>The first, and by far the most important, criterion that must be met in order to create a better theory of hypertext is that the theory must be founded on a reality of participation rather than on disembodied theorizing. In reading and writing hypertext, this participation should lead to an opportunity for all participants to express themselves without need for pretense. That is, it should help everyone who uses it to speak for themselves, and thereby constitute their own subject position. In what follows, I will turn to some examples of recent hypertext work that, in one way or another, contributes to this aim. Although my general point is not new, previous work has not fully addressed concrete examples of current and possible political uses of hypertext, especially in the publishing arena and on the World Wide Web [Moulthrop; see also Nelson, Computer Lib]
Second, the theory should attack prevalent myths of genre by dismantling distinctions between fiction and non-fiction, fact and un-reality, truth and illusion as received categories themselves susceptible to criticism and redefinition. Although this criterion flies in the face of traditional norms and expectations for scholarship, it actually extends work begun decades ago, when scholars in one field after another began to question distinctions between fact and value [Hovick] . This questioning has changed not only the subjects and categories of inquiry, but also the way people approach and interpret all kinds of documents, fiction and non-fiction alike; textual and discourse analysis, contextual sensitivity, and a deep commitment to historicism now inform even disciplines such as history and the history of science, both traditional strongholds of the objectivist program.
Language and interpretation are focal points in this shift. Where the idea and ideal of " objectivity" once comprised a traditional raison d'être, now practitioners are rethinking the aims and practices of historical methodology in order to better account for actors with unique and contextually-embedded paradigms for " reading the world" [Danto, xi-xii; quoted in Novick, 526]. Because hypertext makes concrete the theories that motivate this new historical work, theories of hypertext can extend the current critique of traditional objectivism by providing a sphere of action, a laboratory in which historians and others can apply the theories with which they experiment. For example, historian of technology Paul Edwards recently used hypertext as a vehicle for discussing methodological issues in the history of science and technology; though Edwards does not engage with current models of rhetoric and argumentation in recent hypertext work (such as David Kolb's Socrates in the Labyrinth), and is therefore perhaps unjustly critical of the potential application of hypertext to non-fiction and especially history, this first step is promising [Edwards].
Edwards' reticence is instructive, and points toward my next desideratum; if hypertext cannot satisfy the demands of readers and writers who prefer linear narrative, either hypertext designers must invent a system capable of reproducing this style or hypertext theorists must convince these readers and writers that non-linearity is useful for argument. Socrates in the Labyrinth, David Kolb's exploration of the possibilities of hypertext for non-linear philosophical expression, points the way toward a poetics of hypertext " non-fiction" that includes non-linear forms of expression as rhetorically useful in creating meaning in contexts that demand more fidelity to traditional print criteria for argumentative validity. By eschewing long, scrolling screens and by implementing a sophisticated structure of links and nested nodes that leads the reader through arguments and digressions without appearing intrusive, Socrates subverts the comforting local coherence of the print document without sacrificing meaning.
A politics of hypertext should also support and explore the sorts of communal authorship that hypertext makes possible, in order to help overturn the dominant mythologies of the solitary (presumably male) genius as the sole origin of work of literary and artistic merit. (" Death of the author" sloganeering does not count, except ironically; celebrating the death of the author still underwrites an ideology in which the author still occupies a position of centrality.) In Forward Anywhere, for example, Judy Malloy and Cathy Marshall have used hypertext and electronic mail to develop a hybrid correspondence that is part fiction, part autobiography, and part poetry that could not exist without electronic forms of writing and communication, forms which themselves have given rise to a new form of communal authorship, the outlines of which have yet to be articulated.  Other work, such as the Center for Ethics in Science and Engineering , a web site under construction at MIT under the direction of Caroline Whitbeck and David Gordon Wilson, takes collaborative authoring in a different direction; by bringing different sources and voices together, this project allows the reader to juxtapose a variety of ethics codes, interviews, and demographic data in order to draw conclusions about ethical issues in the sciences.
Finally, theorists would support hypertext's recombinant potential by encouraging hypertext writers to use all sorts of materials, including those currently under copyright, or otherwise unavailable (except to those who can afford the often extravagant sums needed to purchase ostensibly un-reproducible material). This calls for a certain civil disobedience -- call it creative appropriation -- but it must be remembered that although some can afford to buy out those from whom they draw inspiration, many more artists, scholars, and publishers cannot. That is why several lines from T. S. Eliot's " The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" appear on Microsoft's Encarta, (1994) but no lines of Eliot's The Wasteland appear in Christiane Paul's scholarly study, Unreal City, where they would be central to the work. By supporting the recombinant potential of hypertext, theorists and practitioners can take an active stand against the Realpolitik of the publishing industry, in which the official sanctity of the author-function, traditionally protected by copyright laws, can be bought with the appropriate sums of money.[Samuelson and Nelson, Literary Machines].
As this partial list demonstrates, much work remains to be done both in the theory and practice of hypertext, and especially in creating a theory of hypertext with consequences for its implementation. If the list evokes even more desiderata, so much the better; the hypertext show isn't over by any means; if hypertext teaches us anything, it must be the impossibility, after all, of having the last word. Lurking within the spiraling networks of hypertext readers and writers are subversive convergences as yet unwritten, convergences that will current notions of what hypertext is really (or essentially) about. Subversive enough, perhaps, to jettison this category of " essence" altogether, in favor of a pluralism that leaves room for a radical poetics of hypertext that is also political -- that is, based on participation rather than triumphalist rhetoric or abstract theorizing. As George Landow suggests in his introductory essay for Hyper/Text/Theory, nascent convergences of hypertext with various feminist perspectives on technology, writing, and the body have yet to appear in either feminist scholarship or hypertext theory. The convergences, he notes, are mentioned " either only in passing or not at all" . Is this evidence of some subtle silencing? Or does it testify to the nature of these convergences as an open field for inquiry, scholarship, reading and writing? This moment is pivotal for women, writing, and hypertext; all three could go anywhere from here.
- Hypertext with Consequences: Recovering a Politics of Hypertext [Introduction]
- Why Is Literary Theory Important for Hypertext?
- Hypertext Has Always Been Political and about Bodies
- Cyborgs among Us: Bodies and Hypertext
- Female Writing?