Monday, April 15, 2013


Fitzpatrick begins her article “Texts” by describing how she will be talking less about the form that hypertexts take and instead focusing on what McKenzie called “the sociology of texts,” which is analyzing the interaction among the texts and with their readers. She mentions how the affordances that lie in network-based communications systems facilitate the vast degree on interaction which is available on the web and the possible power that it could be in the future of scholarship. She starts her arguments by talking about one the current highest degrees of scholarship, the book, but she takes Stallybrass' view that we must escape what he called “the tyranny of the book,” and we need to remember that authors write sentences and printers print pages, and neither one produces books. Only the binder actually makes books. The Fitzpatrick focuses on this idea and says that the idea of a book is derived from it's organization, not it's ink-on-paper-ness, so we should not be worrying what a book looks like, but instead be focusing on how it works, how it communicates.

The author then begins talking about how a lot of information on the web is not even using the affordances of the most recent textual structure, the codex, and instead relegating us even farther back to imitating the scroll. And even when we do use the way that a codex is set up, which in the form of print is sequenced, bound, and cut leaves of information, it's still just reproducing the printed page on the screen. She says that we are still thinking of the web in codex-based language, that we are thinking of the web like we did about the horseless-carriage at the invention of the automobile. Instead, we must focus on the new textual structures that the web makes available.

One of the main powers of the web is hypertext, with its ability to delinearize and interlink the text within its own boundaries and with other texts. She says that when we began thinking about hypertext instead of as a new form of table on contents, it “promised a radical restructuring of worldview,” like the way we think about nature not as a hierarchy but “as a network of interconnected species and systems.” She says a true hypertextual structure has the power to “[elevate] the reader to full participation in the production of the text's meaning.” But, with her students describing the frustration and disorientation they had with hypertext books, using hypertext in this way might actually reinstate the author-reader hierarchy because clicking through hypertext is not the same as writing and it still follows the author's ascribed path, one of many paths, but still one that the author created. Fitzpatrick then talks about database-driven scholarship through things like the Walt Whitman Archive or the Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Scholarship. She describes them and then says that while focusing on the interaction between texts is good, these systems still don't get away from author-driven work. While scholars have focused on individual reading, what she calls the library model of texts circulating among individual reading, they also need to look at the coffee-house model of public reading and debate.

An example of this public reading that she sees is Facebook. And while her students felt disorientated with the hypertext books, they love and use Facebook constantly. She says that hypertext only works if the interactive and non-authoritative structure is “fully mobilized.” She finishes her article by talking about blogs and they could facilitate a new powerful stage in scholarship where authors and readers can interact with each other at each stage of the writing process, highlighting this idea of network-based writing. She talks about one platform called CommentPress, built upon WordPress, where comments are side-by-side with the text an author is writing, and the text itself is split into paragraphs that are arranged with the comments next to them to paragraphs that are arranged with their comments next to them to help structure the reader responses. She ends her article by imagining a platform that would combine the power of database-driven scholarship, creating connections between texts, with the power of the blog, creating connections between readers and authors.

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