Derrida’s statement comes as a form of discussion about something that Jan Jacques Rousseau before had pointed out in his work. Rousseau was investigating the question of the language origin. He compared language to the lens with a small distortion through which we see the world, a certain obstacle on the way of observation. Derrida developed the idea of Rousseau because we, being verbal creatures, look at everything from the lens of language, any piece of information we receive empirically must be interpreted in our minds, as well as any text we read, meaning that there is nothing outside the language.
‘Between being and mind, things and feelings, there would be a relationship of translation or natural signification; between mind and logos, a relationship of conventional symbolization.’ He implied that our way of engaging with the world is essentially textual, marked, as all language is, with ambiguity.
Today, hypertext is a way to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will. It provides a single user-interface to large classes of information (reports, notes, data-bases, computer documentation and on-line help). Where a database management system is a collection of programs that enables one to store, modify, and extract information from a database. One of the great examples of a computational hypertext is a work by Olia Lialina ‘My Boyfriend Came Back From War’ made in 1996. It has become the first engaging hyper text net art narrative in which the story unfolds by clicking on images and texts in various sized windows within the frame. Lialina uses a frame-hypertext narrative strategy resulting in possibilities to play with semantically occupied fields, provoking readers to follow the prearranged narrative direction.
Both, literally theorists and computer theorists, while talking about hypertext, in essence address the same abandonment of ideas of hierarchy, center or margins. The French poststructuralist Roland Barthes describes the ideal text, as something that precisely matches something that has come to be called computer hypertext – ‘text, composed of blocks of words (or images) linked electronically by multiple paths, chains, or trails in an opened, perpetually unfinished textuality, described by the terms link, node, web etc’, where ‘the networks (reseaux) are many and interact, without any one of them being able to surpass the rest; this text is a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signefields; it has no beginning, it is reversible, we gain access by several entrances, none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one; the code it mobilizes extends as far as the eye can reach.’
Another interesting argument was given by Jean-François Lyotard. Though, the argument has to do with the problem of fragmentation and delegitimation of knowledge, it is applicable towards the unity of computational and critical theories. In traditional societies, legitimation of cultural, social, political and technological spheres was bestowed by what Lyotard calls ‘grand narrative’ and the power structures built around those grand narratives such as The Holy Bible for the Christian world, Mahabharata and Ramayana for the Hindu world, and Torah for the Jewish world etc. The knowledge inside those books was a manual guide of morality. During the last two centuries, science has become a discourse in itself and has made an attempt to take the sacred position once held by the respective grand narratives of various societies. As a concequence, according to Lyotard, we now have two definite domains of knowledge. One is scientific or technical knowledge and the other is narrative knowledge. Where ‘narrative knowledge’ is understood as the kind of knowledge prevalent in ‘traditional’ societies, and is based on storytelling, sometimes in the form of ritual, music and dance. Arts, as we call it. Yet, as Masaki Yada, a Japanese visual artist, has astutely noted out in her essay, the disadvantage of scientific/technical knowledge does not represent the totality of human knowledge and thus cannot offer total legitimacy to the way we live and the way we understand our world. So instead of becoming trees in themselves, scientific knowledge and narrative knowledge could form rhizomes with the world and grow together.
Hypertextuality in literature was introduced quite early and is a characteristic feature of the written text, that doesn’t have linear narrative, which is used to create the effect of a game, one of the main features of the postmodernistic literature: the reader forms a storyline himself, broadening the possibilities of reading. It is often called a hypertext fiction or erodic literature. Among the most famous examples of such a structure are: ‘Dictionary of the Khazars’ by Milorad Pavic, which takes the form of three parallel encyclopedias dealing with the same historical events, ‘Hopscotch’ with its multiple paths of reading by Julio Cortázar, ‘Book of Imaginary Beings’ an encyclopedia, where the imaginary creatures of imaginary world are described, ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ by Jorge Luis Borges–a short story, where the plot itself describes the idea of infinite texts, ‘Finnegans Wake’ by James Joyce, where the author has abandoned the narrative conventions and the plot creates the ouroboros structure, consists of multiple allusions and neologisms, making almost unlimited space for the interpretation. Also ‘Pale Fire’ by Vladimir Nabokov ‘can be read either unicursally, straight through, or multicursally, jumping between the comments and the poem’ as it was noted out by Espen Aarseth. Thus although the narration is non-linear and multidimensional, the reader can still choose to read the novel in a linear manner without risking misinterpretation. Another example is a ‘House of Leaves’ by Mark Z. Danielewski with its unconventional layout. It contains copious footnotes, many of which contain footnotes themselves, including references to fictional books, films or articles. Some pages contain only a few words or lines of text, arranged in strange ways to mirror the events in the story, often creating both an agoraphobic and a claustrophobic effect. The novel is also distinctive for its multiple narrators, who interact with each other in elaborate and disorienting ways.The amount of material, its various forms, and the ability of the reader to choose what links within links to pursue, creates the possibility of ever new connections being developed through abrupt juxtapositions.
All of these books drive the reader into a wandering, multi-pathed perusal of the text, typically confusing readers, who try to read them as continuous linear texts. They all use typographical devices to direct the reader here and there, leaving the physical format of the book just as it has existed for centuries. Readers now make their own books out of the materials the author has prepared, becoming in a real sense co-authors of the work.
Consequently, hypertext is a form of organization of a material the components of which are presented not linear, but as a system of clearly marked possible transitions between those units, connections between them. And if follow these connections one may receive material in a any order, creating linear texts. The notion of hypertext is usually associated with ‘nonlinear, or, more properly as multilinear or multisequential’, the conception of ‘textual openness, intertextuality, and the irrelevance of distinctions between inside and outside a particular text’, and the cultivation of multivocality, in that ‘hypertext does not permit a tyrannical, univocal voice’.
After all earlier mentioned examples, one may notice, that taking its beginning in analogue world in a form of a codex, a hypertext reached out far from the margins of one media format. Hypertext became a multimedia phenomena and is dominating not only over the modern ways of information perception, but also its interpretation. With the development of the Internet, the revival of a text-based culture took place. The image is present but secondary in the interactions with the computer screen. Any visual information becomes a code, which is textual in its essence. Everything we put online becomes a part of a hypertext. Through Google, for example, we enter the world of hypertext directly. There’s a choice to ‘search by image’, but it is also secondary. Nowadays, indeed, Derida’s statement ‘there’s nothing outside the text’ obtains a new meaning. It changes our analogue world as well. Art can be considered as a hypertext as well. An art world, to give a technical definition, consists of the network of cooperative activity involving all the people who contribute to the work of art coming off as it finally does, using the conventional understandings they share.
Moreover, the borders between the artistic disciplines has disappeared as well. Painters make sculptures (as Franc Stella with his paintings-sculptures), artists – make music and videos (Ed Atkins and his installations), architects paint (Eric Staller and his light graffiti), designers who make interactive installations (as Dutch Studio Lust) etc. Therefore, the works like Voynich Manuscript, ‘Codex Serafiniauris’ by Luigi Seraphini, works by Neo Rauch and Jim Sanborn are interesting to examine as the examples of the analogue hypertext form from the point of view of modern metagenre.