Kairos Meet The Prospective Author

part of the Kairos KMTA MOO Discussion Series

Professor / Author Robert Kendall and his Hypertext Poetry and Fiction, a Prospective Classroom Spotlight for the Kairos Fall 3.2 issue

Hosted by Jennifer L. Bowie, Kairos Response Editor

The following is the log of the session.


                     A large room with distant light walls and lots of hazy, but too bright, light. There
                     are several large pillows on the floor, and in the front of the room there is a small
                     platform stage with a group of comfortable chairs. Type 'up' to step up on the
                     platform stage.

 Jennifer shows slide #1.

Welcome to this session of KMTPA  _K_airos _M_eet _T_he _P_rosepective 
 _A_uthors MOO Series! 

The Meet the Authors Series is a Lingua MOO forum in which the Authors of 
Kairos webtexts lead discussions about the issues raised in the texts 
as published. MOO Logs for these texts will be edited for publication 
and reaction in forthcoming issues of the journal. 

 Robert Kendall's class Hypertext Poetry and Fiction, 
 scheduled as a Classroom Spotlight for the Kairos Fall 3.2 issue. 

Hosted by Jennifer Bowie 
If you have any questions on how to MOO contact Jennifer (type 'page Jennifer 
your question or concerns') or type 'help introduction' 

Thank you for joining us. 


Jennifer shows slide #2.

This discussion will be logged and archived. 

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trbell says, "OK""
trbell says, "tom bell. poet""
Jennifer says, "Jennifer L. Bowie Kairos Response/Interactive Editor"
jackiec says, "Jackie Craven, journalist, student of HT [Hypertext]"
RobKendall says, "I'm Robert Kendall. I teach an online class called "Hypertext Poetry and Fiction" for the New School."

Jennifer shows slide #3.

Quote of the week: 
"Hypertext is an exciting new genre that has become a passion for many of 
the writers (like me) who have taken it up." - Robert Kendall

Jennifer says, "Robert, your course outline was full of lovely hypertext quotes!"
RobKendall says, "Thanks, Jennifer."
jackiec says, "When I met Tim McLaughlin, he said discovering HT was like falling in love"
Jennifer says, "I wasn't going to do a quote, but couldn't help it :)"

 Jennifer shows slide #4.

Thoughts and questions: 
  • How does one learn the art of hypertext? 
  • How can hypertext writers find a place in the literary world? 
  • What are the benefits of using the Web to teach hypertext? 


"The question  
may be how can  
the literary world 
find a place in HT?" 
trbell says, "The question may be how can the literary world find a place in HT?"  

RobKendall says, "Yes, I think it does work both ways."  

Jennifer says, "well the literary world has been around longer, and many don't see HT as an "equal"  

jeff.young quietly enters.  

RobKendall says, "I've found I have a lot of students coming from a Web designer background who want to get started with fiction and a lot of fiction writers and poets who want to learn ht."  

jackiec says, "Rob, in your class I recall that you repeatedly reminded us that there is a continuum from print to HT, and many print works seem more hypertextual than some "true" hypertexts"  

trbell says, "I think you need to include the experimental as well as traditional literary"  

Jennifer says, "One prime example of HT in print is the Choose your Own Adventure books that were popular when I was a kid"  

jeff.young says, ""hi, I'm a reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education. I'm working on an article about hypertext fiction."  

Jennifer nods to trbell "yes defiantly both"  

Douglas-E quietly enters.  
Douglas-E arrives.  

jackiec says, "but isn't the literature by definition experimental, Tom?"  

Jennifer says, "Great to have you here Jeff"  

trbell says, "No, too often it is just traditional literature put on a page"  

jackiec says, "hi jeff, do you know when your article will run? I'd love to read it."  

RobKendall says, "Hi Jeff. Protohypertexts have been traced back to the Talmud, the Bible, classic Chinese literature, etc."  

jeff.young says, "the article will be a few weeks... I'm just starting to do interviews."  

trbell says, "My bias is the visual aspects.  It may be showing here." 


Jennifer says, "In some ways the old storytellers around campfires were much more HT than what we can find on the web"  

trbell says, "Does being on the web make something HT?"  

