Masters thesis: Influence of the World Wide Web
Supervisor: Dr Lyn McCredden, Research and Graduate Studies Convenor
TERRELL NEUAGE, B.A. (Honours)
Adelaide South Australia
The significance of this work is incorporated within the scope of its presentational model. How people throughout the world are now able to link their thoughts with one another is a major theme of this thesis. Whether these thoughts are regarded as literature once they have been presented on the Internet is dependent on ones definition of literature. The term literature has multiple definitions associated with it but for the purpose of this thesis I will use a dictionary definition for literature.
'Writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, romance, history, biography, essays, etc' The Macquarie Dictionary, Macquarie University, NSW 2109 Australia 1991, p. 546.
As this thesis was written on the Internet (in http code) I have written it in a different manner than would be expected in a traditional scholarly presented thesis. My supervisor has remarked that I have presented this in a 'chatty and friendly way' which is not in the vein of traditional academic presentation. However, I defend how I present this work, in its fragmented, dispersive and multiple sites format. As my supervisor has noted there is 'a potentially interesting clash between traditional academic expectations (clearly argued and structured, analytical, adding to knowledge...) and web (more fragmentary, subjective, wandering, inconclusive etc...) It is not just content which is changing but how it is perceived in its final textual manifestation which will forever change narrative style. Jay David Bolter in his cyber-article 'Degrees of Freedom' writes...
'In cyberspace the self is no longer constructed as an autonomous, authorial voice; it becomes instead a wandering eye that occupies various perspectives one after another.' (Bolter)
I am influenced in the way I present my thesis by the works of komninos konstantinos zervos who wrote his Masters degree on the Internet and is currently writing his phd on the Internet. With the presentation of a scholarly thesis in the past one would expect to begin with an introductory page then an index and then the thesis. On the World Wide Web the introduction to a thesis is often very colourful, full of images and is informal compared to traditional presentations. Several examples are:
Amrohini Sahay refers to the Internetting of literature as 'Cybermaterialism'.
'Cyberspace is above all the trope for a new cybercultural imaginary which is re-energising idealist social theory in its promise of a different (aesthetic) experience of culture in the form of technoculture which is increasingly informing, if not shaping, everyday life in the advanced industrial nations'. Sahay, 1997.
My thesis does not agree with Sahay's argument that cyberspace is the domain of capitalists as a tool for the advancement of their system of...
'... bourgeois individualism ('every person for herself') in the cyber-90s of a postrepresentational democracy where self-representation has become the ideological touchstone for dismantling the meeting of collective needs by the liberal state in favor of a vision of a new post-al state operative according to the pulsational workings of a radical-semiotic-information-democracy of desire...' Sahay p. 559-560.
and the 'further' enslaving of those who can not access the Internet. Instead of cybersubjectivity I will argue that we now have a paradigm of cyberobjectivity where 'everyone will be able to create what they want to create' (Herz) and this free unrestrained expression will breech the textual elite mindset of the postacademic bourgeois who for so long have dictated what and how literature should be created and be read.
Literary researcher, R. P. Carver, theorises that the reader engages in a number of important steps in the act of reading. Carver calls his reading model a "Reading Program" saying that it is identical to that of a computer program. This program consists of two components: the data input component and the data manipulation and storage component. (Kutieleh) Carver says the former incorporates the "intermediary steps that transform the words from the printed page into a form amenable for manipulation in the second component of the program". (Carver, 1971:456). The second component, the storage component, involves the comprehension of the meaning intended by the author. The onus is then put onto the reader to develop meaning. Through digital manipulation of text on the World Wide Web literature will be constantly reinvented.
Writing an academic thesis on the affects the World Wide Web will have on literature is a difficult undertaking. Firstly, research conclusions at this juncture can only be speculative as we are at the beginning of the Internet era. It would be similar to writing a thesis on the affects of the printing press upon literature in the 1450's when the printing press was first invented. Secondly, due to the rapid change in Internet technology what is presented today may easily become a part of technological history tomorrow. What I have attempted to demonstrate, both in my writing style and in its presentation is this literary change. There are many articles written on the Internet and its affect, but I did not come across a single text that addressed this topic I am investigating; 'The Affects of the World Wide Web upon Literature'.
In this thesis I have incorporated a lot of hypertech links both to clarify what I am saying and to lead to further investigation of a point made. The greatest limitation to this work is with its word limit of 10,000 words. It is impossible to do justice to such a large and important topic in such a small study.
I will admit to having done this thesis quite wrongly from the beginning. Because this was a combination of research and of an experiment my original mode of presentation was flawed. My thinking was that since this was a thesis about the Internet that I should naturally create it 'live' on the Internet. I chopped and changed, adding links as I went until after a difficult eight or nine months I realised I had a bit of a mess on my hands. The obvious way to go about such a task as I attempted is to write the textual portion completely first then add all the links. As can be quickly discovered by looking at 'source' in Netscape for my thesis (not the Introduction, which I had enough sense to write out before adding hypertext) there are portions where almost every line has a hypertext link. This causes immense difficulties when trying to edit a work.
I hope that my attempt in investigating the potential that the World Wide Web will have on literature will inspire others to explore and expand this topic. It is a subject which will become more important as children learn about literature in school and as many classrooms already provide Internet access as part of student's studies, the manipulation and re-invention of text (Shakespeare, Shelley, The Koran, Homer...) will be in the hands of our children as well as the interpretation of those text. Will the World Wide Web become a tool to investigate previous works or a device to create new virtual-texts using portions of the old Master's work?
Carver, R.P. 'A Computer model of reading and its implications for measurement and research' Reading Research Quarterly, 6(4), 449-471, 1971.
Herz, J. C. 'What a Wonderful Web It Could Be', Rolling Stone, 30 November 1995, p. 22.
Kutieleh, Salah. 'Foreign Language Learners' Perception of Textual Relationships in the Process of Reading' Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, School of Education, Flinders University of South Australia, May 1995.
Sahay, Amrohini. 'Cybermaterialism' and the Invention of the Cybercultural Everday', New Literary History, 1997, Vol. 28, p 543-567, The University of Virginia.