Hypertext And Cybertext

Hypertext poetry links electronic objects in a variety of ways so that users can navigate through a poem along various textual paths. The reader/operator has a choice of one or more links to follow or actions to perform from within a hypertext. Hyperlinks literally and figuratively connect electronic objects, such as pages of coded text and pages of graphics files, allowing manual or automatic navigation from one object to another. Programmed links can vary the objects linked and the means of linkage. Pop-up links allow the display of more than one set of objects at the same time. Authors may use links to join a set of "written" objects to each other or to join objects within the text to objects outside the hypertext. In this way a simile or metaphor in a poem might be a linked reference in a hypertext. A given poem might be extremely disjunctive or extremely linear, depending on choices the reader makes as she or he clicks links to experience objects in an order the author cannot completely determine and the reader cannot completely anticipate or decide. A

company called Eastgate created a computer program for composing electronic literature called Storyspace. It enables writers of prose and poetry to develop writings containing links and graphics without coding. Early Eastgate poets, such as Stephanie Strickland (True North [1998]) and Robert Kendall (A Life Set for Two, [1996]), continue to write hypertext poetry. Many poets now possess the technical skills, machinery, and software, or they collaborate with programmers and designers, to create hypertext poetry.

While hypertext poetry presents poets and readers with opportunities to consider linear and nonlinear narrative and reader response beyond the limited analogy, metaphor, and logic in procedural poetry, cybertext poetry moves beyond the link and investigates reader response on a deeper level. Interacting with cybertexts involves readers' queries, assumptions, and actions, which change readers' perceptions of the cybertext during the course of the interaction. Critic Espen Aarseth suggests that cybertext is similar to traditional oracles, where the user asks a question and then interprets the results in order to achieve a "reading."

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