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last updated October 29, 1997


The World Wide Web is the latest invention to preserve and enhance the way we create and experience literature. LIT web ERATURE discusses the journey literature has travelled, from its beginning as a pre-recorded oral narrative to the current electronic linking reproduction of 'The Story'. From early oral narratives to the first techniques of textual representation upon papyrus scrolls and clay tablets to the invention of alphabetic writing and on to digital representations we have seen many changes along the path of narrative exchange. From the beginning of the age of printing and Gutenberg's Bible on to the current hypertextual networking of links, the textual path of human social evolution has been scripted in a constantly changing variety of techniques. In this thesis I will discuss the effect of the World Wide Web upon the narrative that is literature.

I use the term World Wide Web (WWW) interchangeably with the term Internet. There is a difference though. The Internet has been with us for several decades and has been used mainly by governments and universities until the invention of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990's. The World Wide Web is only a part of what the Internet is used for. There are other areas of the Internet which are also having dramatic effects on literature and will change how we witness and create narratives. The most used of these other Internet sectors are email, Usenet newsgroups, Chat rooms, chat TV, Avatars, Virtual Communities Telnet, FTP, and Gopher. For this thesis I will discuss the World Wide Web and its impact upon literature. A short glossary follows this text.

Civilisation's narratives can be divided into four time periods:

  • Pre-recorded (oral narrative)
  • Recorded (including hieroglyphics)
  • Printing press (mass production)
  • The Internet

Each time period represents a shift in the narrative procedures of humans. It is through literature that humanity explores, records and spreads narrative, whether it is fictional or factual.

One of the changes that the W. W. W. brings to narrative is the perception of mythologised history. If a text is fictional we know it was written to be fictional and the narrative is not believed but instead is witnessed as entertainment. Throughout civilisation's history many myths were created to explain what we now know as natural phenomena. Most all religions are based on narrative stories created and presented as supernatural fact to control people in the society that the ideology is directed toward. As there were no ways to prove whether the stories were true or not they became accepted as true.

Before the printing press the Church was in control of the hand written manuscripts which were produced by monks and scribes specfically for the Church. Being in control of the manuscripts put the Church in control of information. The Church condemned the printers who started the printing presses rolling in the mid-1450's as they feared writing which was not under their control would be made available to the people. (Spender, 1995, pp. 2-5) When the Church realised they had lost control of the reproduction of texts they proclaimed that the printing press was of a divine origin and was then greeted by the Church as a divine art. (Eisenstien p. 136.) The Internet has drastically changed the control of information so that anyone can now create and disseminate literature. Because of the wide availability of the Internet no one government or ideology can again dominant the world's literature.

'History bears witness to the cataclysmic effect on society of inventions of new media for the transmission of information among persons. The development of writing and later the development of printing are examples...' (St. John, book review)

In 'Literary Machines', Ted Nelson, the inventor of hypertext, writes:

'literature is an ongoing system of interconnecting any ongoing literature there is perpetual interpretation and reinterpretation and links between documents help us follow the connections.'

Within that perspective, literature, as it appears on the World Wide Web, is the ultimate evolution of 'The Story'. The need to communicate 'The Story' (as social discourse) has never changed, only the presentation of 'The Story' has changed. The World Wide Web is the latest step in the evolution of this narrative which provides literature with its context, and it should be the most creative, interesting and liberating step in human discourse so far.

The way people exchange information or develop personal insights is based on linking. Linking is a natural part of learning and experience. From the first learning experiences, dealing with love, business, schooling and raising children linking nodes of knowledge is vital.

"I link, therefore I am"

has its origins in the make-up of the brain. All living things link; whether it is with others of their own species or with nature there is a natural linking order that permeates all activity in the universe. From Black Holes and Neutron Stars to single cell amoebas, adolescent love, astrological aspects, and good grades at school we depend on links to get from one node to the next; whether in consciousness, experience, or with our own survival.

What has changed is the manner in which this link is being modified. Hypertext is the latest of many inventions that has played a crucial role in the evolution of humans. Even consciousness is considered by some schools of thought, such as Neo-Tech to be an invention.

Hypertext was invented the same way as consciousness was invented, as a means of survival and to break free of mythological beliefs. The dawn of literature was bathed in the twilight of mysticism and mythology. Poets from Homer to William Blake believed their inspiration was from a higher source, such as a god. According to Frank Wallace, the inventor of the Neo-Tech rhetoric, three-thousand years ago the human race had become too complicated to continue in the manner in which it was operating. As people moved from being solely hunters and gathers to city dwellers they needed to find a new and useful system of survival. With the 'invention' of consciousness they were able to form more complex interactions. The same could be said of hypertext. The world has become so complex, maybe even too complex, to continue in a linear single-directional manner. As narrative is one of the primary means of social representations and exchange, its current position of presentable availability is important.

