(1) Hypertext demands an active reader; it blurs the distinction between author and reader (Landow:184, 178-79; Lanham, 1993:6, 76; Bolter, 1991:29, 117, 153-59)

It is impossible to be a passive reader of hypertext. Even in the most restrictive of hypertexts, what Michael Joyce calls an "exploratory hypertext" (Joyce, 1988), the reader must pick and choose her way from node to node, thus determining the "text" to be read. In a less restrictive hypertext (what Joyce calls a "constructive hypertext"), the reader is granted freedom to annotate existing texts, to add new texts to the network, and to create new links between texts, often with remarkable power to change the appearance of everything, by manipulating windows and changing fonts. The reader of a hypertext is always at least the co-author of the "text" that is read; sometimes the reader is the primary author. As Lanham observes:
The interactive reader of the electronic word incarnates the responsive reader of whom we make so much. Electronic readers can do all the things that are claimed for them--or choose not to do them. They can genuflect before the text or spit on its altar, add to a text or subtract from it, rearrange it, revise it, suffuse it with commentary. The boundary between creator and critic (another current vexation) simply vanishes. (Lanham, 1993:6)
(2) Hypertext is fluid, multiple, changing; not fixed or single (Landow:52, 207; Lanham, 1993:16; Bolter, 1991:31, 43, 155)

The printed page sits fixed and still; electronic text is always in flux, flickering on and off of our computer screen (Bolter, 1991:31, 54, 71). Anyone who has done wordprocessing knows that electronic text is "fundamentally unstable," "restless," prone to "change" and likely to "disappear" (155). Reading a particularly challenging piece of hypertext fiction, one that leaves narrative sequence entirely up to the reader, Bolter observes: "There is no single story of which each reading is a version, because each reading determines the story as it goes. We could say that there is no story at all; there are only readings" (124)./10/

The linear language of the printed page encourages a single, clear point of view; multilinear hypertext lends itself to multiple, perhaps even conflicting voices (x, 7). No piece of hypertext ever sings solo; it always collaborates in a (cacophonous?) choir with all of the other nodes of the network in which it is implicated.

(3) Hypertext has no beginning or ending, no center or margin, no inside or outside (Landow:57-58, 60-62, 109-10, 112; Lanham, 1993:7, 125, 129; Bolter, 1991:86-87, 143, 162-63)

With the codex book it is easy to distinguish the words in the center of a page from the blank margins that surround them, or the first page of the book from the last, or one book on the shelf from another, but none of these physical realities holds anymore with electronic text. In a hypertextual network there is no beginning or ending, no up or down, no in or out, no center or margin. When one electronic text is linked to another (and another, and another, . . .), or when one text is copied and pasted into another, the notion of a separation of or a distinction between texts simply evaporates.

(4) Hypertext is "multicentered"; "infinitely recenterable" (Landow:11-13, 66, 70, 77)

Hypertext mirrors the decentered, disseminated self of much poststructuralist critical theory (Landow:76-77). Landow suggests that such thinking is prompted by contemporary shifts in communication technologies: while print encourages the ideal of the single, integral self, electronic text encourages multiple, even conflicting voices. Hypertext offers the possibility of a shifting center, a "multicentered" or "infinitely recenterable" textual universe, with the center to be determined by the active reader. Centers come and go; the act of establishing a momentary center, however, is an ongoing necessity, to be repeated again and again:
. . . hypertext does not only redefine the central by refusing to grant centrality to anything, to any lexia, for more than the time a gaze rests upon it. In hypertext, centrality, like beauty and relevance, resides in the mind of the beholder. Like Andy Warhol's modern person's fifteen minutes of fame, centrality in hypertext exists only as a matter of evanescence. . . . This hypertext dissolution of centrality, which makes the medium such a potentially democratic one, also makes it a model of a society of conversations in which no one conversation, no one discipline or ideology, dominates or founds the others. (Landow:70)
(5) Hypertext is networked text (Landow:23-27, 57-58, 66-67; Bolter, 1991:ix, 201, 231-32)

Unlike the linear or hierarchical structure of print, hypertext is a multilinear network, with no obvious beginning or ending, no top or bottom (Bolter, 1991:112-14). It is the nature of a network to undermine efforts to establish a hierarchy or central authority (Landow:66-67). Moreover, the shift to the network paradigm encompasses far more than hypertext; it is redefining our entire culture:
. . . just as our culture is moving from the printed book to the computer, it is also in the final stages of the transition from a hierarchical social order to what we might call a "network culture." For decades all forms of hierarchy have been disintegrating, as greater and greater freedom of action is granted to the individual. . . . Hierarchies in government, church, and family may retain status in law, but they have almost no moral authority. . . . The network has replaced the hierarchy. (Bolter, 1991:232).
(6) Hypertext is collaborative (Landow:88-100, 124-25, 141, 144, 179; Lanham, 1993:13, 71; Bolter, 1991:202; Calderonello, Nelson, and Simmons)

Landow describes a collaborative, democratic learning environment at Brown University, facilitated by a sophisticated hypertext system (Landow: 88-100):
Within a hypertext environment all writing becomes collaborative writing, doubly so. The first element of collaboration appears when one compares the roles of writer and reader, since the active reader necessarily collaborates with the author in producing a text by the choices he or she makes. The second aspect of collaboration appears when one compares the writer with other writers--that is, the author who is writing now with the virtual presence of all writers "on the system" who wrote then but whose writings are still present. (Landow:88).
Landow's considerable experience in collaborations with colleagues and students leads him to claim that hypertext nurtures a genuinely collegial community of inquiry. Hypertext can put teacher and student closer to the same level, promote interdisciplinary collaboration between scholars, and encourage the integration of a scholar's teaching with her or his research (124-25, 179).

(7) Hypertext is "antihierarchical and democratic" (Landow:23, 31-33, 70, 172, 174, 176-78; Lanham, 1993:102-103, 108, 200; Bolter, 1991:117, 143, 232-33)

Putting remarkable power into the hands of ordinary people, the electronic media are proving to be a surprising force for democracy, rather than the ultimate nightmare of totalitarian control. Theorists such as Bolter and Landow draw bold conclusions about the liberatory implications of the history of information technologies for human culture. Landow contends that:
the history of information technology from writing to hypertext reveals an increasing democratization or dissemination of power. Writing begins this process, for by exteriorizing memory it converts knowledge from the possession of one to the possession of more than one. As Ryan correctly argues, "writing can belong to anyone; it puts an end to the ownership or self-identical property that speech signaled" (Marxism and Deconstruction, 29). The democratic thrust of information technologies derives from their diffusing information and the power that such diffusion can produce" (Landow:174).
Hypertext foregrounds and accentuates the responsibility of the reader for ethical and political decision-making in the midst of the hypertextual docuverse. As a diverse, multilinear network, hypertext can readily incorporate conflicting arguments and interpretations; it can "encompass conflicting possibilities" (Bolter, 1991:143). Thus, hypertext can provide the arena in which ethical and political arguments can take place (Landow:169-78). For example, Gerald Graff suggests that the wisest response to the canon wars raging in literary studies today is to "teach the conflicts" (1990a; 1990b; 1992). That is, instead of trying to decide the shape of the canon once and for all, why not shift the spotlight to the process of arguing over the canon? Make the argument the focus, not the decision at the end of the argument, Graff says, for canons come and go, but the need to argue over authority, values, norms, beliefs, and behaviors will remain with us forever. Coincidentally, hypertext enacts Graff's advice to "teach the conflicts."

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