Gothenburg N.B.
Ralo Mayer and Philipp Haupt


Gothenburg N.B.
Ralo Mayer and Philipp Haupt
The power & politics of information visualization.

Black Culture — White Nature
Rose Reitsamer
The musical traditions of white masculinity.

Allegories of Angelic Bodies
Mojca Puncer
Mind, body, cyborgs and angels in the land of new media technologies.

Dating, Relating and Performing inside the Internet
Helen Varley Jamieson


Nostalgic Technology: Notes for an Off-modern Manifesto
Svetlana Boym
The aura of the error - the art of broken technology.

Dialoguing man and machine: Palindrome IMPG
pETER Purg
Bodies & space in a playground of people, words & numbers..

edit this banner
Lina Kovačević
Do-it-yourself online advertising.


Hypertextual coauthor in the age of neo-liberal consumerism

Hypertext is a phenomenon (and theoreticians who are familiar with the theory of hypertext agree on this point) which is significant not only for the future of the book (text), but which is also important to understand as a wider social and cultural phenomenon of “information excess” in the time of “the late age of print” (Jay D. Bolter, Writing Space). One of the main questions related to this phenomenon is whether hypertext is only one step forward in the development of western technocracy, or if it really offers concrete possibilities for pluralism of the text? In addition, is hypertext a true symbolic opportunity for “democratization” of the cultural and social context?

I approach these questions broadly, by focusing on different academic domains such as: theory of textuality, media-communication, literary history, philosophy and sociology. At first, it seems as if this way of research might lead to either eclecticism, or epistemological heterogeneity. However, here I argue that these possible accusations are misleading because of the constitutional characteristics of hypertext, which is a heterogeneous structure in itself (the structure of very different links, nodes, paths, and anchors on the one hand, and text, video, graphic, and audio units on the other).

At the same time, hypertext is a large social and cultural phenomenon that extends beyond the boundaries of text, textuality, and digital media systems. If we consider our everyday practices, it becomes obvious that we are already symbolically located in the domain of hypertext. For example, our everyday praxis is often hypertextual, and it brings us “salvation” from the heterogeneous and chaotic “hyper information age.” In addition, the associative principles of the human mind, which are some of the basic assumptions of rational, intellectual, or cognitive activities, are hypertextual. Also, hypertexts’ symbolism is visible in the context of human communication because when we engage in a dialogue, we rarely interpret the actual meaning as constructed in the mind of the person who utters the statement, but we create new meanings based on our own associations, “verbal footnotes,” or parallel discourses available to us. In short, hypertext and hypertextuality are appearances of “postmodernism,” and they are becoming included in classical theories about text, textuality, and the new media. Thus, interdisciplinary methodologies are the most appropriate epistemic tools for this kind of scholarly research.

In the following text I intend to research the concept of the “coauthor” or “writereader” (or “wreader” by George P. Landow) in hypertext. This concept is positioned in the theory of hypertext as a construct derived from the synthesis of two parts: the author (creator of text) on one side, and the reader (its consumer) on the other. One of the most important questions in the theory of hypertext is the position of the author in the space of the classical book (author, subject — reader, object); the other is the question of the location of the writereader, or of the coauthor as an active component of hypertext. The concept of “hypertextual writereader” is an example of the creation of virtual identities in new media systems. Virtual identities are created through the dynamic interaction between users and contemporary digital media technology. In agreement to this approach, users of hypertext have the possibility to establish direct contact with the electronic text in a nonlinear manner; s/he has a choice of different links, anchors, nodes, or paths, and possibilities to cut-out or to add to parts of the texts. S/he shares feelings of unique narrative structure, which is a result of the users’ method. According to this thesis, hypertextual links, nodes and paths connect the reader with other texts, graphics, audio and video materials. They construct decentralized schematic structures and make possible the transfer of a part of the author functions to the reader. For that reason, the reader of hypertext is an active user. S/he is in an interactive relation with hypertext, and s/he becomes a hypertextual coauthor or writreader.

