Linear vs non-linear

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Even before we began reading Cybertext by Espen Aarseth, I mentioned several times in my blogs about books and texts being linear, especially during our Calvino escapade. We were angry with his writing because he was not writing in a linear fashion. He would start a story, digress off subject and eventually finish the story or never mention it again. And that bothered most of us, even me who sort of enjoyed his witty style.

Aarseth said, "If the paths are simply parallel, never meeting before B, then multilinear is the natural choice, just as linear describes one such path" (44). This would be the natural path for a hypertext format as there is more space for interior and additional information.

So that got me to thinking, nonlinear text in books does exist, although I disagree with Aarseth who only calls it "random access." And it even exist in our minds, which we can associate to daydreaming as our brains wander from topic to topic. (Though, there is no permanent record of those immediate thoughts. What do you think about that Socrates?) And then there is nonlinear hypertext which I agree with Aarseth is most effective with a computer/database with unlimited storage space. This allows for almost unlimited additional information if there are consistent links and passages available.

Because of these accessible paths in which text can take, "nonlinear is purely the observable differences in the behavior between text and reader use" (59). True, due to the ability to choose one's fate, circumstances, and consequences.

I think the text on paper and in books has to follow a structure and standardization because it is what authors have practiced and produced for centuries. It's imbedded in our minds of how we as humans like to read and understand things. As for hypertext and digital formatting of text, it is still under experimentation and it is still in its infancy. We're still exploring the options as there are many more than those limited to books. There is still more time to pinpoint a structure to our liking of the text in the digital era.

Back to the class website.

1 Comment

I agree with you Tiffany. It seems to me that Aarseth does not have the good view of print literature that he expects print literature supporters to have of his cybertext at times. He even points out some books, like Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, that does not follow typical literature trends, but cybertext ones.

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This page contains a single entry by TiffanyGilbert published on April 12, 2010 4:08 PM.

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