Reading writings as non-linear fiction has been with us in many forms since the beginning of written human discourse. The texts from the writings of Lao Tze, the Christian Bible, Talmud, Qu'ran or other belief webs are often read in random selections. These passages or verses are often linked to other texts as in a sermon or speech. These reading are unlike short stories or novels, which are often read in their entirety in a linear manner. An example of this random textual sampling is shown at spectator sports events in the United States where placards with nothing more on them than John 3:16. These signs mean nothing to people who read them who are not familiar with the symbolic representation of human experience that these texts purport to deal with. Whereas to others they symbolise an important node of belief.

With the rise in use of the World Wide Web the reader will have as much say in the continuation of the witnessed text as will the writer. With some textual presentations now available on the World Wide Web the reader is able to change or add to the already constructed text. Much like the stories students narrate in primary school when one person sets a scene and another person adds to it, stories are added to or layered upon by people unknown to one another in various places of the world. An example of interactive stories and webfictions which are based on reader's participation for creating an interactive fiction on the web is located at

Instead of bringing an end to printed works as we know them now the World Wide Web will enhance and supplement text in hard copy. The World Wide Web is the latest instalment in the advancement of the 'Never Ending Story' with the spreading and sharing of communication in an almost instant way. It will change how we read texts over the next few decades. Through the use of hypertext, which is the foundation of the World Wide Web, linear reading of text will give way to the freedom of movement between nodes of text.

With each wave of technology we see this enhancement principal in evidence. Television did not replace radio, the two work so well together that at times they combine as they do when there is a concert and the video is from the television and the acoustic is from the radio. Videos and cable television have not replaced movies, movie theatres are still full. A local shopping centre, Marion Shopping Centre, South of Adelaide , will soon have 30 movie theatres opening in the midst of its 200 store complex. New large screen cinemas are opening in Australian cities. These IMAX cinema complexes will be five storeys high and the audience will have an immersive experience. These large screens are the opposite end to viewing a computer screen and though cinemas have nothing to do with hypertext I mention it as an indication that few styles of presentation vanish.

Cars never replaced horses, horses are still very popular though their use has changed from a necessity to one of sport or entertainment. Air planes have not replaced ships, and cruise liners are still being built. Throughout the history of inventions and discoveries humans have rarely totally replaced one mode with another, usually the new enhances and enlivens the old. At craft markets on a weekend there will be people making craft items just as they were made hundreds of years ago. There are still people in Capitalistic Western Societies who have made it their choice to live without any modern possessions, living without electricity, telephone and television. Literature will mutate, expand, combine and reform because of the World Wide Web but old ways of experiencing text (ie. books) will still be available.

Just as many printed books are illustrated we see text with illustrations on the World Wide Web. This multimedia interactive feature changes what is expected from a reading of text. From an image saturated site such as Odin's Castle to the just text presentation of Maslin's Beach or the moving poetry of komninos or his post structuralist texts the World Wide Web is changing how we experience text. Multimedia will change how we view literature as literature and images merge and become part of the same reading process. Multimedia brings literature to life and the World Wide Web at this time is the primary source for enlivened text. Texts written and produced in CD rom is presently the only other form in which to experience multimedia literature. Virtual reality programs will provide another means in which to experience text soon.

Hard copy, or what we have referred to as books for the past five hundred years are stable and non-volatile. Or they are for as long as they remain in their book form. In a fire, flood or in any one of a countless hard copy eliminating process methods, once the book has been destroyed it is gone forever. Many books and articles have been written about the death of the book the death of the author the end of history. We can look over history and see how everything becomes recycled, re-invented. Hypertext is the latest of the recycles and re-inventions. Long before there were electronic choose your own path and multiple layered stories there were multiple story telling both in oral and written narrative. As long ago as 900 BCE there were framed stories within stories in the 1001 Arabian Nights.

Jorn Barger's Hyperterrorist's Timeline of Hypertext History on the World Wide Web divides textual presentation into ten periods of time:

  • The Age of Writing

(every book is handwritten, with an individual voice)

3000BCE to 1300AD

  • The Age of Printing

  • (the illusion of an objective voice)

    1455 to 1768

  • The Age of Electricity

  • (exploring an infinitely impressionable medium)

    1837 to 1941

  • The Era of Big Iron

  • (allowing coarse projections of human resources)

    1945 to 1968

  • The Network Era

  • (a radically new dimension in human communication)

    1969 to1976

  • The Micro Era

  • (personalised computing brings a burst of innovation)

    1977 to 1983

  • The WYSIWYG Era

  • (conflicting standards for aesthetic computation)

    1984 to 1986

  • The Hypertext Era

  • (personal hypertext generates excitement)

    1987 to 1991

  • The WWWeb Era

  • (global hypertext with minimal imposed structure)

    1992 to 1994

  • The Netscape Era

  • (NHTML evolution driven largely by user-gee-whiz factor)

  • 1995 to present.

