of words throughout to portray different ideas.

            After reading these two pieces I was pleasantly surprised at how I liked them.  It was very interesting how The Dreamlife of Letters appeared to actually be a dream world and I was able to look into that world and watch what was going on.  Likewise in Faith, I enjoyed how the electronic aspect of the work allowed it to accomplish things that a page could not.  One of the images in Faith was a leap of faith and a jumping off point.  At the end of the poem all of the words on the screen fell as if the letters themselves were taking the leap of faith that they had just described.  Even though I enjoyed the experience of both of the hypertexts, I would not put them in any category of reading that I had experienced before.  Sven Birkerts explains in his book how he is afraid that in the world of hypertext, books will become a way of the past.  I think that books and hypertexts may compete with each other in a way but they will not take one another over.  Just like how the invention of the video camera did not make books extinct, the computer will not cause books to die out.  Birkerts says specifically about hypertexts that the focus is more, “Process over product”.  I completely agree with this.  Both of the poems I read had a good meaning but I interpreted the focus of both of the works to be on the process of reading and experiencing it.  At the end I was left with a message but my lasting impression was the movement of text and how this affected my attention. 

            Another one of my reactions toward the hypertexts that I read was an impatient attitude toward the text.  The shorter the text the more I enjoyed it.  While looking at the screen, I quickly became uninterested after a few minutes.  This was what Nicholas Carr talked about in his essay called is Google Making Us Stupid.  In that essay, Carr admits that while browsing on the internet, he tends to skim and go through information quickly.  While reading the hypertexts I experienced the exact same phenomenon.  When I read The Museum by Adam Kenney, I became very impatient with the reading because I had no idea where I was in the reading.  After each page I finished, I became a little more uninterested than the last.  I think that in order for a hypertext to interact well with the reader, it needs to be relatively short to avoid the reader losing interest.  Maybe this feeling of disinterest is because of me personally not being used to reading things like this.  When I started reading books for the first time I started with small ones instead on one thousand page books.  Like books, hypertexts could be a medium of experiencing text that people need to train themselves for in order to maximize the overall experience.