While trying to remember my experience reading Patchwork Girl last week, it occurred to me that I retained more about the actual visual structure of the story, each window and the paths leading from and to it represented as arrows, than any of the groupings or titles. I even forgot what seemed to be the more straightforward literary content of Patchwork Girl, maybe because I failed to read carefully enough, or I was more focused on what I would choose to click next and what would then happen. There were even bits of familiar text, from L. Frank Baum's Patchwork Girl of Oz, which I read a long time ago, and still cannot really remember from last week.
Barthes expresses the idea of reading a text as though you are actually rereading it. In this way, he suggests that one can begin a truly “plural” reading. It seems that at the heart of his “writerly texts,” which are ideally free of limitations such as a set beginning, direction, “narrative structure, grammar, logic,” is the “infinity of language.” This would imply absolute freedom concerning meaning, as well as an infinity of human creative capacity, both collective and personal. In a way, both Nelson and Barthes, in advocating the development of hypertext or writerly text, both assume and also champion an infinite human imagination. However, the presence of options does not always feel empowering or conducive to purely individual thought; sometimes this is a question of what choices are accessible, along with what are offered. Perhaps this is the reason why reading Patchwork Girl can seem uncomfortable or disconcerting. It seems unclear to me, though, whether this can be definitively attributed to limitations of the interface, actual lack of imagination, or some combination of the two.