  • Timelines are rapidly shrinking constantly bringing new ways of presenting text.

    Vannevar Bush (1890-1974) proposed a system similar to current hypertext systems, in 1945. This system was the Memex ( memory extender ), and even though it was never implemented the ideas of the Memex, which Bush described in several documents, was built upon to get us to where we are today with the WWW. (Nielsen 1990, Woodhead, Rosenzweig) When Tim Berners-Lee, building upon the Memex system, proposed the WorldWide Web in 1989, literature began a path that will be forever changed.


    ...Narrative is present in myth, legend, fable, tale, novella, epic, history, tragedy, drama, comedy, mime, painting (think of Carpaccio's Saint Ursula ), stained glass windows, cinema, comics, news items, conversation...narrative is present in every age, in every place, in every society; it begins with the very history of mankind. There never has been a time period or a society without narrative. Caring nothing for the division between good and bad literature, narrative is international, transhistorical, transcultural: it is simply there, like life itself. (Barthes 1977)

    "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God", The Christian Bible proclaims. From the time of that first word, which we could date back to a particle of a nanosecond before the Big Bang, the word has been formulating itself in clearer and clearer forms. Literature is the concreteness, the word made text, of that first great word that has brought creation to its present state. On our particular particle of dust in this remote area of just another universe we have spent the past few thousand years on a quest, the quest of constantly improving communication through story telling of who we are and why we believe we are here.

    The World Wide Web, like every particle in the universe is a linking mechanism. Before there was the World Wide Web there was a much simpler form of hyper-communication. Oral story telling, often in tribal settings, was for thousands of years the only way to present and preserve narratives. Aside of Palaeolithic cave art with its fixation on horses and cows there are no records of the discourses of humans from tens of thousands of years ago.

    Daniel Chandler divides oral and written into two categories giving a list of differences:

    Spoken Word

    Written Word

    aural visual
    impermanence permanence
    fluid fixed
    rhythmic ordered
    subjective objective
    inaccurate quantifying
    resonant abstract
    time space
    present timeless
    participatory detached
    communal individual

    The World Wide Web combines these narrative dichotomies and takes away much of the need to be literary literate. With multimedia computers the literature that we once needed to read to understand the narrative we can now hear as well as see; this is the combination of the visual and the aural. The World Wide Web makes literature both permanent and impermanent. Impermanent narrative is experienced through the violative nature of the World Wide Web, both in the way one can link to other sites and with the ever possibilities of losing the site one is viewing due either to the site being removed from the Internet or the server losing the site all together through a crash of its system or deleting the site. All the other paired words of aural and written could be isolated and analysed but we can say overall that the World Wide Web is the current form in which literature will change in presentation, meaning and in experience.

    Human's first exposure to writing began about 3,500 BC in Sumeria and it took five hundred years for the development of hieroglyphs and another 1300 years to have the first true phonetic alphabet. It took humans five-thousand years to go from their first scribbles to finding a way to mass produce printed words with Guttenberg's Press. We only go back to 1964 to have the first word processor being invented.

    Printing has been the tool of learning, the preserver of knowledge, and the medium of literature. Until the advent of radio it was the great means of communication. (Chappell p. 3) Literature on the World Wide Web has an almost early printing press image to it. Books printed during the Renaissance had text surrounded by images, usually religious images. The first illustrated book, was made in 1461 by Albrecht Pfister. (Carter, Martin, Febvre)

    Before there was the Internet, printed books, the first library at Alexandria and before hieroglyphics, humans shared, made up and spread stories. We can only speculate how stories were told and spread during pre-recorded history. With no way to preserve stories or to pass them on except through oral story telling all stories became linked as one person told another and the stories travelled from tribe to tribe. Stories would change in their telling and what seemed to be fact to those who heard the stories became what we now refer to as myth.

    With the World Wide Web we still may not know the source of a narrative but we know it did not arrive through magic or from the gods. Yet there is an easy comparison made with early oral story telling and the World Wide Web. Both oral and technological story telling are susceptible to flux, revision and the whims of the presenter. Whereas, for the past five-hundred years we have had texts preserved through the printing process we now have returned to when literature had no fixed address.

    In narratives of the past there has been the implied author , the person whom the reader assumes is the creator of the narrative. However, on the World Wide Web the implied author can easily be a group of authors. The World Wide Web is now a tribe with interweaving and constantly changing narratives.


    In Plato's Phaedrus Theuth shows his invention of writing to King Thamus, claiming that it will improve both the wisdom and memory of the Egyptians. But the King replies,

    Your pupils will have the reputation for wisdom without the reality; they will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought very knowledgable when they are for the most part quite ignorant. And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they will be a burden to society. (Postman p. 4)

    Whether all the information on the World Wide Web will become a burden to society remains to be seen. There is the problem that we do not really know who the source of a document is, whether they are qualified to say the things that they say. Literature will surely change as it is opened to the masses to express their narratives. As the quality of the literature is in the mind of the witness of the text there should always be an audience of appreciative readers for whatever text is considered as literature and placed upon the World Wide Web.