Jennifer says, "certainly not"  

RobKendall says, "Tom, I think you're right that sometimes there's a tendency just to dump a linear story into a Web editor, add a few links, and call it ht."  

Jennifer says, "Let me revise what I said, on the web calling itself ht"  

RobKendall says, "I think one can talk about whether a piece of writing uses the medium of hypertext effectively"  

Jennifer says, "okay (playing devils advocate) What IS hypertext?"  

RobKendall says, "Almost any piece of fiction can be broken up and linked together in different ways."  

Jennifer says, "Must it be "broken up? Doesn't that imply linearity to begin with?"  

jackiec says, "Doesn't hypertext have to have a certain amount of links, branching and alternate paths to be considered hypertext?"  

RobKendall says, "I think the question to ask is whether the hypertext element adds something unique and important to the work"  

Jennifer [to jackiec]: if so how many? when does it "become" ht?  

Jennifer says, "Could one have a non-ht document that has so many links it could be ht?"  

trbell says, "I think unique and value adding are key elements"  

jackiec says, "When I wrote my HT project for Rob's class, I began with linear print stories, but by the time I'd broken up into nodes, created alternate paths, etc., they were very different from the original manuscript, and most of the text had to be rewritten to capitalize on the advantages of HT"  

Jennifer nods to trbell  

RobKendall says, "Well, technically you could probably say that anything that can be read in more than one alternative ordering is a piece of hypertext. But then there are different degrees of ht."  

Douglas-E [to Jennifer]: perhaps one can think of literary hypertext as having three (or more) dimensions, whereas (simply) webbed text occurs in only two dimensions... a kind of cartographic impression of a given text would lend itself to being visualized one way or the other. I'll to ruminate a bit to make this idea make sense, I think.  

"What IS hypertext?"


"What's the connection between hypertext and technology?"  
jeff.young says, "so does hypertext even require technology? What's the connection between ht and tech?"  

jeff.young says, "by technology I guess I mean computers here"  

Jennifer nods to Doug   

Jennifer says, "No, hyper*text* certainly does not require "technology"  

jackiec says, "I don't think machines are necessary, Jeff... but they make the writing and the reading much easier"  

Jennifer says, "Is paper technology? Voice?"  

RobKendall says, "Jeff, the printed book "Dictionary of the Kazars" by Pavic is a prime example of hypertext"  

Douglas-E [to RobKendall]: by that definition, Calvino (for instance) would be a hypertext--and one without the technology/medium of computers.  

trbell says, "To turn the conversation around, I wonder if there are times there is too much emphasis on technology and tools.  I'm sometimes guilty of this I know""  

Jennifer says, "we are leaving an important element out of this. Readers."  

Jennifer says, "Is conversation a hypertext? Is this MOO? It follows the paths or the reads and writers and has many different options as it is happening"  

Douglas-E [to jeff.young]: so hypertext doesn't require a 'hypertextual' medium. But we may have needed it (computer technology) to begin seeing such texts as hypertextual.  

jackiec says, "I meant say I think I've always skipped around in my reading, which I suppose is a hypertextual approach"  

Jennifer nods to Jackie  

Jennifer says, "wouldn't any medium that hypertext could exist on be a hypertextual medium?"  

RobKendall says, "I think an emphasis on technology for its own sake can be distracting. Technology should be transparent to be effective"  

Jennifer agrees with RobK 


Douglas-E [to jackiec]: Is there a difference between a hypertextual approach and a non-linear approach? Perhaps the hypertextual keys into the intertextual connections made by a reader reading non-linearly....  

Jennifer [to Doug]: Yes  

RobKendall says, "Douglas, nonlinearity is actually one of the most common definitions of hypertext"  

Jennifer says, "But HT is rarely nonlinear. "  

jackiec says, "When I read I often skip around within a text (non-linear reading) but I also skip from text to text, book to book, which seems hypertextual..."  

