Of Two Minds Review -- Hypertext Narrative

In this essay Joyce distinguishes two modes of thought: structural and serial. The object of structural thought is discovery, while serial thought is used to produce. Joyce claims that most exploratory hypertexts and technical communication projects rely on structural modes of thought, and therefore are subject to the "myth of emerging order" (190).
"For the reader of a technical communication... there is some nethermost node, a gleaming target that represents the meaning of a text... This theoretical terminal node can be systematically described by both its location and its links... [T]he node is thought to be present and reachable. I.e., every reading by every reader is thought to be anticipated by the system of exploratory text" (190).

If anyone wants to add to this system, the document questions both their authorization and the place to put the added information. We distinguish the appropriateness of this addition by matching what we feel is the official order of the document with the perceived order of the one making the addition. If the addition is made, it is a "terminal node; the text may be seen as leading to it. Yet the addition it perpetually marginal. Interaction does not reorder the text but conserves authority" (191).

Joyce claims that narratives operate differently. "...[T]he meaning of narrative is not in the space but, rather, exists for the space of its unfolding" (192). Meaning is somehow both prior to and outside of the narrative, therefore knowledge is built as it unfolds. Additions to the narrative are not a privelege, but actually required and expected by the story itself. In this narrative situation every reading requires a reordering of the text and becomes part of the meaning.

This chapter intrigues me because of my interest in technical communication and my inquiries into what we are about as we teach, create, organize and arrange it. If technical communication does rely on Joyce's myth of emerging order, and I understand how it does, then that seems extremely limiting. Where is the subversion of narrative in the technical communication process? One place I can think of are newsgroups that organize themselves around technological subjects. The stories are told on these newsgroups. With every post the text is reordered and the knowledge base involving that technology is altered in just the way Joyce points out. This is only one of the ways we deal with the marginalization we feel through interacting with the authority of technical communication. This essay makes me wonder why technical communication relies on this myth of emerging order? And whether narrative can be successfully moved inside the technical communication process to reorder the entire system?