    The history of printing is an integral part of the general history of civilisation. Printing changed the way narration was recorded and perceived and it broke down the barriers of order and control in society which were in place during the Middle Ages. What was lost with printed literature was the illusion that spoken narrative provided with its direct speech.

    The invention of movable type was the greatest single event in the history of narration before the computer then the internet and now the World Wide Web enhanced the spreading of text. The printing press provided the first information revolution and the Internet is providing the second information revolution. And just as the printing press brought about a world change so too does the World Wide Web.

    It took a whole century for the printed book to develop a form of its own that was no longer dominated by the aesthetic traditions of the medieval manuscript. It was in the 16th century Italy that the format of the printed book emerged from the experimental and transitional phase and found a basic stability of form that lasted for the next three centuries. By the end of the 19th century the old manual processes had been replaced by mechanical production with power-driven machinery. (Chaytor, Clancy, Spender, Eisenstein, Butler) It has taken just three years, since the release of Netscape , for tens of millions of people to become involved with the World Wide Web. The World Wide web may never develop a distinct form, but will continually reinvent itself. This means that literature as we know it will continually be reinvented too.

    Narrations and information were placed into books as an insurance against the loss of oral traditions which grew beyond the possibilities of memorising . As more information from more people became known there had to be a means in order to save this material. Early books were made up of collections of magic formulas, dynastic records, laws, observations , medical experiences and experiments along with prayers and rituals (the first manuscript printed by Gutenberg was a copy of the Christian Bible in 1450). These first attempts at recorded history were not intended as entertainment or causal readings but were a means to reinforce the social status quo in which they were read. Today most of these early works would be found in the reference section of a library, or they would be stored on the Internet.

    Humanism may have owed the ultimate survival of its ideas to Gutenberg's invention (Bolgar p. 280) To repeat what others have said, The Renaissance did less to spread printing than printing did to spread the Renaissance (Hirsch pp. 24-37, Eisentein p.180, Bolgar p.157) We have this same phenomena with the Internet in this new narrative Renaissance. It is the World Wide Web and its huge exposure to and from all cultures which is spreading the oneness of multi-cultural narrative. Humanism survives and takes on a wider and more holistic scope with many cultures being nodes of one another which can be easily linked to.

    The first recorded bodies of texts were done over long periods of time, usually by scribes. The beginning of non-linear reading began in late Roman times when books began to appear in codex form. This was a gradual transition which extended over several hundred years, by the 4th century AD the process was complete. (The Encyclopedia Americana Vol. 4, p.220) Previously to pages that could be turned text was placed upon papyrus which had to be unrolled to be read. With pages the reader could go back and forth within the text they were reading. Also with pages there was the possibilities of having page numbers, tables of contents and references.

    The art of printing originated in Germany in 1440 and spread quickly through the world. Commenting on this invention Harmann Schedel published in 1493 (though written in 1464) the following notation regarding Gutenberg's invention: means of this invention the precious treasures of knowledge and wisdom, which have long lain hidden in the old manuscripts, as it were, in the grave of ignorance, unknown to the world, have now come forth to the light. (Butler p.102)

    The printed form was the only way to permanently record and share ideas for hundreds of years after the invention of the printing press. Language, whether it be oral or written, was limited to a two-dimensional representation. With the World Wide Web a writer no longer is limited to converting their thoughts in such two-dimensional forms of communication such as writing. The printed page limited the writer s expression. Major and minor divisions of the writer s ideas all looked the same on the printed page. The printed page becomes an endless uniform series of printed symbols. (Showstack p.369-376) The World Wide Web with its multimedia enhancements takes narration into a new unpredictable multi-dimensional series of linkable nodes imagined by only a few people before the 1990s.

    Marshall McLuhan points to the stripping of the senses and the interruption of their interplay in tactile synaesthesia as one of the side effects of the Gutenberg technology. (McLuhan 1962, p.17) The World Wide Web further enhances this stripping of the senses as multi-directional links and multimedia create the medium within the interplays and interpretation of the message .

    The founder of the Internet browser, Netscape, James Barksdale points out that

    "The Internet is the printing press of the technology era. How often have you seen technology adopt a rate similar to the Internet's Forty million Netscape users in its first two years..."


    Meaning within narratives has made dramatic changes between the time of early oral story telling and the rise of the World Wide Web. Before the printing press meaning was limited to an ascribed source, usually the Church or a ruling person or government. With the mass production provided by the printing press, printed text still had an ascribed meaning with the meaning of a text under the control of the creator of the text. Now with the use of the World Wide Web, meaning has made a shift unparalleled in human discourse. In the non-linear and unstable environment of the Internet meaning within narrative is more of an arbitrary means to an end.

