Patchwork Girl, Hayles: 10/27Posted: October 30, 2008
From Hayles’ essay “Flickering Connectivities”: we began to discuss some of her 8 definitions/characteristics of electronic hypertext that she goes on to apply to her interpretation of Patchwork Girl. I would suggest the best way to grasp her ideas would be to think less about the computer language and more about the way that same language has literary connotations. In other words, the way it can apply not just to the digital medium of PG (the computer, the software, etc) but to its story and content. For example, think of how suggestive these words are for this novel (and for Frankenstein as well): mutable, transformable, dynamic, fragmentation, recombination, distributed, piece, part, bits, multiple.
We started to think about one of these concepts, “distributed cognitive environment” and how this demands what Hayles calls “cyborg reading practices.” Some left still scratching your heads; others admitted that, in effect, your dependence on computer mediation makes you a bit of a cyborg. So, perhaps we need to read PG more like you read Facebook or Wikipedia. What would that mean?
A note on the ‘difficulty’ of this text. We discussed how, ironically, one difficulty you are encountering is not that the technology is too sophisticated (compared to the technology of a book) but not sophisticated enough. Some put the CD in the computer and expected it to play. Instead, one has to play this text? Another difficulty I would suggest is in the content, in the story itself, not in the technology. Think of the title page; think of the multiplicity of authorship that is claimed there, and confusion (at least from the traditional perspective of a story/book being authored by a singular identity. This seems to be a story that questions the very idea of authorship. That’s not easy to read. But that is also difficult to read in book form. [Recall my point about the hypertext book novel I am struggling to finish: House of Leaves; perhaps I would do better to read it as a cyborg].