Randomness, control, freedom, escape, interaction and subjectivity seem to be recurrent issues in our study of hypertext. It is important, in this process of understanding, not to take a simplistic view of the interaction between the poet and the reader of poetry. We should not assume that hypertext is a completely freeing experience, which cuts loose the reader and allows her to explore at will, in Barthes' unlimited, ideal textuality. Nor is it correct to say that the medium of links, choices and arbitrarily complex visuals, sounds and text is one of control, as I may have suggested earlier. What we find, in the end, is that poetry set in hypertext is an intersection between control and freedom in the text itself. Much as Svetlana Alpers implores the art historian to look at a Dutch baroque painting as a tool for seeing the world, I ask that the reader consider my poetry as a tool for exploring what is possible in this medium.
In doing so, it is important to continually employ a critical eye. Why have I chosen this specific link? What does that mean, if anything? Can you control the process, and are the tools you use (your web browser, computer, etc.) important in this process? By placing a bookmark to a specific poem or piece of this essay in your menu bar, are you circumventing my control of the flow of thought, or are you simply validating that control by exercising it yourself, to a limited degree?
I believe that we can find a new idea of hypertext, as well as a new idea of poetry, buried deep in the crossroads of science, history, literature, art and technology. Because of this belief, my essay may seem spread out, all over the map, to use a colloquialism. Because it is beholden to ideas of literature, textuality and technology, and in fact, was created by a physicist, we must, as in any analysis of a text (and it seems that all of the web, if it is truly interconnected, is one great text), understand the history, the context, that drove the development of this meta-idea represented in light on a computer screen. What was this physicist, Berners-Lee, thinking about when he decided to make it easier for his colleagues to exchange research papers? What informed his decision-making tree when he was sitting at his terminal, working on the code which would eventually form the standard for the modern meta text, the initial rules of control by which we all seem to live in hyperspace? In attempting to get at the root of the text, we must understand this process.
To facilitate the process of understanding, of interpreting the ideas inherent in this medium, I have presented several contrasting, sometimes difficult to reconcile, views of the text. That of complete freedom and new horizons, as understood by earlier hypertext critics. That of newness, creativity, instant meaning and randomness asserted by critics like Aarseth. And finally, the contrast of technological and ideological control presented by Tomasch, in her analysis of the Knight's Tale and Mandeville, in his twelfth century escape from the realm of the imagined, into the land beyond the ocean sea. At times, these views may be confusing, but I feel that somewhere in the middle of it all, at the intersection, wherever that may lie, the reader will come to realize this new view of the text, having first explored the realms of context which I have tried to interpret and present.
After reading these pieces of text, the reader may choose to explore my poetry, to decide if it is indeed random or exponential, as I have claimed, or if there is more (or less) control there than I have implied. Perhaps, after coming to a conclusion or understanding of the process reflected in the poetry and essays, the reader may then choose to leave a mark on these pages, by visiting the guestbook (gheestbook, as I call it, where gheest is the Dutch word for ghost, spirit or soul.) Or perhaps the reader will, as is possible, take a completely different approach to the text. I have certainly made that possible, by presenting all the various avenues of exploration up front.
In the end (the beginning, the middle?) I feel that each person will take away from this thesis something new, something which has not existed until that person took the time to create it by following their own path through these pages. And that, it seems, is what hypertext is really all about. It is a process of rebirth, regeneration, both of the text and of the roles of reader and writer. We create new entrances to the text, new links and ideas of our own, we touch the page and it is changed, forever, by our interaction with it. In much the same way as a book is never the same with each new reading, the hypertext is never, can never be, the same as it was the last time we explored it. Hypertext serves to amplify this effect, by allowing both parties, reader and writer, to create new text, to create new ways of interacting with the text, beyond just writing interpretations of it. We can invent new textual machines now, and it seems that the only limit in our exploration of this new frontier of interaction is the imagination of a person who is motivated to create something never before seen.
I leave it to you. Feel free to do what you want, create what you will, and don't be afraid. Or do. Ultimately, that is your choice.