    The medium used to distribute narrative affects the evolution of the narrative. As narrative is valuable and grows by an evolutionary process the rate by which the use of the Internet is growing should make literature evolve at a rate never conceived of before. The meaning within a narrative on the World Wide Web can change instantly. On the Internet Meaning no longer has meaning of any determinable value.

    In the past the broadest categories for literary forms has been prose and verse. These forms now merge with nodes of prose and nodes of verse linking to one another. Because of the unstable nature of the Internet this merging of various forms is becoming evident even in linear traditional written texts. An example of this merged form which is written as a traditional linear text and is also available on the Internet can be found at TRYTHIS.html. Here prose and poetry meet on the same page and meaning is dependant on whether the reader reads the poems which intercepts the narrative's linear direction.

    Most literature in modern times is printed but long before there was the printing press there was a long history of oral narrative. Oral narrative dates back to ancient Greece and was an important part of Medieval Europe life. Travelling poets entertained audiences by reciting and performing their works prior to the rise of the printing press. On the Internet narrative creators are considered to be travelling the electronic highway as they place their stories on the World Wide Web.

    When printing began making its mark on the world some of the first narratives printed were about adventures in the New World. Contemporary with the invention of the printing press were the discoveries of the Americas. The Conquistadors brought back and had printed their stories of narrative acres settled and developed by the new form of interactive literature. Michael St. Hippolyte describes his web site, "Mumble Jumble", as,

    'Mumbo Jumbo is a few acres of jungle and beachfront on the Web, hoping to provide a taste of passion and its nobler fruits. Passion: the collective name for mysterious emotive forces churning just below the margin of our consciousness, shooting inspiration from time to time into the blue sky of the human imagination.'

    Michael St. Hippolyte


    The essential element, if a work is to be classified as poetic or fictional in the Aristotelian scheme, is imitation, (Wilson p.5).

    Aristotles distinguished three manners of poetic imitation:

    • 1. One can speak invariably in one's own person.
    • 2. One can use actors to imitate the whole thing as though they were living it themselves or
    • 3. One can imitate partly by narration and partly by dramatic dialogue (as Homer does) (Potts)
    • We can now add a fourth manner of poetic imitation and that is through the use of hypertext. Poetic imitation using multimedia through the World Wide Web combines all three of Aristotles manners of poetic imitation.

    Poetry has the widest possibilities in the Internet environment. Poetry has always had its experimental bohemian side to it. To play with words is the essence of poetry. In the 1950's there was concrete poetry ( Shaped , pattern , Cubist poetry). Shaped poetry can be traced to classical Greek times and was adopted in the 1950's as a new style by Dylan Thomas, cummings and Mayakovsky to name a few. During the 1960's two concrete poets; Charles Olson and Susan Howe with their scribbled poems that go in circles (Olson) or in Howe's case, of cut lines glued upside down and backwards, were early attempts of unstable texts which the Internet now incorporates. Along with experimental poetry there are the Objectivism poets such as George Oppen, Louis Zukofsky and Lorine Niedecker and the Beat poets including Allen Ginsberg and Leroi Jones (Amirir Baraka). These poetry movements now are being explored and experimented with on the World Wide Web canvas.

    What the World Wide Web does for poetry is to make reading an experience. Reading becomes a performance taking in both creator and witness. This new computer generated poetry written for the Internet without any intention of ever being published in a traditional print medium is now refered to as cyberpoetry, a term which komninos konstantinos zervos claims to have coined. Kominian discusses cyberpoetry in detail at There are millions of examples of how present and past poets present their poetry on the Internet, some are more dramatic than others. One search engine stated, 'About 607760 documents match your query,' under the keyword 'poetry', showing how many people are willing to share their verses for free with the world. And each author hoping to be discovered and loved and understood by the tens of millions of Internet viewers we are constantly told are wandering the web.

    In the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth wrote,

    'My purpose was to imitate, and, far as is possible, to adopt the very language of men...'

    Today's language of woman and men surely is the language of hypertext as it links narratives from node to node. One thing we know about language is that it keeps changing. Expressions keep changing, the meanings of words keep changing. (Spender p. 09) Narrative is now reader driven.

    The Internet as a transformation of literature as we know it has the good and difficult sides to it. On the plus side is that anyone can put their writing on at anytime. On the difficult side is the massive amounts of narrative which appear on the World Wide Web. There is also the difficulty with knowing who the actual creator of the web site we are witnessing is. As an author creating text there are dangers to contend with. With a computer it is so easy to lift chunks out of texts and copy them. It becomes an almost impossibility to know whether someone will take sections of your writing and use it with their own document, and if they do what can be done? There is also the issue of money. I doubt that anyone will pay to go to someone s sites and read their poems, stories, articles, thesis or even novel. Being published on the internet is a long ways from being published by a book publisher. There is just too much stuff on the Internet for anyone to care about what an individual has to say to pay to read them unless they are already known.

