[ISEA95] Panel: Judith Kerman – Literary hypertext (From a writer’s point of view)

Panel Statement

Panel: Interactivity and Metaphors

Today the word on the page has ramified into (at least) oral performance, book arts, and text on the screen, with or without graphics, animation and sound. Hypertext is partly a bridge between the world of the book and the world of multimedia, but art made entirely of words is not going to go away. So I’m going to concentrate on hypertext and on texts made of words. Most of the issues I will discuss map onto my colleagues’ presentations as well.

I like very much the two questions printed in the program to describe this panel: Can traditional narrative make a successful transition into interactive media? Is a participatory space between author and audience possible without losing the pleasures of closure and individual uniqueness? To ask these questions is to reflect where most readers and most writers are today. But they are two really different questions, and the answer to one doesn’t necessarily determine the answer to the other.  think the first question, about traditional narrative, is, at
the surface level, the wrong question, and the answer is probably “no” – traditional narrative can’t make a successful transition, and why should it? New media often start their lives as
platforms for performance of old forms (e.g. films of staged plays), but they soon develop genres of their own, which depend on the aesthetic potential of the new medium itself. If electronic literature were nothing but pages on a screen, it would be a failure. But not to worry – it was clear as soon as computers were widely available that interactivity is the most interesting new potential offered by electronic literature. Hence hypertext. Yet the nostalgia for traditional narrative points to a deeper question, a dynamic which may be based in human biology and even physics, rather than hased in cuhure or technology and susceptible to cultural change. It may be that verbal language is inherently linear

  • Judith B. Kerman (USA) is Dean of Arts and Behavioral Sciences and Professor ofEnglish at Saginaw Valley State University. She is the author of four books of poetry. One of which, Mothering, she is currently implementing as a StorySpace hypertext. She is the creator and co-developer of Colloquy, an authoring system in hypertext for interactive poetry, forthcoming from Eastgate Systems.

Full text p.134-136