New Media Literary: Hypertextual, Cybertextual, and Networked

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

The presentation deals with the problem of new media literacy, as compound of digital and network paradigm – whose differences with Web 2.0 are rapidly disappearing. However, the differentiation between digital and network is necessary in order to translate textual typology into cultural analysis – the hidden mission of new media theory from the very beginning.

First generation of hypertextual theoreticians detected hypertextuality as the basis of new media literacy – nonlinearity, interactivity and openness of the text were seen as democratisation of literacy. The presentation will try to demonstrate that hypertextuality is only a component of the digital paradigm, which is marked by broader flexibility of the text as productive apparatus. (That productivity of digital deconstructionist and poststructuralist theory connected with interpretation, but productivity is conducted, as Espen Aarseth pointed out, at the level of mechanical production.)

Cybertext and hypertext as two, I will try to demonstrate, separate digital genres are based on flexibility, whether in the form of topological organization of text or algorithmical variability. Topography and variability marked digital genres: hypertexts, computer games, artificial intelligence conversators, textual generators, etc

But scepticism in the late nineties stressed that this playfulness of text (as topological, variable etc.) has not proved as politically powerful. Some theoreticians welcomed the Net as the final achievement of that productivity. At the same time others rejected it as the place “in which the quiet voice of literature cannot easily be heard” (Robert Coover, Literary Hypertext: The Passing of the Golden Age, 1999). In some way both assertions are correct. Flexible, digital, productive text was given the channel for distribution that enables the reader-writer to publish her work. On the other hand, Internet developed communication genres. Network paradigm is primarily communicative, in relation to the digital paradigm which developed a context for fictional, narrative and poetic genres.

Although the World Wide Web as global hypertext emerges from digital paradigm, the hypertextual structure as primary digital, flexible is determined by the distributiveness: a “structural form without centre that resembles a web or meshwork” (A. Galloway). The architecture of the Internet provides the context for the consuming and producing signs. Although fictional elements play an important role (in communicating with other avatars in Second Life, or writing a blog), the read-write practices are generally defined by the communicative function of language.

The political function is determined not only through the Technological, but also Cultural. For that purpose it is important to differentiate the flexibility (and consequently poetic function) as an essential function of hypertext and cybertext, from distributiveness (and communicative function) of the networked genres. Therefore both, productiveness of the digital – the ability to produce signs, and distributiveness of the network, emerge from specific technological context, but only through cultural practices, they produce political context.

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Eric Dean Rasmussen