    With printed literature the reader was able to identify with the text. This identification had a morbid affect on many readers of Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, who either committed suicide or attempted it. Every romantic young man felt that he was Werther. (Koestler p. 345) As people have associated and projected themselves into the narratives contained within books what becomes of the association with characters within web pages on the World Wide Web?

    Point of view selects and shapes the meanings of texts. It is not so much a single concept as a cluster of concepts, covering several aspects of the relationship between narrator, story and reader: the style and structure of the telling, the perspective from which things are seen, and the assumptions and values that pervade the text. (Reid p.12) Hypertext's greatest value is in its reshaping of the textual landscape of the narrative as it has been presented in the past.

    The danger of writing hypertext literature is to have too many links so that everything breaks down into incoherency. It would be like having Susan Howe write a novel instead of just one of her poems. Howe explains her work:

    First I would type some lines. Then cut them apart. Paste one on top of another, move them around until they looked right. Then I'd xerrox that version, getting several copies, and then cut and paste again until I had it right... (Keller, p.5)

    This is close to what many people do with their World Wide Web pages, they combine so much on to one page that it all becomes as incoherent as a Susan Howe poem. If her poems are impossible to make sense of what would a hypertext novel from her be like? There have been attempts to have a poem with every word linked to another site, what happens in these situations is that the reader becomes lost and may never find the way back to the origin of the poem. A poem of this sort is at html. Produced below to give a feeling of a poem with many links. The poem on the left shows the poem without the links and on the right with the links.


    This is probably not the best way to go although I don't know what I might have done differently unless I had been a different person might have had more backbone to stand up to him but now I'm almost there and what's that noise no it better not be oh god it is and well I guess I can come back later when the crowd is gone the cops will stop them I just better not let them see me till later I'll just get out here god I need some fresh air leave this in the car there's a mall I wonder what oh no the keys too and there's a phone please no trouble no I can't get into my car no not there no just don't no please no o No.



    This is probably not the best way to go although I don't know what I might have done differently unless I had been a different person might have had more backbone to stand up to him but now I'm almost there and what's that noise no it better not be oh god it is and well I guess I can come back later when the crowd is gone the cops will stop them I just better not let them see me till later I'll just get out here god I need some fresh air leave this in the car there's a mall I wonder what oh no the keys too and there's a phone please no trouble no I can't get into my car no not there no just don't no please no o


    The World Wide Web provides facilities for building multiple views of hypertext applications which are linked with other modes within applications. This multiple views affect on narration opens up literature to many interpretations of the same text. With alternative routes there is a never ending array of possibilities. In print this multiple alternative or branching narrative was first used in Julio Cortazar's novel, Hopscotch which was published in 1966. John Irving's The World According to Garp published in 1976 also has stories within stories. At the beginning of the 1980's there were the choose your own adventure series which were widely available in children's books with their binary decision points encoded within portions of the text. For example, 'if you want the good person to wear a black hat go to page 40 or for the bad person to go to San Francisco with a flower in her hair pick page 69'. The reader takes partial control of the direction of the story. Meaning becomes transcribed by the reader dependant upon which view, or now with the Internet, with what multimedia application is being used. An Internet example of a work in progress, The Cyberspace Sonnets with hundreds of choices so far can be experienced at http://www.teleport. com/~cdeemer/cyberson.html. A much more vast and confusing linking work, Queneau's sonnets, can be found at . Here is where we come across the exponential problem of too many links with just too many endings available to ever attempt to use every one. Mathematically narratives can break down with too many links. To have a choice in a two page story there would be three pages, the opening page and the two possible continuations. To have a five page story there would be thirty-one pages of choices. But a dozen pages could lead to over four thousand pages of choices, with a forty page novella needing a trillion pages of material. Queneau's sonnets are the results of selecting randomly from ten possibilities for each line in each sonnet. Again, it is the reader who is the ultimate creator.

    A more simpler approach to hypertext poetry is at which announces, 'Most fucked-up person alive tells all'. In this case we are told to

    Select a word or phrase from the mess below to serve as an entry point into the novel. If you don't like where that takes you, come back here and select another. If you don't like where that goes, then turn on some TVs and Stereos and do some more drugs and sex and violence and community service, then return here and try again. Keep trying for the next few years. Eventually this combination will work, despite what you think now.

    Clicking onto first birthmemory we are treated to the following narrative.

    I was born in a Sony 797, one day, and my first birthmemory was the sight of the pilot, co-pilot, and crew, out the window, parachuting by...

    Most of the links on this site are short poetic narratives.

    Another easy to follow story line is Matthew Miller's Trip Across the USA . The site has arrows that one may click to move forward or to return to the site's original introductory page. Putting the whole story together and printing it out gives a rather dull and predictable story, but by random selection of links the reader has a more interesting and unpredictable tale to read. Miller's Trip Across the USA is at .

