A technology running late

You know, hypertext is a thing after its time.

Yes, AFTER! This technology is running late on culture's schedule. Because of the great superfluity of text, the flood of printed and electronic stuff that we're all deluged with every day and the, so to speak, verbiage inflation, the prolix jargon requisite to demonstarte that a text is really the work of a professional and not just somthing that somebody wrote, nobody reads text anymore.

When was the last time you encountered a book of lucid, literate, gem-like prose? Whenever it was, the book was probably written before 1960, more likely before 1950.

When was the last time that a putatively important document or book that you felt you had to read was so jargon laden and autoproctoscopically involuted that your best strategy was to skim it for general mouth feel? Alla time, right?
One of the things that Delaney, Barrett et al point out is that hypertexts are not linear; that they are diffuse. You correctly point out that the average reader -- skimming a text, leafing through pages, using commentaries -- does the same thing. I think that the "linear" nature of a traditional text is overstated. Also, another thing you hint at -- hypertexts can be used to concentrate a reader's experience in a text to a much greater degree than a traditional text can.
-- Michael Sikillian, in E-Journal 4:3, Nov 94

Just so, save that this is not a matter of traditional text not being linear. The text for which linearity is "overstated" is being written by people who have learned to write with the language of television as a cultural base and pseudoliterate, often pseudoscholarly text as a model for more of the same.

I've actually asked authors of such writing what words mean that appear in their texts and they don't know and don't understand why they should be expected to know! They have learned to assemble words and phrases by feel in the same way that we learn body language and facial expression and how to use scatological words acceptably. There is a huge quantity of text out there composed by such people and the typical reader has come to expect such text and reads, or rather grazes, accordingly. Hypertext is a technology catching up with the already accomplished demise of literate prose and advent of Semantic Grazing(tm).

Note that Skillian refers to a "reader's experience in a text". The places where my "experience in" a text is relevant are those where I try to become totally absorbed in a story and a high order of literary craftsmanship is an essential component. When I read non-fiction more serious than The Joy of Cooking, I do want cross references or parallel exegisis or contrasting analysis or whatever but not at the expense of lucid continuity in the text under consideration. The fact that Skillian hits on "experience in" a text supports my asserion that people don't read any more; They bathe in the word flow. If they don't read, there's no point in writing, is there? No need. Just ideas. Sentence fragments enough. Image doubleplusgood. Four feet good, two feet better. This sentence, like, no verb. What I mean?

Or send me all your money.

Or kill me.



that no one over the age of 30 should be allowed to publish more text than can be legibly tattooed on his or her body. If you want to write jargon-inflated pomposities, eat more. And you'll get real discriminating about what sort of readers you attract.

Adolph Loos blew it when he associated tattoos with primitives, criminals and degenerates. It's the communication technology of the future:

The 6 billion analog channel universe!

© Resident Alien Last updated 9 May 2000