Our paper for the workshop consists of a
description of a hypertext project we're working on as well
as a few general points that we're interested in discussing.
The word chamber, as we've called the project, is only just
beginning to take shape now, although we hope to have made
some progress by the time we'll meet in Darmstadt. We know
we'll get lots of inspiration and ideas on how to approach
this at the workshop!
The intention of the project is to (begin to) express and
understand how contact between people is changed by
communicating by email and on moos and other virtual places
rather than in "real life." We plan to approach this topic
from different angles, tying together fragments of writing
about our own experiences and short excerpts from fiction
and theory about communication between individuals.
When the reader enters the word chamber, her screen will
fill with words that describe emotions and experiences that
we encounter when communicating with others in cyberspace.
The words are interconnected by lines or perhaps just
positioning, but they shift and pulsate according to how the
reader moves her mouse among them. Clicking upon different
words calls forth longer fragments and thoughts (and
fragmented thoughts?) about virtual contact between people.
Some of the words in the word chamber will be "distance,
writing, words, intimacy, love, hope, never, friends,
One thing we need to think about is how (whether) the
nodes "beneath" the initial floating words will be connected
to each other. Perhaps words could float throughout the
text? Perhaps instead of individual words being links, we
could allow certain words to be "pullable," so that the
reader can pull words around within each node to create new
links? Shall each node or fragment be shown on the same
screen as the initial words?
We're interested in how hypertext is spreading into more
forms than the "traditional" model where nodes and links are
more or less static, and also in how graphical presentation
affects the reading of a text. If words in the word chamber
are constantly in flux, in motion, does this actually change
the experience of reading? Or might they just as well be
printed in a book?
In her paper for this workshop, Deena Larsen asks
"Is it important to try to convey meaning in elements other
than text? What does this add to a hypertext that we can't
get elsewhere?" This is a crucial discussion. While Deena
primarily discusses the effect of links, and how they can
give meaning, we would like to enlarge the discussion to the
visual side of electronic texts as well.
If you write for the web, or for the screen at
all, you are forced to consider how you want your text to
look, not only which words you want to use. This not only
means we need to be aware of how we use graphics and layout,
but it often means we need to figure out more advanced
technical solutions. Does this need to spread our attention
to several fields (words, images, programming) limit us or
The fusion of the text and the visual, the technical and
the theoretical is an important issue to us &emdash; we want
to underline the major textual themes in our project by
employing visual effects that can add to the reader's
experience. In this attempt we expect to be faced with
concerns like how to create a project that does not limit
the user's own imagination by an overuse of effects &emdash;
how can we gently provoke her thoughts and ideas to float in
any direction she wishes?
There are also technical concerns like the
practical accessibility of the project online.
By using advanced techniques we might as an unwanted
consequence limit the audience of the word chamber;
possible problems that might arise here may be issues like:
- Different behavior in the html code by browsers such
as Netscape vs. Internet Explorer
- The use of plugins, heavy programming and weighty
graphics might ruin the viewer's concentration by a long
download and/or response time.
- Too many moving and floating objects on the screen
might be too distracting.
Who is the audience we want to reach? Shall the
project be easily accessible for everyone, or is there a
particular group we want to reach &emdash; and if so, is
this group willing to download the necessary plugins we
would like to use? These, and more, are questions we have to
consider when piecing The Word Chamber together.
This makes it is important for us to thoroughly
research our technical opportunities; In order to choose the
best combination of techniques from the available solutions,
we have to consider the needs of our targeted audience. At
this moment we are considering Macromedia's Director and
Flash (as possible programming tools), as well as advanced
to graphical applications such as Photoshop.
The fusion of the technical and theoretical aspect
in our project is an attempt to make The Word Chamber a
highly interactive chamber; the readers experience when
using The Word Chamber is aimed to be a creative one as well
as a reflecting one. The aim here is not so much to teach
the reader something specific as it is to engage in the act
of communication, where the user herself can determine how
to participate, and what to derive from it.
We're looking forward to seeing other people's
projects, and to discussing all these issues and more.