I came across this source in my research of George Landow and found alot of his comments to be really interesting in terms of the envionmental affordances and draw backs of the web when it is treated as a literary envrionment.
So is the Web for you rather an information storage technology than a literary environment?
That seems to be true for the most part, but some people are showing that it can be artistic. I think it is harder to be artistic and creative on the web than scholarly or educational. Because of the Web’s limited and flawed nature you have to create artificial structures, which is fine for informational Hypertext, but it really gets in the way of literary work.
That is one of the reasons why I think that e-mail is much more interesting than telephone conversations. Obviously, there are certain things that you would rather do on the phone, like talking to your wife etc. where you want to hear someone’s voice and you want them to hear yours. But for creative text you don’t really need that. In fact, a lot of the emphasis on see-you see me technology, like all forms of telepresence, is, as Derrida points out about so much of Western culture, riddled with the problem of presence — namely, that it elevates presence above everything else. Telepresence can be interesting, but a lot of the real-time stuff has the same problems as Western metaphysics in that it is afflicted with the idea that speech and the immediate presence of something is better than reflection and writing and thought.
But do you generally see Hypertext as being two-sided, one side being literary, and the other one being informational? Or wouldn’t you make that distinction?
I see that distinction, but it really depends on use. We have seen but so much blurring. People who start out writing informational Hypertext sometimes end up with something literary and the other way round. It also depends on how the user defines and works with it.
But you might have to take another direction as well. Remember there is lots of interesting digital stuff on the web which is not particularly hypertextual. I am thinking of something like Christy Sanford’s work on Safara, Safara in the Beginning. It really is sequential, but it uses things like animation and other things you could not do in a book. It is very elegant, but it is digital fiction that is not particularly hypertextual. There is another element, and then there is Virtual Reality stuff. So I think that there is the distinction you made, but there also other distinctions that come into play.
“…Virtual Reality is something else. It is a form of asynchronous writing which is disguising itself as presence, very much like photorealism in painting and photography. You should never believe that Virtual Reality is another reality, since it always is someone else’s ideology and abstraction that presents itself as real. There are some things for which Virtual Reality is dazzling. For anything that is dangerous or expensive, Virtual Reality as a simulation is wonderful. I would love to see a new art form coming out of it, but most of the stuff I have seen is so banal, that I’d rather read or see a film”
Let’s talk about literary writing again. A lot of literary Hypertext is very self-referential. Do you think that this will always be a crucial characteristic of Hypertext or do you think that it is just a passing phase?
I don’t know if that’s because we are at an early stage or if it really is a natural part of the medium. Freak Show, for example, is not very self referential, whereas Patchwork Girl is. Afternoon is self referential to some extent, whereas some of the Hypertext poetry is not. I am thinking of Forward Anywhere by Cathy Marshall and Judy Malloy. That is why it is really hard to make any claims at this moment about what the future of literary Hypertext is going to be.