7. FROM CYBERTEXT TO CYBERTEXT AND BACK AGAIN
So far we have only updated Genette and his heuristic work on relations between print works, but as I said this is far from enough. We should finally draw at least some provisional consequences from our adventures in networked and programmable media even if they may run counter to the most elementary presuppositions of literary tradition. Any notion of digital transtextuality has to take into account at least three basic things or changes. Firstly, the relations between digital cybertexts can include programmable impacts, affects and dependencies. Secondly, since readers and users are not necessarily separated and safe from each other any more, also the networked textual consumption can be programmed to have its own set of consequences. In practice, this means for example that users may have an effect on what there is or will be for other users to use, and how. So in addition to user functions there are user positions taking into account this explicit intersubjective relation. Thirdly, the relation of the tet to itself has once again changed as the text may now consist of several more or less autonomous phases imitating and transforming each other.
So there are at least three dimensions to sort out: the transtextonic flow from text to text, the impact of users to each other, and the spatial and temporal distribution and sequencing of signs. Actually, these dimensions correspond to the three sides of the cybertextual machine: the medium, the operator, and the strings of signs. Consequently, there are nine types of relations between any two cybertextual machines, and much work to do in addition to the traditional comparing of strings of signs to each other or to abstract models behind them. We should perhaps add yet another category of relations, the one between textual wholes potentially capable of annihilating and incorporating other textual wholes, or arresting and releasing them, in short making other texts appear, disappear, and reappear. If we think the difference between temporary or configurative and permanent or textonic influence will be pertinent here, then we'll have a typology of no less than twenty brand new transcybertextual relations. For obvious durational reasons, I'll conclude by giving three sets of examples.
First the transtextonic flow between two or several texts. Obviously, these texts have to be textonically dynamic. This position can be reached by three means: the source of the new textons to be fed in is either the user, the text itself through the hologographic processes feeding parts of text back to it, or the other texts. Any MUD will exemplify the first possibility, John Cayley's Book Unbound the second, and his plan to use Reuters's newsfeed as a source for Speaking Clock the third. The latter case is especially important as it shows that textonic dynamics can be combined to the interpretative user function. We can call such cybertexts monologic in contrast to dialogic ones that combine textonic dynamics to the textonic user function. It seems both futile and impossible to try to draw a comprehensive typology of possible practices. Texts may for example exchange, share, steal, copy, force feed, abandon or exterminate parts of texts. Generally speaking, these flows or programmable relations can be one-, two-, or multidirectional, continuous or discontinuous, and explicit or concealed and their impact either temporary or permanent, and reversible or irreversible. Still, in a preliminary way, I suggest we'd separate between independent, dependent, dominant and co-dependent works of art. A simpleminded example of another kind of flow or serial connection: two texts taking turns, when the one is static the other is dynamic and vice versa, and the rhythm of these alterations dependent on the number of simultaneous users.
Then the networks of users. The individual or collective use of text A can affect the simultaneous and the successive uses of texts A and B as well as the real-time and future functioning of texts A and B making changes for example in their media positions or only strings of signs. Users can also configure text A to such a position that it begins leak to text B, that is, it starts to lose its textons and diminish, and may even vanish completely. Similarly, users may affect the user functions available for future users, and the actual use of one text may well dictate the possible use of another. Needless to say there's a wide variety of mutually non-exclusive relations. It's important to keep in mind that the distribution of user positions and user functions doesn't have to be equal. And to complicate things a bit more there are other fundamental differences like the one between cumulative, competitive and co-operative uses or efforts.
And finally, the text's relations to itself, and the distribution of its signs in time and space. Unlike hypertexts, cybertexts can sequence themselves not only spatially but temporally too. This leads us at last to two very important things: the distribution of negotiable and nonnegotiable presentation orders, that is the combination of transient and intransient times, and the given, chosen and caused durational differences between textual elements, objects as well as operations. Almost any careful or even routine study of these two, five or twelve dimensions would be capable of dismantling also those parts of poetics, (old and new), that we barely touched on during this presentation.
I'm so glad we don't have the time to do that now.
1. INTRODUCTION: TRANSTEXTUALITY MEETS CYBERTEXTUALITY
2. ARCHITEXTUALITY AND METAMEDIA
3. TO COMMENT OR TO COMMAND: METATEXTUALITY AND THE PROGRAMMABLE PERFORMATIVE POWER(S)
4. PARATEXTS: TO SERVE AND TO PROTECT
5. INTERTEXTUALITY AND THE METAPHYSICS OF LINKS
6. HYPERTEXTUALITY AND THE TRULY TRANSTEXTUAL MACHINES