In this text, I critically examine these kinds of questions that show that the old problem of the dichotomy between the writer/author and the reader does not dissolve in the space of hypertextuality or with the introduction of the idea of hypertextual writereader. My approach to the problem of coauthor in hypertext is much broader than the question about the “destiny” and the future of the contemporary reader in his/her contact with electronic text. Namely, I argue that the construct of the hypertextual writereader is one of numerous epistemic efforts typical of the last century that focuses on the question: how to resolve the elementary epistemic dichotomy, the relationship between the subject and the object?

The problem of the epistemological antagonism between the subject and the object is thus very old. It is possible to trace its history from ancient philosophy onwards (ancient dichotomy physis/thesis, i.e. the negative dialectics by Heraclitus), through the contemporary science topics of the seventeenth century (so-called Cartesian turn and Descartes thought), followed by Hegel’s dialectic, to the linguistic structural dichotomy introduced by Saussure, and the classical opposition of nature-culture in L≥vi-Strauss’ thesis. We can add psychoanalytic theory to this path of research and Lacan’s concept of the big Other. At the same time, there are multiple efforts directed toward finding the solution to this scientific problem, such as the theory of deconstruction by Derrida. Derrida criticizes the dialectic model itself, pointing that it is the logocentralistic simplification of thinking, so characteristic for  “western thought.” Some other criticisms of the antagonistic dualism that focus on social context are apparent in the theories of Heidegger, Adorno and Horkheimer. Interesting in this context are also works by semiotic theoreticians, such as “late” Barthes (Le Plaisir du texte, and Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes). In his works, Barthes rejects the differentiation of denotation-connotation, which was very typical for his early texts (Mythologies, 1957). Also, Judith Butler, under the strong influences of Foucault and Lacan, defines identity as a social and ideological construct, and not as a biologically determined category. Her analysis has for its final aim the deconstruction of the dichotomy of the sexes.

If we contextualize the coauthor in hypertext in the domain of new media, art, and society today, then we can theorize about the contemporary author’s intellectual rights and copyrights. The idea of the end (death) of the genius artist, of the individual who is endowed with God’s initiation and who chooses to give humanity an artifact of invaluable value, took the forefront in the period of “postmodernity.” This postmodern concept offers a new kind of artistic identity: an artist who is aware of the collage and dispersion of contemporary society, a society that is divided into numerous particles. The concept of the nineteenth century’s remarkable artifact, which has a holy essence and aureole, has thus been replaced with the idea that any object can potentially become an artifact if placed in a certain context (La rone de bicyclette by Marcel Duchamp from 1913, being this transitional moment). In agreement to this, the Author with a capital “A” loses his/her sacred meaning and becomes one among a multitude of equals.

The development of digital media technologies, and well-organized information foundations, as well as the building of computer archives in the last fifteen or twenty years make different creative new arts possible. This period is signified by the

'93user paradigm.” This is the epoch of citations, recycled references, copies that become originals for new copies (the old thesis by Walter Benjamin). In this sense, the postmodern author/artist is not somebody who waits for the moment of great inspiration, but somebody who uses materials which already exist and recombines them into new forms. Thus, the artist/author and the receptor/consumer of the artifact get closer to one another, they cross old divides, and they mutually transform each other’s identities. Consequently, with the idea of the hypertextual coauthor or writereader, the theory of hypertext joins current postmodern thoughts. Namely, hypertextual theory, like any other postmodern theoretical model, respects the continuity of the postmodern story-tale based on the aforementioned disappearance of great authorities. Hypertextual theory contributes to the glorification of the user (reader) praxis and his/her interactive relationship with the text. In the meantime, this postmodern idea has been disputed with the argument that the author’s authority suggests its potential existence and the author is far from dead. Because of this, the theory of hypertext offers a new myth — the writereader, which is the synthesis of the collaboration of coauthors, a kind of collage made of cooperative individuals of equal levels engaged in the creative process of togetherness.

Also, the concept of the hypertextual coauthor is a product of wider social tendencies characteristic of the new type of contemporary individual. It is an example of the postmodern concept of non-normative identity, which is pluralistic, fluid, and changeable. Non-normative identity is the idea of the self-confident, (inter)active subject who obediently believes in his/her potentials and possibility to create his/her own identity. Through this concept, personal identity becomes a feature of our self-creation. The maxim of this ideology is the phrase: “take your destiny into your own hands.”

