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Moulthrop, "You Say You Want a Revolution?" (abstract)

Moulthrop uses four questions posed by Marshall McLuhan in "Laws of Media" to explore the potential and limits of hypertext as an agent of change as embodied in Ted Nelson's Xanadu(TM) project, which Moulthrop describes as "a central repository and distribution network for all writing . . . publishing how, communications medium, and great hypertextual Library of Babylon." Moulthrop posits that hypertext will enhance and intensify the reader's awareness of situatedness within a "fabric of power arrangements" in which she simultaneously exerts control and reaches the limits of her control. While many believe that hypertext will bring the death of the book, Moulthrop asserts that it will entail a recovery of print literacy, when authors "create linear control structures that enable an escape from linear control." Though print literacy will be recovered it will take a different shape, based on an increased awareness of the look of the document, beyond the content. The Xanadu system that Ted Nelson envisions is ultimately consensual, mutually created and negotiated; taken to an extreme though, users may advocate for a future "the same as it ever was," reinscribing existing power structures. Moulthrop questions whether a true revolution would be possible within this medium. (Kristin Bolton.)
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Michael Hancher

Department of English, University of Minnesota

URL: http://umn.edu/home/mh/ebibkb2.html

Comments to: mh@umn.edu

Created 5 May 1995

Last revised 17 September 1996