    Two other choose your own adventures on the Internet are Shu Kuwamoto's Choose your own adventure and Allen Firstenberg's Addventure. Many Choose your own fiction stories on the Internet have a tendency to become incoherent. Links can lead to irrelevant information or story lines or continually lead back to an earlier section. Most readers are not ready for Tree Fiction as they want to known the consequences of every decision and will follow each lead. If one wants to follow the author's construction then they almost always need to read it in a linear book format.

    Being known is the key to Internet success, especially if someone wanted to support themselves off of their own writing. The Internet will prove to be a great source of introduction to new writings, whether from a new writer or an already established writer. For example, a novelist could put their first chapter or an introduction to their novel on the Internet and if the reader wanted to purchase the novel then they would pay for the remainder of it and either download it to their own computer or have it mailed to them.

    Several on-line novels are from:

    • Jeremy Bornstien's Rollover at
    • Pamela DeCarlo's Today's Woman at
    • John Zakour's The Doomsday Brunette, at - which uses the merging of narrative to keep the story on one track yet still offereing the reader an illusion of choice
    • Kurtis Scaletta's Madagascar at
    • Lewis Call's Indecent Communications at

    Even though it is the easiest way to present a novel to the potential millions of readers who view the Internet most cyberwriters have a notation on their web page saying they would welcome expressions of interest from traditional publishers. (Cohen)

    What web publishing lacks is the respect and realness that Web publishing does not (as yet) provide. Aside of the changeable nature of the World Wide Web where one day there may be a sophisticated site and tomorrow there will be nothing at that URL, demonstrates the fluidity of the Internet. Long pieces of work on the World Wide Web are difficult to read with current technology. There is also an issue in regards to copyright and payment to the author for their work. Unless one is charged for the time they view or for the amount which they download from a site the rewards of internet publishing will not be monetary.

    There is a new group of innovative writers who are litweberature literate writing hypertextual novels and stories on CD-ROM as well as on the Internet. Several of these writers who are published by Eastgate are Michael Joyce (the best known of this genre) Judy Malloy and Stuart Moulthrop . Eastgate publishes and advertise their many authors who write Hypertext Fiction. It is only since the early 1990's that it has become a goal for some writers to remove all thoughts of progression and linearity, giving the ultimate freedom of textual chronically to the reader.

    To get a sense of what their hypertextual writing do read what the critics say about the various novels that Eastgate publishes. The critics use phrases like

    • "Shifting narrative voices"
    • "An electronic tangled strands of knowing and memory"
    • "The experiment with randomization is bold and surprisingly effective"
    • "The effect is remarkably close to the subjective quirikiness of memory, of past moments floating unpredictable to the surface"
    • "A fractal web that could never be downloaded off the computer and reprinted in paper form".

    All these quotes were from different critics referring to different texts, but all these quotes would apply to any one of the writings.


    The argument of oral versus literate cultures is once again taking on new dimensions with the rise of the Internet. Whether people are Internet-literate or not is adding to the Great Divide theories of the 1980's, though they should be short lived. These arguments over whether a literate culture was superior to an oral culture threaten to spill over into the debate of technological communication superiority. Just as some people believe that literacy leads to higher forms of thought there are those who believe being on-line is important to communication evolution. It is easy to push this line so far as to seeing non-technological societies as inferior to ones which embrace new communication technologies such as the Internet. But the Internet will be different from other forms of communication which divided people in the past. In the past it was difficult for some sectors of society (women, poor, various ethnic and religious mixes, age: too young, too old) to obtain the technology to advance themselves. Dale Spender writes well on these topics. With the Internet, as I will say below there are many resources for anyone to make their presence felt, their say heard and their literature available.

    There was the argument that the Internet would separate the rich from the poor even more. That it would be available to middle-class westerns and mainly to males (Spender). Because the United States dominants the Internet there is the questioning of United States values being projected to the world through literature as it has in past times. But this too will even out as more countries become hooked up to the Internet

    Other concerns with the use of the World Wide Web as a source of literature are: rarely do articles have dates for when they were published on the Internet, was this piece written five years ago or last week and what editions or what edit is it of the original piece? At this time no on-line journals has the reputation of print academic journals and until they do print journals will be more sought after. Rarely is the source or qualifications of the author known. Just because they put a Dr in front of their name or a phd after we do not know if the writer is who they say they are. And the most upsetting aspect of the Internet is the disappearing web pages. This happens when a site is no longer on-line for any one of a variety of reasons: through the server crashing (I lost 200 sites on Angelfire because of a system crash they had, I lost over a hundred sites on geocities because they deleted a major site I had and I lost over one-hundred web-pages on another server when they went out of business - for several months there were over three-hundred of my sites - mostly poems - giving back the message of 'ERROR - The requested URL could not be retrieved'. I also lost a year's work which was difficult at the time to accept.

