Instant Gratification, Self Publication, and the Hyperlinked Internet (1:3)

This blog post is in response to Question 7, relating to the impact of widespread publication and hypertext on literature and story.

The internet has provided many ‘new frontiers’ in the world of literature: eBooks are rising in popularity, and digital libraries allow anyone to freely access information that once was contained to brick-and-mortar establishments. One aspect of digital literature is of particular interest in the context of a blog-based course: the world of ‘self-publishing’. This idea of ‘self-publishing’ can manifest in many ways: aspiring writers can publish on Amazon, Facebook makes it easy to share everything, and anyone can publicize their opinions through blogging platforms like WordPress or Tumblr. Many people criticize self-publishing: though traditional publishing is highly regulated, anyone can self-publish their work if they so desire. While some may argue that unregulated publications decrease the worth of available online literature, I fully disagree. Regulation of literature can very easily lead to overzealous censorship, and the opinions of the individuals in charge of regulating literature do not necessarily reflect those of the general public. Self-publication creates a fascinating online environment in which no one idea is of objective greater worth than another, and allows marginalized and non-normative stories the potential to flourish.

Similarly, the rise of hypertext within digital media is extremely fascinating. To preface this, before I decided to take English 470, I devoted no time or energy to the idea of hyperlinks. I’d occasionally get sucked deep into VICE’s article archives through their hyperlinking network, but that was pretty much the extent of my experience. The attention to hypertext within the parameters of this course has spread to other aspects of my online life, and as such, I have noticed two particularly interesting facets of hyperlinking in relation to digital literature and media.

The first element of hypertext I have noticed is that it adds to the immediate nature of our internet consumption. No longer do we have to copy a link and paste it into a new window—we can just click a phrase or sentence and instantly delve into new, contextualized information. I admit that I am much more likely to explore a hyperlinked source than a traditionally-referenced one because of its streamlined simplicity, and this immediacy enriches my digital media experience by exposing me to new ideas that I likely wouldn’t have accessed otherwise.

The second element of hypertext I have noticed is in complete contrast to its immediacy of consumption. Hyperlinks provide direct access to relevant information, but this access is layered, available only for those interested enough to pursue it. This is reminiscent of the endnotes and footnotes of paper books (the first example that comes to mind is Infinite Jest’s elaborate, 100+ page endnotes-within-endnotes system), which gives the dedicated reader a more complex learning experience than if they were to stick to the surface-level text. Hyperlinking is fascinating because it simultaneously makes our digital media experience easier to access and more challenging to comprehend, allowing the digital media user to control the extent and depth of their own online world. Both hyperlinking and self-publishing aid in creating an uninhibited informative experience, and enable stories that may have otherwise stayed silent to finally be heard.

WORKS CITED:

“Digital Public Library of America.” Digital Public Library of America. Web. 20 May 2015.

Wendig, Chuck. “Self-Publishing Is Not The Minor Leagues.” Terrible Minds. 27 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 May 2015.

“Magazine Archive | VICE | Canada.” VICE. Web. 20 May 2015.

Russillo, Steve. “Steve’s Infinite Jest Utilities Page.” Steve Russillo’s Maundering Mess. 9 Dec. 2012. Web. 20 May 2015.

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7 thoughts on “Instant Gratification, Self Publication, and the Hyperlinked Internet (1:3)

  1. Kevin says:

    Hello Hava. I like and agree with your conclusion that hyperlinks “simultaneously makes our digital media experience easier to access and more challenging to comprehend.” I’ve tried thinking about it in terms of oral communication: if reading an online post equates to listening to a lecture and researching the post independently equates to, well, researching the lecture independently, then perhaps following a hyperlink equates to asking a question during the lecture that the lecturer is discretely begging you to ask–a question that he/she has a prepared answer for. The one thing I’m wary of with hyperlinks is that they are not good ways of checking bias, and independent research remains crucial in that regard.

    You state that “no one idea is of objective greater worth than another” in the “online environment.” What do you mean by objective? It seems to me that especially in the content-heavy online space, there are many markers that imply different qualities of content, popularity (e.g. views) being one of the biggest ones. In what way is the worth of online content objective that the worth of print content is not?

    • Hava says:

      Kevin, I love your comparison about hyperlinks as a lecturer begging a question–all too familiar with that at UBC. I agree that hyperlinks make it difficult to check bias, but I am curious about how you came to that conclusion. In regards to my comment about objectivity, I’m not sure if that was the best word to use, so I’ll try to explain my thought process. Because the internet anonymizes things, when it comes to blogging platforms and social media, everyone is equally able to share their thoughts, whereas in print media, there’s a sense of credibility attached to what we are and are not allowed to share. The internet levels the playing field, to a certain extent.

