The Internet as hypertext or archive

Hypertext has been taken up by some as representative of a radical decentring of texts, authoring and documentation. George Landow was one of the advocates of this way of conceiving of literature: ‘We can define hypertext as the use of the computer to transcend the linear, bounded and fixed qualities of the traditional written text’ which was after all ‘linear, bounded and fixed’ (Landow, 1994 ; Landow, and Delany, 1994 p.3).

So a hypertextual document is cross-linked, interlinked, within itself and with other documents, so that readers can explore avenues of thought raised by the text, and even contribute comments and notes, which are in turn shared and hyperlinked. This is what the World Wide Web has become in the twenty first century, particularly as instantiated in services such as blogs and Wikipedia, though it is characterised less by links than by search.

Wikipedia is of necessity highly structured and instrumentalized, with tags, temporal markers, trace records, and other devices to facilitate navigation, search and to improve confidence in the authority of the encyclopaedia entries, a true archive. Contrary to the ideals of hypertext, readers do not seem to want free-formed, democratically disorganized text. Hypertextual linkages have been largely supplanted, at least in practice, by the ubiquitous operations of extremely rapid indexing and search, on a massively global scale, particularly through the Google search engine. Hypertext has become a massively indexed archive of whatever gets written on the Internet.

Jacques Derrida’s concepts of intertextuality have been invoked as a way of understanding the web, but the web has more in common with the notion of the archive than with intertextuality. Derrida’s concepts of the archive seem more relevant here: the simultaneous and contradictory impulse to both conserve and to destroy.


  1. Betilde says:

    Points to consider:- Reconfigure the incurtstor to change with the technology and the intermedium.- Effecient means of learning vocabulary because it allows to go beyond if they wish.- Hypertext is a valuable tool for distance education as it goes beyond the borders of a conventional classroom and allows students to collaborate ideas and information.- All assignments become part of website- evaluation becomes connectivity.- What is considered part of a a coannon is connected to notions of power.- Allows for individualization. Q: What role will the incurtstor play in the digital age? How do you see yourself?-

  2. Thanks Betilde. Does “incurtstor” translate to “insertion,” “overlay”? I use the web all the time to help me with word usage across languages.

  3. marcin pietruszewski (DCP) says:

    Archive or Encyclopedia? Navigating through the web has the feeling of wandering within somehow prestructurized space. It has this sense of simultaneity of freedom and constraint. Derrida’s concept of archive appears in “Topos of Music. Geometric Logic of Concepts, Theory, and Performance ” by Guerinno Mazzola as a notion of Encyclospace. “Encyclospace” refers to the concept of an Encyclopédie, as created by French encyclopedists Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alambert. The encyclopedic principles of the Age of Enlightenment can be viewed as a combination of the completeness of a dictionary, the unity of philosophical synopsis, and the discoursivity of a mathematically inspired ordered representation (the alphabetic ordering of words) .
    Mazzola described his project as an upgrading of this classical concept. The upgrading is characterized by three changes:
    (1) the static cosmos is replaced by a dynamically developing data organism in space-time;
    (2) the passive “speculum mundi”, i.e. the purely receptive view, is replaced by an interactive instrumental relation to the data organism;
    (3) the textually oriented alphabetic ordering is generalized to a universal navigational orientation.

    The situation within the web is more of the dialectical, oscillating in between freedom and constraint.

  4. For the songs to workout to composer or songwriter, the more the sound
    may be needed to entertain guests. Different kinds of music boxes that you can
    also market your music by just posting messages about anything related to the piano.

Leave a Reply