Jennifer says, "The linearity is often in the hands of the READER, but the writer also has some linearity in mind (at least in my case)"  

RobKendall says, "I think the printed book is a prime example of a completely transparent technology. If computers could reach this high degree of transparency it would make hypertext a much more easily accepted medium"  

Douglas-E [to RobKendall]: but I'm not sure that reading a linear text nonlinearly would cause the text to become hypertext.  

jeff.young says, "so there's nothing really new about hypertext fiction, except for a more overt recognition of *hyper*text?"  

Jennifer [to jeff.young]: nothing new, HT has been around for thousands of years in one form or another  

RobKendall says, "Jennifer, yes, actually I think multilinear is a better description than nonlinear."  

jackiec says, "I think computer technology facilitates ways of writing and reading that have always appealed to us."  

RobKendall says, "Boy, it's hard to keep up with all the different threads going on here."  

Jennifer says, "reading something linear nonlinearly, I don't see how that could be ht"  

Jennifer [to RobKendall]: yup, that's why this could fit into the "definition" or a definition of HT  

trbell says, "There are ways of giving the reader more of a voice in constructing the work, but these are still primitive"  

Douglas-E [to Jennifer]: so we can rule out webbed texts that started out as linear narratives but have been subsequently been placed upweb as linked nodes?  

jackiec says, "I think that the most important links are the ones that occur in the minds of the readers, and when readers find links in a print text, they are making it into a hypertext."  

Jennifer says, "I certainly hope so"  

Douglas-E [to jackiec]: so is hypertext a kind of manifestation of intertextuality?  

Jennifer says, "It all really depends on how we *Define* HT"  

RobKendall says, "Jennifer, take as an example of book of printed poems. They're printed in a linear order, but one can skip around and read them in a order one pleases. Some would say this is hypertext. Others would disagree."  

trbell says, "There has been some discussion of this on the wr-eye-tings list that might be of interest."  

Jennifer . o O ( that definition of Hypertext is hypertextual ) 

"I think that the most important links are the ones that occur in the minds of the readers, and when readers find links in a print text, they  are making it  into a hypertext." 


"I think the important thing is that the reader changes (i.e., 
affects) the work during his own reading."
Douglas-E says, "To look from another angle, does hypertext minimize a reader's intertextual experience? (I remember Riffaterre getting all worked up about that at MLA a few years back...)"  

RobKendall says, "I think it might be more useful to think in terms of interaction. rather than asking is this hypertext, we could ask: "Could the reader interact with this text in a way that will change it (and the reading experience) in a significant manner.""  

Jennifer hmmms  

jackiec says, "ah ha..."  

Douglas-E [to RobKendall]: I like that approach as well. I'm not even sure that 'hypertext' should be a definable term.  

trbell says, "It is literally possible (given the tools) for a HT reader to change the work"  

Jennifer agrees with Doug "truly defining HT would limit it  

RobKendall says, "If the reader gets the feeling that all this clicking and navigating causes something significant to happen in the reading experience, then she is likely to feel that the electronic element is worthwhile"  

Jennifer says, "I don't know how imperative it is for the reader the *Change* the work."  

jackiec says, "but I think it is the key to what makes hypertext pleasurable... discovering the different ways a work can unfold..."  

Jennifer says, "Rob, how hard was it getting students to understand HT?"  

trbell says, "There is a school of literature that proposes that the reader Changes all that is read"  

RobKendall says, "Jennifer, I think the important thing is that the reader changes (i.e., affects) the work during his own reading. I don't think it's so important that the change be permanent and be left behind for other readers."  

Jennifer says, "okay"  

Jennifer says, "I think nearly every text is in some way changed by the reader"  

RobKendall says, "Jennifer, it depends on the student. Some take to it right away and in fact feel that this is the medium they've been looking for for years to facilitate the way they've been trying to write."  

RobKendall says, "Other students may never really feel comfortable with it. HT is a genre that's not for everyone, just as play writing or poetry may not be for every writer."  

trbell says, "I have to go feed my kids.  A lot of good stuff was said here.  Is it going to be available for rereading?"  

jackiec says, "I wonder if I was typical... I was excited and eager to WRITE hypertext, but had more difficulty when it came to READING ht"  

RobKendall says, "Bye, Tom. Thanks for stopping by."  

