Two Hypertext Fictions: Nebeneinander and Nacheinander

Colin Moock

[ March 1995 when the web was still quite young, I wrote an academic research paper on two types of hypertext links. That theoretical paper lead to a practical hypertext fiction, which is presented in its original format below. Hypertext, in early 1995, was one of the most linguistically compelling developments on the internet. From a browser standpoint, too, hypertext was perhaps the central function of the World Wide Web (even the name "Web" itself referred directly to the international mesh of hypertext links between documents). Hence the research paper and the fiction.

Gray backgrounds, thin horizontal lines, blue links, and left justified text. Those were the specifications of the browsers for which the following fiction was originally created. True, Netscape had just released Navigator 1.2 with centring and tables, but I didn't want to exclude Mosaic and Lynx users from my audience...] -ed (June, 1997)

The following two fictions were written at the same time that I was writing "The Aphasia of Similarity Disorder on The Web: Jakobson's Linguistic Poles and Hyper-Text". They are intended in part to exemplify and in part to expand upon some of the theoretical concerns of that paper. "Nebeneinander" is the closest of the two to a metaphoric hyper-text document series, while "Nacheinander" is closest to a metonymic hyper-text document series. In the former series, each document may act as a substitute for any other document in the series. In the latter series, each document acts as a complement to all other documents in the series. By addressing a linguistic philosophy in human terms, each series implies the possibility of mapping language theory onto the human psyche and condition. In one sense, each human life can be considered in terms of the synchronic whole, where any person acts as a metaphor for any other, and all persons act as examples of the paradigm of humanity. In another sense each human life can be considered in terms of the diachronic individual, where different episodes of a single life combine metonymically to form a kind of whole, like the words of a sentence, or the sentences of an utterance. While each sense can offer an approach to the question of human existence, the individual is plagued in both cases by never knowing the whole (either the paradigm or the self), in the face of knowing some of the parts.

"while most particular facts about an individual will be true of others too, the full set of facts known about an intimate is not found to hold, as a combination, for any other person in the world" --Erving Goffman, 1963