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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 25 | volume V | March-April, 2002



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 25March-April, 2002

Modernity and Postmodernism in “Hypertext Notes”

A Call for Theoretical Consistency and Completeness

p. 1
Charles Ess

    ”Hypertext Notes,” a self-described experiment, serves as a rich and rewarding example of hypertext. Its opening premise--that most hypertextual work retains the linear structure familiar to us from print--is clearly correct, and the author's effort to develop and explore the non-linear possibilities of writing in hypertext promises to enhance our understanding of both the possibilities and limits of hypertext.
    I believe that “Hypertext Notes” nicely succeeds in this project, though not necessarily in ways it may have intended. (This is not a criticism: the author is intentionally vague about the various intentions of the project.) For me, “Hypertext Notes” raises some central theoretical problems which I believe hypertext authors and readers must confront more directly, if we are to avoid potentially fatal contradictions and conceptual muddles.
    As I raise these problems, however, I fear that I may sound excessively reactionary and curmudgeonly. To help offset this impression, you may want to indulge me in a little autobiography (and a lot of shameless bragging)--the point of which is to establish that I come to hypertext in general and “Hypertext Notes” in particular with a long and respectable record of involvement and enthusiasm.
    I also come to hypertexts primarily with the intentions of a classroom teacher. My authoring of hypertexts is almost exclusively focused on exploiting the medium to (a) help students better understand difficult material, in part by (b) using the links to articulate the often complex and multiple conceptual relationships between different sorts of material. My primary model for hypertexts, then, includes the simple notion that authors have a rather clear notion of what they want to say to their readers--including just what the web of links and linked material mean.
    Admittedly, much of the literature surrounding hypertext calls my simple paradigm into question. It may be helpful to remember here that poststructualist and postmodern theorists--who dominate most of the theoretical discussion of hypertext--attack my simple paradigm in various ways. Roughly, this paradigm is seen as modernist and structuralist, precisely because it assumes that authors intend meaning for their readers, meaning that is partly conveyed through structures (logical, syntactical, etc., especially as these structures are bound up with the linearity of printed texts). More horrifically, this paradigm is associated with an Enlightenment meta-narrative, one that surreptitiously accords totalitarian power to something called “reason,” as the meta-narrative overtly but deceptively claims that human liberation and fulfillment will come through the expansion and victory

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