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.