Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Undermining Expectation

My experience in reading Patchwork Girl was difficult to separate from the expectations and preconceptions of hypertext that I developed during my reading of “STITCH BITCH.” I was especially aware of the experience in terms of linearity, since rigid linearity was one of the qualities of traditional narrative that Jackson renounced in her article. Initially, I found the departure from linear progression extremely unnerving as I made my way through Patchwork Girl, and I found it difficult to free myself from worrying about “missing” something or somehow moving through the text boxes in the “wrong” way. It was difficult to resist the impulse to glance at other people’s computer screens to check if they’d found something that had somehow eluded me.

After reading for a while, however, I found myself really engaged in the narrative and I began to appreciate the control I was given over my own experience with the text and to pay more attention to the spatial arrangement of the links on the screen. Many portions of the piece actually could be navigated somewhat linearly, by pressing the forward button on the navigator to reach the “next” text box but, just as this became too predictable, I noticed that the program was looping me back over texts I’d already read, imbuing them with new meaning each time. In an interesting way, this exposed the role of context in my interpretations of those texts, and it drew my attention onto my own expectations and the way that I was reading. It completely undermined the standard code of reference in literature, since words that had referenced one person or idea on the first reading came to represent totally different things upon the second or third. This would have been very difficult to achieve in a conventional linear narrative, and it revealed some of the enhanced capabilities of hypertext as a medium to play with the reader’s expectations in a very appealing way.

No comments: