Paralogic Hermeneutics and Authority

One reason paralogic hermeneutics appears to be compatible with hypertext theory has to do with definitions of the process of communication and control of discourse. Fo r hypertext and paralogic hermeneutics, control is negotiated between the author and reader. According to paralogy, one party cannot readily predict a path that will communicate an idea to another because the system is dynamic and it is understood that the two parties participating in the act of attempting communication (author and reader) will each employ their own sequence of interpretations toward a common goal.

In fact, Kent's brand of paralogy subscribes to the idea that it is impossible to codify a procedure that will predict the path of understanding for another. He defines parology as "beyond logic" and believes that "it accounts for the attribute of language-in-use that defies reduction to a system of logical relations." 1

Hypertext theory, according to Landow, also sees the process of communication as flexible. In describing a "full" hypertext system, Landow states that the reader "will choose individualized paths." 2 He admits that such a system is not available due to limitations of current hypertext technology, but he does look toward the day w hen the reader will be able to make notes and comments linked to an original hypertext, communicate back to author instantly, and link to the contextual information which the reader deems useful in the process of understanding the original.

But how do paralogic hermeneutics and hypertext theory deal with the fact that unlike spoken discourse, a written text is static? Kent sees a written text as a small part of a much larger conversation. Although referring to paper texts, he sees written communication, particularly in the disciplines, as part of a larger conversation. And Kent argues that in order for the writing of students to become dialogic, the process must be flexible. He states, "dialogic writing in the humanities classroom would require the student to enter the collaborative interactions...[of]...the 'conversation' that occurs within a discipline." 3 Again Landow's brand of hypertext theory is in total accord:

In practical terms the ease of using a hypertext means that any student can contribute documents and links to the system; in this way, they can experience how a scholarly discipline evolves by a complex dialogue between its practitioners. 4

Both paralogic hermeneutics and hypertext theory see individual texts as part of a larger conversation. But when the parts of the conversation are broadcast through paper texts, many times only selected voices get published (heard). The paper-bound text has assumed an elevated status in many societies. In order to publish a document, an author requires some type of constituency. Others must believe the writing is worthy, because publishing any text costs money. There are rare occasions of self-published texts, but ordinarily it is a rather grueling procedure to gain the various types of approval that are required to get a text into paper print. When an author publishes an account of something, a certain finality is granted to the subject. Books are not usually written about actions in progress because of the time and expense involved.

Computer users have adopted the language of paper publishing with terms such as "desktop publishing" and even "Internet publishing." But there are distinct differences between publishing a paper-text and a Webtext, or HTML document. To publish on the Web, an author does not need a constituency. If one has an opinion, it is a fairly simple matter to present it to the world, as evidenced by the multitude of personal homepages currently in existence. When performing a search under a particular topic, search engines will often list personal homepages along with Ph.D. dissertations and online articles from refereed journals. This gives readers access to various points of view, not only those approved by academia or the paper publishing bureaucracy.

Publishing an online document can be done rapidly, in as long as it takes to type up an opinion and transmit it to a server. This allows for "in progress" commentary, much like newspapers or magazines. And, changes can be made rapidly as well. This reduces the sense of "closure" readers may feel when reading a paper volume. An HTML document can be changed in a matter of moments, often leaving no trace of the original. This goes against the grain of academia, where documentation is crucial to building "valid" arguments. Hypertext theorist Jay David Bolter describes this phenomenon as follows:

While electronic technology does not destroy the idea of the book, it does diminish the sense of closure that codex and printing have fostered. 5

Go to a response that counters much of this argument.