Footnote

In the current issue of Network World, columnist/blogger/executive editor Adam Gaffin points us to a post by the inimitable Mark Bernstein that further points us to an article by Jessica M. Laccetti, which is a review of a hypertext fiction by Richard Holeton. Now, if that isn’t enough references…

The text in question is a footnote to Laccetti’s review:

Additionally, the prefix, “hyper” problematizes feminist thought (which has sought to destabilize hierarchies such as mind over body and vision over touch) as it adds inscriptions of hierarchy to an already seemingly hierarchical and male-dominated field.

Bernstein’s response says that this footnote is “spectacularly wrong-headed,” an assessment that I think comes from Laccetti’s notion that hypertext is hierarchical.

Traditionally, hypertext is not hierarchical. In fact, that is the entire point of hypertext: it decenters the text; no text is left as the primary, original text. Any text is as good as any other, and by navigating through hypertext, you can become lost in a “Web” of lexias, perhaps never finding your way back to a primary text, like you can with footnotes (Ironically, Laccetti’s review is published in a very “print”-like manner; the footnotes are not even hyperlinked).

One of the levels of hierarchy (if that’s not redundant…) of Laccetti’s footnote comes, I think, from the definition of “hyper” as something above or beyond another concept. Text becomes “hypertext” when it exceeds the expectations we normally have for text. In that way, the prefix itself, as she says, hints at hierarchy. But then Laccetti writes that this “inscription” is added to an “already seemingly hierarchical and male-dominated field.”

The rest of the footnote goes on to explain Bolter, Landow, and Lanham very generally, demonstrating that three of the major thinkers in HT are, indeed, men; but the footnote does not return to a) the importance of the field being male dominated and b) the source of her reading of hypertext as hierarchical. Certainly, a feminist reading of hypertext is worthwhile, but Laccetti’s needs to qualify what she means by hierarchical hypertext.

I send her an e-mail this morning asking her to do just that. We’ll see what comes back.

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