My Path to this topic

This paper constitutes my modest attempt to reconcile the relationships between hypertext theory and paralogic hermeneutics. In the course of attempting to understand the nature of the hypertextual world and the specifics of paralogic hermeneutics, it seemed that both were talking about the same issues and both seemed to have difficulty justifying the way Western culture has glorified the print-bound book.

As I have moved further up the academic food chain, certain trends of publishing have made themselves evident. "Important" stuff gets published. I must learn this "important" stuff and use it to validate my own "insignificant" conclusions. The more I publish, the more important I am. If others agree with my conclusions, I am correct, and, if they don't agree or don't understand my conclusions, I am wrong.

I have attempted to find "answers" in published texts, only to discover more and larger questions. For instance, the passage of time might alter the importance of a text. Many texts deemed important twenty or one hundred years ago have become non-applicable or turn out to be wrong. On the other hand, there are texts from twenty or one hundred years ago that were not afforded attention at the time of initial publication but have since been "rediscovered" and become important outside their original publication era. I have a hard time reconciling the academic push to publish, and my internal suspicion that being published does not say anything about my intellect, but rather serves to enlist my support in maintenance of the Western canon.

This body of knowledge which has been voted "most important" by "important" persons reminds me of the fundamental paradox that accompanies such exclusive clubs. To be admitted, a prospective member must be invited by a current member. Current members spend their time at the club. So, how does the prospective member meet, and gain the recommendation of, a current member? New members are acquired in two ways: through family connections and by accident. The former often brings candidates with a propensity to fit into the club due to familial similarity. The latter can bring conflicts, confusion, and change. I suggest that exclusivity does not happily co-exist with change.

As I have been drawn into the hypertextual world, I see more clearly the random nature of my own learning patterns. Sometimes, in the midst of a chaotic infusion of information, a totally unrelated concept becomes clear. That is what I like about hypertext. The reader is not only allowed, but encouraged to follow her or his own path and reach her or his own conclusions. From my readings of hypertextual theory, this is one of the features developers strive for.

I began studying the concept of paralogic hermeneutics and found it incompatible with my own glorification of the printed text. This theory suggests that no one can predict the mental path of the audience toward a conclusion. If that is the case, how can I, as a writer, insure that my audience will get my point? Paralogic hermeneutics says you cannot make such predictions. This does not mean that communication is impossible, but it does suggest that as a writer, I should not attempt to predict a single path or conclusion for my readers. While this will require some adjustment on my part regarding the rules I have been taught, it also gives me a sense of relief. I am no longer required to report my discoveries in a manner that I predict will persuade my audience. I can simply put down my own experiences, and if they say something to someone else, great. But if they do not, they are still valid.

What I have come to believe from my study of hypertext theory, paralogic hermeneutics, and Eastern philosophy, is that the audience of self is truly the most important audience. I think that great works come from an exploration spawned by the desire to explain something to one's self. The paths which others have taken are interesting but not essential in the process of individual knowledge making.

Thank you to Helen Rothschild Ewald and Don Payne, who have provided crucial support to me during the writing of this article. In addition, my consideration of intertexuality came from the direction of Helen Ewald and Don Payne suggested the idea of hypertextual links "bringing" information to reader, rather than "moving" the reader away from the original location.