Reveal Codes: Hypertext and Performance

Critical Writing
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2001
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My argument here is that different modalities of textual performance must necessarily lead to the classification of print-precursors as precisely that: precursors and not hypertext per se.

My thesis thus proposes that hypertext must be conceived in terms of performance and that approaching the problem of a difference between the analog and the digital must be done in a mode through which digital textuality can emerge on its own terms.13 To that end, this essay proposes a theory of practice for hypertext by articulating its form and aspect of performance, a performance that functions to separate the digital from the analog.

My task in this article is thus to articulate a mode of understanding hypertext in terms of two components of performance: that of the user and that of the system. The latter suggests the processing done by the computer, which itself performs or is even performative, and the former suggests the performance of the user who operates as a functioning mechanism in the text, an idea whose genealogy includes performance art's situation and inclusion of the viewer within its boundaries, as well as the literary theorizations of the reader in terms of interaction, encounter, agonistic struggle, dialogue, and experience.

Complexity, in my analysis, is not a substitutive metaphor for collage but an inherent part of the system of hypertext itself. In this sense, it speaks to the liminal moment we inhabit between the consideration of hypertext as a genre, in terms of its formal and stylistic properties, and the consideration of new computer and scientific technologies and ideas, both as they are incorporated into electronic writing and as artifacts that themselves have effects and properties, such as autonomous behavior, that are inherent to the system of hypertext.

Different media produce different readers, different reading environments, and different reading practices.

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Eric Dean Rasmussen