Even though 'Kaye' experienced the transition from the typewriter to the computer at a much earlier stage than I, I can basically relate quite well with her enthusiasm of the medium shift. “At the Ivy League college where she served her academic apprenticeship, she encountered the equipment that before long would be called ‘dumb terminals,’ but at the time she found it thrilling to move from typewriters to this more flexible and powerful medium” (Hayles, 35).
I can remember quite clearly my first encounter with the new powerful medium. I was in fourth grade, 1994, and once a week the class was given fifty vocabulary words that we were assigned to look-up its definition in the biggest book I’ve ever seen; the dictionary. It was fairly tedious work, although it provided us with the knowledge of how to use a dictionary and sharpened our vocabulary skills. I remember discovering an amazing solution to cut-down the amount of time spent doing this tiresome word-hunting when my older brother taught me how to use the computer to look up these vocabulary words. It was like the heavens opened up for me and dropped down a digital savior, for I was completed with my fifty word hunt in half the amount of time spent looking these words up in a print dictionary and I still had time to bask in the sun. All I had to do was type in the vocabulary word and ‘magically’ the computer would look-up the definition for me and it would instantaneously provide the definition. The rest is history.
As Hayles points out in chapter two, both print and digital literary text can obtain hypertext formats, linking mechanisms that allow the reader to retrieve information from different pathways. The print encyclopedia and the World Wide Web encyclopedia are both hypertexts in the sense that they both store a great deal of information and can lead the reader toward different references. The World Wide Web incorporated aspects of the print encyclopedia into its electronic format and offered a great deal of options from sound to animation compared with its preceding print functions. “Media constantly engage in a RECURSIVE dynamic of imitating each other, incorporating aspects of competing media into themselves while simultaneously flaunting the advantages their own forms of mediation offer” (Hayles, 30).
It is interesting what the artist Tom Philips did with the Victorian novel “A Human Document” by William Hurrell Mallock. Pursuing an art project with the intentions of combining already published literature from Mallocks novel and creating collages over his printed text, leaving only shapes and figures of the original text emerging from the patchwork. The same characters appear from the original novel, but new characters and meaning materialize from the new work Philips created. “These strategies share a double impulse. On the one hand, they posit precursor text that embody a hypertextual proliferation of narratives, signified by a diversity of material forms and incomplete or erasable marks. On the other hand, the novel’s project is to suppress this unruly complexity, smoothing many conflicting paths into one coherent narrative” (Hayles, 79). Layers upon layers of chaotic background imagery laced with a narrative of symbolic poetry that was once Mallock’s pros. “Philips strategy of recovering and heightening the hypertextual profusion implicit in Mallock’s text extends to his own sense that every page offers multiple possibilities for treatment” (Hayles, 88). I wonder if William Mallock is rolling over in his grave.
I am glad there are people like 'Kaye' who are not afraid to embrace swift technological changes and learn as much as they can about their configurations with preceding mediums. I thought the book was an overall decent read and had an interesting layout that did not bother me so much as it did make me question what options one has when writing an intellectual book.
Hayles, Katherine, N. Writing Machines. 2002: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.