Jennifer says, "trbell, yes I'm recording it. If you want a copy email me at bowiej@rpi.edu, or you can wait for me to code it and turn it into webtext"  

jackiec says, "bye trbell, thanks for coming"  

RobKendall says, "That's interesting, Jackie."  

trbell says, "Bye all"  

Jennifer says, "bye tom"  

Jennifer says, "Reading HT can be hard."  

RobKendall says, "Do you think maybe it's because you had an idea in your head of what you wanted but it didn't correspond exactly to what other people were writing?"  

RobKendall says, "Yes, reading ht can be hard. I think we have to keep in mind that the software tools we have for dealing with ht lit are very primitive now, and this is part of the problem."  

jackiec says, "I'm really amused when I recall that I was all fired up to write a hyperfiction, when I'd never actually read one!  And then, when I did begin reading, I complained about being frustrated and disoriented.  And yet, I felt that HT was exactly what I needed for the things I wanted to write..."  

Jennifer nods to jackie  

Jennifer says, "It's easier to "see" HT you want to write than read it--following other's thoughts/writings" 


jeff.young says, "how long will it take for the software tools to mature? Hasn't it been quite a few years now that folks like Bolter have been working on that (not to mention others before them)?"  

Julianne quietly enters.  
Julianne arrives.  

jackiec says, "Hi Julianne"  

RobKendall says, "One of the nice things about ht is that it can sort of model the way the mind works. You can visualize a malleable fiction or poem sort of abstractly in your head when you're trying to write it. But making that complex multilinear vision into a clear reality for the reader is a much harder challenge."  

Jennifer says, "I think it will take a while for the technology to catch up"  

Julianne says, "hi jackiec"  

Julianne finds a seat in Kairos.  

RobKendall says, "Hi Julianne. Is that Julianne Chatelaine?"  

Julianne says, "I understand, just want to listen... yes Rob it is."  

Jennifer says, "fell free to join in!"  

Julianne says, "Thanx Jennifer"  

RobKendall says, "Good to have you here. Julianne was another former class member."  

Julianne has disconnected.  
The housekeeper arrives to remove Julianne.  

jackiec says, "Julianne we met at HT 98.  It's good to "see" you again!"  

trbell has disconnected.  
The housekeeper arrives to remove trbell.  

RobKendall says, "Who's this housekeeper?"  

RobKendall says, "Julianne, are you still there?"  

jackiec says, "what's happening? Say Is it something I said??"  

Jennifer says, "The housekeeper is just a device for cleaning up people who disconnect"  

Jennifer says, "I find HT much more natural than writing completely linearly"  

RobKendall says, "Anyway, I think the software tools will mature tremendously over the next few decades. By the end of the century, I think electronic text and ht will be capable of things we can't even envision today."  

Jennifer says, "Yes, I hope so"  

Jennifer says, "well its getting to be time to wrap up. Any last thoughts?"  

RobKendall says, "I think that writing in hypertext can definitely change one's writing. When I did my long hypertext poem, A Life Set for Two, I found the medium really opened things up for me."  

JulianneC quietly enters.  
JulianneC arrives.  
JulianneC finds a seat in Kairos.  

RobKendall says, "Welcome back. Julianne. Guess you got disconnected."  

Jennifer says, "I have learned about HT while writing HT. I think writing it is the best teacher"  

JulianneC says, "Sorry I blinked away for a moment, hardware problems here. "  

JulianneC says, "I agree with Jennifer. That's why Rob's class is so great, it forces the students to write some."  

jackiec says, "Thanks Rob, for the MOOO..."  

RobKendall says, "Jennifer, I think that's probably true of anything."  

Jennifer says, "Well yes, I suppose it is."  

jeff.young says, "Thanks for letting me participate..."  

RobKendall says, "Well, if it's time to wrap up, I'd just like to say thanks as well."  

Douglas-E must depart, but enjoyed joining this conversation (in media res, as it were).  

Jennifer shows slide #10. 

"I find HT much more natural than writing completely linearly" 


The hour had come and gone. 
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KMTPA  _K_airos _M_eet _T_he _P_rosepective _A_uthors MOO Series! 

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