December 1996

Root Page of Article: Going Into the Woods, by Christine Boese

Just a quick aside:

I tested some of the best CD-ROMs and hyperfiction with my Writing for Electronic Media Class last year. You can say what you like about applying usablity standards to self-consciously "literary" products, but it doesn't change the fact that hyperfiction went over like a lead balloon.

Students wrote reports analyzing exactly why the attempts by acclaimed hyperfiction writers and innovators had failed, and these results were also borne out by a similar study done by another graduate student in a research methods seminar. She limited her study group to graduate students, whom we hope are used to reading difficult texts. One refrain repeated again and again: "Boring." "There was nothing to hold my interest." "I don't get it."

We could easily point out that Thomas Pynchon and James Joyce bring out the same response in a lay readership, as do poetry and many other self consciously "postmodern" texts. If PoMo Heads and poets worried about audience testing, the world would be a very peculiar place.

Be that as it may, as much as postmodernism proclaims the death of high literature, postmodern texts certainly enjoy the privileges and shelf space of high literature, while New Media forms have to make an additional effort to woo users, entice them, grab them by the wrists with urgency, with striking, compelling work.

If hyperfiction authors continue to adopt the postmodern stance of dead authors and responsive readers, yet create texts so dense as to create a prohibitive barrier against ANY reader response, the medium itself could simple lose momentum and become an anachronism, a curiosity of the late '90's technological enthusiasm. Some may argue that this has already happened.

And it is why I am inclined to make a case for limited linearity.

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