Thursday, November 02, 2006

some day soon RCCS's book reviews will allow comments

soon, i hope to enable comments on the monthly book reviews featured on RCCS. essentially, the book reviews and author responses should act like blog posts - it would be great if people could 1) read the reviews and then 2) add comments to the reviews. right now i'm working on a number of projects but i hope to commentify RCCS by summer.

reading mark bernstein's two blog posts - Figurski and Women, a Footnote - makes we wish the comment feature were working NOW.

bernstein is founder and chief scientist of eastgate systems. established in 1982, eastgate is best known, i believe, in academic circles and has published some of the most classic works of what some call "serious hypertext," including shelley jackson's patchwork girl, stuart moulthrop's victory garden, and michael joyce's afternoon, a story. eastgate is also the publisher of richard holeton's figurski at findhorn on acid, which jessica laccetti reviewed for RCCS for november, 2006.

bernstein takes issue with a number of things in the review, but focuses especialy on a point laccetti makes in a footnote about gender and hypertext. laccetti notes:
    Additionally, the prefix, "hyper" problematizes feminist thought (which has sought to destabilize hierarchies such as mind over body and vision over touch) as it adds inscriptions of hierarchy to an already seemingly hierarchical and male-dominated field. The theorists are male (Bolter, Landow, Amerika, Lanham, Joyce, Aarseth, Moulthrop), the hypertexts often discussed are written by men (Landow, Bolter, Joyce, Coover, Amerika), and the visions they present us with are distinctly male.
bernstein's post notes many female theorists including Kate Kayles [sic], Marie-Laure Ryan, Diane Greco, Irina Aristarkhova, Anja Rau, Wendy Morgan, Susanna Pajares Tosca, and Jill Walker, female industry researchers Cathy Marshall and Wendy Hall, and female hypertext authors Shelley Jackson and Deena Larsen. cool.

i'm grateful that bernstein has brought attention to these scholars, researchers, and authors; i am familiar with some but not all. but i wish bernstein weren't so belligerent. his posts are extremely condescending. it's as if he wants to argue a point rather than foster a dialogue. i neither study nor read as much hypertext as i did as a graduate student (does anyone?), but the past and present field of hypertext studies is, like all academic fields, a field where males occupy the most privileged places, positions, and voices.

one thing bernstein skips is the novel itself. i have not yet read figurski at findhorn on acid, but how can i not read it after jessica's description:
    A general synopsis would spotlight the main protagonist Frank Figurski who has recently concluded his jail term for the murder of Professor Quentin Kingsley. Since leaving jail, Frank is on a mission to uncover the authenticity of a seventeenth-century mechanical pig (which washed up on the beach in Findhorn Park). Frank's journey will be complicated and perhaps even dangerous; he is not the only one after the truth and he is on acid.
now that sounds like an interesting hypertext novel.

(one quick note of clarification: bernstein writes that the resource center for cyberculture studies is at the university of maryland. yo, RCCS is at the university of san francisco; it hasn't been at maryland since september, 2001.)

at RCCS, books are just the beginning - they are read by people who then generate reviews. soon, i hope, RCCS reviews will be another beginning - they will be read by people who will generate comments about the books, comments about the reviews, and comments about the comments.


Jessica Laccetti said...

Thanks for bringing Bernstein's post to my attention. I think one of the positive aspects of the internet lies in allowing people to communicate even when they are geographically miles apart. I think Bernstein is right to refer to several women who have indeed contributed to the field of hypertext study. In the footnote in my review (to which Bernstein turns his whole attention) I do use key words like "seemingly" and "often." There are always exceptions, however, I do think it is important that we highlight issues of gender. As a simple example, a google search for the word "hypertext" elicits a myriad of links. A scan down the first page of results points to (among others) tips on html, to Bolter's Writing Space (1991), and to the Electronic Labyrinth. What I don't find in the cursory search are links pointing to Deena Larsen, Marjorie Luesebrink (who is a prolific hypertext author), Jill Walker, or Carolyn Guertin. Of course, searches can change and with my next visit the list of links might well adjust to reflect reading trends, but questioning what we find is an important part of any exploration. I'm questioning the same "earl[y] theorists" to which Wendy Morgan points (see Electronic tools for dismantling the master's house: poststructuralist feminist research and hypertext poetics, p. 208, Bolter, Landow, and Lanham. While Bernstein does not seem to see any merit a "special category of 'women authors'" which appears in the ELO's recent Collection, I feel compelled to agree with Morgan, that we "re-think" the hypertexual space in feminist terms.

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