Hypertext as Subversive?

David Kolb, Bates College


Universities are said to be places of critical discussion and evaluation that train new cognitive explorers, make better maps, and also create new territories for exploration. We are all familiar with the internal walls that limit that creativity. These walls may may be implicit in the very ideal of a university. Could hypertext linking help resist and subvert those walls, and undo what is too often the university's one-way meta-position?

This essay is self-referential: it works around a debate about whether media like itself are inevitably linked to processes of homogenization and oppression. Parts of the essay deal with a polemic by Sanford Kwinter that was published in the architectural theory journal Assemblage. Kwinter talks in terms of society as a whole but relies on something very close to the standard ideal of a university. Other parts of this essay deal with hypertext, and with the influence of linking on the university.

The text experiments with different modes of criticism. One part discusses Kwinter's opinions in a traditional quotation and comment method. Another part plays with hypertext links to place Kwinter's opinions into a larger space of options. In addition, there is an experiment involving links to pages elsewhere on the web. The different parts (and the introductory materials) are indicated by different background colors.

There are also suggestions on how to read this essay, as well as some references.

Postscript 2005: This little essay was exported from Storyspace at a time before Tinderbox templates and CSS; for the moment I have this in its original HTML form.