Taro Ikai created Electronic Zen as a project during 1992 in my Brown University course on hypertext and critical theory. Members of the class did projects in both IRIS Intermedia and an early version of Eastgate Systems' Storyspace (1.3), which worked on computers whose monitors did not have grey-scale much less color. Electronic Zen appeared in Writing at the Edge, the anthology of experimental electronic work that Eastgate published in 1994. I have made this web version so readers can experience a pioneering multilinear text that fulfills much of what Gregory Ulmer call for a new mode of academic writing suited to an electronic age.

Even though Storyspace, which runs on standalone computers (now both Macintosh and Windows), lacks some of the glitz of html, including very little in the way of text formatting, it had — and continues to have — certain capacities that the web does not, or does not have without elaborate scripting that does not function on all, or even most, browsers. These features include

  • Hidden links that appear on demand (i.e. a text uncluttered by underlined colored fonts);
  • Branching links that provide the reader a choice of destinations; and
  • Multiple windows with easily positioned locations that permit authors to create a collage-like text.
  • Modifiable graphic presentation of the hypertext allowing it to combine both link-and-node and spatial hypertext.

Ikai employed all these features in his original version, and I have done my best to find adequate translations into html. I have substituted NASA images of the sky for Ikai's original bitmapped starry night.

— George P. Landow

To Ikai's 1992 Introduction