On hypertext

Richard Dawkins wrote that the three qualities that would give memes high survival rates were "longevity, fecundity, and copying-fidelity." While it remains to be seen whether hypertext lexias will have longevity, they certainly have fecundity and copying-fidelity.

When a lexia is published on, for example, the World Wide Web, literally thousands of people have the opportunity to read it. It is perfectly copied when it is distributed from its home page to their computer, wherever that may be. Presence has been completely removed from the equation--perfect copying-fidelity can be achieved regardless of physical location. This removal of presence completes the process begun when speech was transformed into text. This, I think, is what so worries Heim. One no longer needs a poet to recite, or even a book to read--one merely needs to know that a text exists to read a copy of it.

This ability to copy perfectly allows for amazing fecundity. If Alice writes a lexia that Bob finds worthwhile--or so poorly executed that he wants everyone to see it as an example of lack of skill--he can easily direct people reading his text to her lexia. Thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people a week can read a popular lexia. This is fecundity on a scale not seen since the introduction of television into mass culture.

Contextually, lexias can even mutate. The ability of more than one text to use a given lexia allows the same idea to be used over and over again in new and different ways. Thus, a lexia once introduced can thus survive a world changing around it--potentially roaming the hypertextual space forever...

inf(l)ection center Cyberspace Overview Critical Theorists

Inf(l)ections by Steve Cook