Hypertext and The Babysitter

Hypertext is an evolution of the traditional text found in books. Today it compliments print-based media, but it is heading in a direction where it may eventually become the most popular way to read any sort of text. Hypertext is more dynamic than traditional text because of how links are incorporated. An author may use links to simulate moving onto another page similarly to a print-based linear story, but many authors have taken advantage of links by making a non-linear or multi-linear story. I like these sorts of stories because the user can experiment with text and follow their own path. This is like why I enjoy video games so much. Sure, there could be just one ending, but how you got there may vary among people. The Babysitter by Robert Coover is a story that is a bit ahead of its time. It has the content that one may find in a modern hypertext story, but it is all mashed together and is still formatted similarly to a print-based story. I had to read the first few pages a few times because I was so confused. It jumps around so suddenly across different settings and potential outcomes. The reader follows the disaster the babysitter faces at home as well as what happens outside the home with the parents. A hypertext platform we have today like Twine would be a much better format for this.

“Most authors of the hypertext fiction started writing in the new media not only to explore the affordances of the digital, but also with awareness of the position of literature with in a broader and rapidly shifting media ecology.”


1/18 Combinatory Writing

If I were to show someone the readings about Taroka Gorge without giving them context of how they were put together, they would probably get frustrated because they include realistic phrases that encourage them to keep reading but provide no meaning. The stories I looked at were made with JavaScript and used random variables to put together certain words to make grammatically correct phrases or sentences. The program is designed to do this, but it is not really telling a story. I could say the works are about Taroka Gorge, but they are really just words that somewhat relate to Gorge randomly put together. I agree with Rettberg when he says, “This sort of story, like the output of many text generators, invites the reader’s involvement not by providing an excess of detail but, instead, by proving the reader with a minimal sketch, with a great deal of interpretation space left for the reader to fill in” (Rettberg 42). I look at the phrases within these works as images to be used when thinking of my own story of Taroka Gorge or a place similar. I have never been to Taroka Gorge before, so thinking about these works in relation to another place helps me remember aspects of it I may have forgotten. This is the effect combinatory writing has on readers. It lets them apply it in whatever way they want rather than forcing them to understand it in a certain way set by the author. I still think there is more value in engaging with a story that has real construction, but ones like these provide an interesting alternative.

“Minimal outlines such as this can serve as provocations, engaging our imaginations with prompts to flesh out a richer storyworld than actually denoted by the text that appears on screen” (Rettberg 42).