Hypertextual Metaphors of Space

Karin Wenz, Assistant Professor of English, University of Kassel

The different information which a hypertext opens when the user is clicking an icon and opens a new window characterizes the reader as appositioned outside, as an observer who has to open the windows of a complex building with rooms with different spatial arrangements and borderlines. Where is the reader's position in hypertext? Is it merely outside? This seems to be a strange metaphor which compares the reader to a voyeur.

The metaphorical and structural topology of hypertext can be compared with a metropolis. The reader is situated within this metropolis consisting of an immense number of buildings with much more windows to look through. All elements in a city are related and interconnected.The city can be read as a text with indicators such as center-periphery, hierarchical order, or city signs. Streams of "users" are not only part of its structure, but constitute its basic feature:dynamics and change within a stable network. Hyperspace cannot be merely unstable. There must be some mechanism which creates significant structures and reduces complexity in favor of the development of symbolic systems. The question should not be in how far hyperspace excels three-dimensional "real" space, but in how far the limits of space will return to hyperspace through its users.

see also hybridization