Semantisation, Exploration, Self-reflection and Absorption: Our Modes of Reading Hypertext Fiction

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

"How do we read hypertext fiction? The question has been widely explored (Moulthrop 1991; Kaplan and Moulthrop 1991; Snyder 1997; Miall and Dobson 2001; Ryan 2001; Gardner 2003; Gunder 2004; Landow 2006; Mangen 2006; Page 2006) and there seems to be a consensus regarding the reader’s experience of hypertext fiction. Many critics actually claim that reading hypertext fiction generates frustration and insecurity. These and other studies describe how their readers react on and respond to hypertext fiction, but, as I see it, they partly fail in that they put to much weight on the reader’s responds and hardly no weight on the fact that hypertext fiction just like print fiction encourage or prefigure different responses and different modes of reading. The consequence is that these studies suffers from limitations witch lessens their valuable contribution to our knowledge about reading hypertext fiction. One reason for this might be that hypertext theory lack established concepts for describing response structures that encourage different modes of reading. By evolving concepts for unfolding the preconditions for reading hypertext fiction, we might gain a more nuanced picture of the process of reading hypertexts. My contribution to the current research on the reading of hypertext fiction is a presentation of how fundamental aspects of reading, such as preconditions for interactivity, coherence experience and genre recognition, can be understood as prefigured in different hypertext fiction. Four modes of reading hypertext fiction are identified and described. These modes may arise from the interrelationship of two dimensions of reading activity: intentionality versus non-intentionality, and reality-orientation versus subversion-orientation. These dimensions of reading activity are explored in relation to three significant aspects in the reading process: interactivity, experience of coherence, and genre recognition. The four modes of reading hypertext fiction are discussed in relation to relevant concepts regarding the reading process in print literature (Wolfgang Iser 1993), and from theory of MUD players (Richard Bartle 1996). In the paper I will put weight on analyses of Scandinavian hypertext fiction, like Anne Bang-Steinsvik’s I mellom tiden (2003) and Ingen elge på vejen den dag (2001) by Sonja Thomsen, to identify modes of reading these hypertext fiction. The analyses also offer an explanation for why hypertext fiction in some cases might be regarded in a continuum with print literature, and in other cases regarded as in oppose to (or at war with) institutionalised genres and conventions in print literature."(Source: author's abstract.)

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Eric Dean Rasmussen