Hypertext as a Rhizome

Hypertext as a Rhizome
Hypertext is an innovative writing form that has been applied to many different facets of the internet. It provides flexibility for both authors and readers because of the way ideas are linked to one another. One of the most experimental forms is the hypertext novel. Until recently, readers were limited to only linear text. The introduction of hypertext allows for non-linear forms of text, which allow readers to move from one point in the text to another simply by clicking a link. One of the main features of hypertext is this interconnectivity. The way in which the parts of text are linked is best described as a rhizome.
The first step in comparing hypertext to a rhizome system is to understand just what a rhizome is. The philosopher Gilles Deleuze came up with the idea and Janet Murray applied to hypertext. A rhizome is a tuber root system in which any point may be connected to another point. ?Deleuze used the rhizome root system as a model of connectivity in systems of ideas? (Murray 132). One simplified example of this is the prewriting technique of making a web. There is one central idea and then several thoughts that branch out from it. These thoughts can be connected to each other so that the writer can move easily between them when creating a piece of writing. The rhizome system has also been applied to the notion of an allusive text system that is not linear like a book, but boundaryless without closure. Hypertext is one example of this phenomenon. In following with the web analogy, there is one main idea of the story and then many other branches that are embedded in the text. The reader does not necessarily have to move on to the next one on the list, but can choose from any of the available options. There is an opportunity later to come back to any ideas that the reader may have missed or skipped over. This format makes the text circular instead of linear. There is no start or finish, just a never-ending loop of information that changes order depending on the reader

This rhizome feature of hypertext makes it interesting and creative for readers. They can choose which direction they want to take and essentially create a new story every time they explore the text. It makes reading a more interactive experience. ?The postmodern hypertext tradition celebrates the indeterminate text as a liberation from the tyranny of the author and an affirmation of the reader?s freedom of interpretation? (Murray 133). The connected links allow readers to decide which path to take and gives them a variety of choices when navigating the text. ?The reader enters one of these strands and may then continue in a linear fashion. But the reader can also branch willingly or inadvertently into another strand? (Bolter 133). The strands are connected in such a way that no matter what the reader clicks on, the story will still make sense. This feature makes hypertext a more complex form than linear text.

While there are many positive aspects of this interconnectivity, there are also a few negative aspects as well. Hypertext fiction can become confusing because the story does not follow a linear pattern. Mostly the problem lies in the fact that people are accustomed to reading books and have not yet adapted to online reading. There is no way for readers to mark what they have already read and find their way back to the starting point. Once readers begin to click on links they leave behind what they previously read and find it difficult to return to finish the page. They sometimes get lost in the maze of links that connect the pages. The text will not resolve because there are endless links and choices the reader can make. Murray makes a analogy with a never-ending game created by a child, ?as we navigate its tangled, anxiety-laden paths, enclosed within its shape-fitting borders, we are both the exasperated parent longing for closure and separation and the enthralled child, lingering forever in an unfolding process that is deeply comforting because it can never end? (Murray 134). While some may find this stimulating and enjoyable, many people still find it unfamiliar and confusing.

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