Let us then take another approach which offers a better way to analyze the hypertextual coauthor. Is not the survival of the basic, historically determinate dialectic and its antagonistic reality a sign of the potential of opposites and, through that, of the potential for the creation of qualitative pluralism? It is not the understanding of the negative dialectic (which is constant in the history of western civilization) signified by the binary model, but the dialectical principle of a dynamic relationship between the multitude of particularities and differences that offer potentials for the flexibility of the whole social structure. This last point relates to the parallel, “back side” option, offered in the framework of the neo-liberal matrix, and its aspiration to the totality of the One — the global economic market under the rules of the Capital “monster.”

The ambition of this neo-liberal doctrine, of its postindustrial and multinational capitalism, is to overcome oppositional struggles and powers, and in such a way also to improve the capacity of this system to adjust and absorb any attempts at change of the dominant neo-liberal model. This means the destruction of the potentials for the qualitative change within the political, economic, and social structure of neo-liberalism. Marx coined the term for this kind of tendency in capitalism as “formal subsumption.” By this term he points at the capability of the capitalistic system to include in its production work practices which do not directly rise from its domain. Here we witness the institutionalization of oppositional margins and the positions of resistance and change, as well as the endangering of the dialectical mind or “the critical consciousness which breaks open a closed universe of discourse” (Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man). Also, Gramsci’s concepts of hegemony and counter-hegemony brilliantly capture this tendency of the hegemonic order to absorb counter-hegemony in its very structure (i.e. there is no hegemony without counter-hegemony).

Commercialization brings the homogenization and flattering of differences and assimilation of the heterogeneous multitudes into a uniform model. With the incorporation of any changing potential in the total Reality of the One and the one-dimensional society or its contemporary version of Empire, the subversive power which could protect contradiction disappears. Methodology for the realization of that model is wide and obvious: acceleration of the rhythm of creation, production, and new consumer fashions, marketing mechanisms that differentiate consumer types, recognition and definition of their specificities and characteristics, development of the strategy for the market sale, etc. All this becomes possible with the growth of the standard of living in the population of the “First World,” with the development of the consumer culture, or massive pop-consumerism. 

If the typical model of the factory and industrial production has been fordism and its assembly line, then the main symbol of the actual postindustrial or postfordian production is the net, with its principle of circular production which is oriented toward the production of informational, linguistic, and communicational, that is, non-material services. That kind of “netlike” decentralized and deterritorialized production matrix of postmodern capitalism has its own symbolic equivalent in the structural, organizational, and functional type of the worlds’ global media — the Internet, or the hypertext (see also Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Empire).

What is the place of “our” hypertextual coauthor — writereader in this contemporary, global metastructure briefly described above? Maybe it is the model of the universal One, of the one who is “hidden behind the screen” and who, through an “innocent” click of the computers’ mouse, emphasizes the myth of great technological interaction? Is it an ideal consumer who loses any critical distance and perception of his/her own user praxis in the confusing virtual space of high-developed computer technology? The idea about the totality of the One is a classical example of totalitarian ideology. It is a monistic ideology, which is contrary to the dichotomy, its oppositional potentials, and the possibilities born in the domain of pluralism.

With the awareness of the possibilities and potentials for the liberation from the totalitarian ideological matrix, the matrix, which hides the absolutism of one hypermonad behind the scenes of endless choices, allows the author and the reader to develop a productive dialog through the active exchange between them. At this point, the concept of the hypertextual coauthor will move to the place where it belongs — to the archives of postmodern mythology and postmodernism as the cultural logic of late capitalism (Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism).


Black Culture — White Nature
Rose Reitsamer


Allegories of Angelic Bodies
Mojca Puncer

Black Culture - White Nature
Rose Reitsamer

Radical machines against the techno-empire. From utopia to network
Matteo Pasquinelli

Post-modal Repro-duction of Power
Šefik Šeki Tatlić

Gothenburg N.B.
Ralo Mayer and Philipp Haupt

Hyper-textual coauthor in the age of neo-liberal consumerism
Hajrudin Hromadžić

Hypertext-(ual) conscious-ness. Literature (?) on new media
Katarina Peović Vuković