      • Kevin says:

        Hyperlinks are chosen consciously by the post writer for the purpose of furthering that writer’s explanation or argument. The writer wants you to click that hyperlink, whereas, through independent research, you might discover a hyperlink that the writer doesn’t want you to click on. Using the lecture comparison, I think of a hyperlink as a type of quotation; the source may be independent, but the words still come out of the lecturer’s mouth.

        I see what you’re trying to write with internet objectivity. I agree that the internet has made it possible to reach a wide audience with very limited resources; however, it seems to me that (perhaps as a direct consequence of this) credibility is demanded even more in the online environment than the physical one, simply due to the vast excess of content that exists in it. Anonymity does set a standard of expectation, but that standard is very low, and those with good reputations will, just as in the physical environment, be valued more than those without them.

        Your post made me think a bit about censorship, and so long as you only claim to represent yourself, I don’t think (and I’m speculating here) you would be arrested for voicing your opinion on the street in a reasonable manner. You don’t need a publisher or news outlet backing you to hand out pamphlets, and what social media does now was (and still is) done by word of mouth.

  2. EJDulay says:

    Hi Hava,

    I think the idea of self-publishing is a great thing as well as the platforms (WordPress, Tumblr, YouTube) that allow us to do so. But it’s not all that simple. It’s a lot easier to self-publish personal material these days, but garnering attention and audience is something else. The internet as an entity may appear to be this liberating place that one can be heard, but when you get down to the micro and examine specific sites, it becomes obvious that each site has its own gatekeepers/editors/publishers (not a person though, but persons) and are highly regulated as well.

    If one wants to get a point across or tell a story effectively, they’ll often use a well established site to do so: 4Chan, Reddit, Digg, Tumblr, etc. Each of these websites have a hivemind. It’s hard for a user’s point/story to be heard if their point/story goes against the site’s hivemind. Post a logical comment that’s NOT xenophobic or islamophobic on an Islam video on YouTube for example; people will thumb you down and flag you. That’s site’s comment section is annoying. I hope they’re all really just trolls and not actually people filled with hate and anger. All the popular comments on Islam-related videos are mostly disrespectful and they overshadow the logical, non-xenophobic/islamophobic ones.. It’s definitely a lot easier to produce content but being “seen” and “heard” over the internet is difficult too.

    Something quite inspiring I came across a few years back is how a regular poster on a site became famous enough to be supported to publish a series of short stories he wrote. There is a forum on the site reddit called nosleep where people post scary stories. Poster 1000Vultures wrote some pretty good stuff and was encouraged by a large number of users to publish his work. The community supported him that he was able to raise enough money over kickstarter to publish “Penpal”. He now has his own website and his book is available on amazon. (No, this post is not an ad. I’m just using an example!)

    • Hava says:

      Thanks for sharing your info about self-publishing, I’m not really familiar with that aspect of the internet world so this was quite insightful. That’s awesome that an internet community like Reddit was able to support someone enough to help him publish his work, and really shows the immense power behind social media. Reddit is definitely interesting, because while it’s been known to do stuff like that, which helps someone, the “hive mentality” has also hindered a lot of other things (like how Reddit got involved in the Boston Marathon manhunt and tried to incriminate the wrong person, for example). Really fascinating how there’s such a contrast in what social media can achieve with the right combination of people.

  3. hayden says:

    Hey Hava, I really enjoyed your post. I agree that the ability to self-publish in a reasonably unfettered way that “allows marginalized and non-normative stories the potential to flourish” is a great thing. What I like about it has a lot to do with what Courtney MacNeil has to say about the blending of orality and literacy via the web. She quotes Henri Meschonnic’s observation that “[orality] is the manifestation of a gestural mode, of a corporeality and a subjectivity within language.” Of course the internet allows for no corporeal entity, but it permits a subjectivity that a lot of work published in a more traditional way is stripped of because it doesn’t fit within a more perhaps “academic” tradition, regardless of the value of its content. While some might argue that traditional publishing methods are better because their relatively long period of gestation and meticulous editing process scrubs the work of any opinions that might be considered rash, I think the internet provides a space where documents can stay connected to their moment. Naturally, human opinion vacillates, beliefs change and evolve, but it is interesting to have the immediacy of the internet to look back on for a more accurate description of the spirit of the moment, even if this retrospection serves as a cautionary tale.

    • Hava says:

      I love your comment about the immediacy of the internet, and it was something I wanted to get across in my post but couldn’t find the words for–“the internet provides a space where documents can stay connected to their moment” is perfect! The idea about looking back on the spirit of the moment, even if it “serves as a cautionary tale” really resonates with me as well. Thank you for sharing!

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