    In Australia the Internet is widely available to anyone anywhere for free. All the libraries and schools have computers and Internet available. It is a simple matter of booking time at the library or spending long hours at university but at least in Australia there is no excuse why anyone can not have their text placed on the Internet and for free. There are many services which give free web sites; the best and easiest to use are geocities and Angelfire. There are many free community based servers along with universities and public schools that will give users free space. A list of free web sites is available from and . Angelfire and Geocities even provide templates making it extremely easy for anyone to place their poems or stories on the Internet. And for those who want to learn how to make their pages look more interesting there are many Internet based tutorials that teach simple World Wide Web language. The point being that anyone can contribute to world literature via the Internet. There are also several free World Wide Web E-Mail services, such as goplay at and hotmail at With Internet Cafes and soon Internet computers installed at shopping centres, gas stations, airports and on street corners there will be no new class of internet poor. The new World Wide Web based literature will be the literature of the people, of the reader and not necessarily of any particular institution or writer.

    The World Wide Web will be more accessible to more people to place their literary genius before the tens of millions of people who view the Internet on a daily basis.


    Since 1945 the number of printed journals has increased from 7,500 to 140,000 and currently are increasing at the rate of more than one-thousand new journals each year. The number of new book titles published each year has increased from 300,000 to more than 850,000 since 1945. (Gilster p. 126) It is too early to forecast whether the number of new journals and books printed will decline with the use of the Internet. There are already thousands of journals on-line. Some on-line sources have the complete journal and some have just indexes to what is within the journal. The advantage of on-line journals to print journals is the rapid rate information can be retrieved without needing to have many journals to individually shift through. On-line journals will grow in number and most journals will have an on-line edition which the reader will be able to interact with. This interaction will come about by the reader being able to offer opinions and suggestions in response to what is presented.

    Future literature will be made up of multiple modes linking texts, sound and movie bits as well as graphics. Literature will become an experience. With the further development of virtual reality we will be able to navigate through text, following sentences and paragraphs over textual mindscapes. The Internet like the printing press makes literature available to more people and on a larger scale than ever possible in the past. Presently hypertext is a one-way avenue, we can hypertext to another site but once within another site we can not link back. Within a few years there should be full hypertext where links can be followed in both directions. There will be editions of literary works that are intended from the start to be only created for the World Wide Web and will never exist in a printed form (Lavagnino)

    Every poet or essay writer can now have a world audience . Poets in the past have struggled to get their works out. Charles Reznikoff had to publish his own books until he was in his seventies. Lorien Niedecker lived all her life in a small fishing village in Wisconsin where she scrubbed hospital floors to make a living and was not widely published until the late 1960's. Now we can publish a poem or essay as soon as we write it, we can even write it and edit it live on the Internet with the potential tens of millions of viewers watching us write. As I have done with this thesis. Of course these millions of viewers are only potential. Having had the personal experience of creating hundreds of web sites, and promoting them through the various search engines and what's-new sites, I have found that only a few sites registered more than a few hits a week. And those sites were because I put the words erotic in the title which is what the search engines display of a web site. Though for a month (September 1996, when this site registered 35,000 hits) my erotic poem of the month received over a thousand hits a day, then starting the next month it went back to a few dozen a day. I have no idea why that happened, obviously it was written up somewhere as a site to visit. I have lost interest in poems of the week and of the month and no longer up-date them, but the availability of the internet for poems and stories is always there.


    Though it is beyond the scope of this thesis one could relate the pattern defining abilities of the brain to adapt, change and as mentioned earlier to link, to the rise of the World Wide Web. Everyday thinking is equivalent to the narrative which will be redefined because of the use of the Internet. The thought processes that we are always encountering within ourselves is one of transferring from node to node. For example as a parent, student, artist, photographer, body builder, astrologer, writer and all the other things one does to be part of society, I may be one moment entertaining thoughts about my children's activities, then jump to thinking about my girl friend, my studies, body building or which time is the correct birth time for Princess Diana (2.15 PM or 7.45 PM?) or any one of a thousand and one things. Society is a linking process, and a society's narrative, to be true, is one of linked nodes.

    The narrative that we experience within ourselves and within our reading or communications is now part of a global syntax. Literature can no longer continue only as a story produced in dead tree printing methods. Literature will now become reader driven as the witness-consumer-creator will produce and consume a new type of narrative. The narrative of the 21st century will be the narrative of all the world's voices weaving in and out and linking within and without providing continuos new structures and new literature unknown before this time.

    'In considering transitions of organs, it is so important to bear in mind the probability of conversion from one function to another. (Darwin, p 45.)

    The Internet provides us with the first time in recorded history of a world literature. For the past several decades there has been a growing consciousness of the world being one family, the interconnectedness of all life is a constant theme of the past thirty years. World literature is now easily available through the internet. At some time someone will begin a project of a world story done on the Internet. Writing a story with people from different cultural backgrounds in various countries would produce a text that would have ascribed meaning by the readers as well as the writers.

    The story is no longer about what has happened to men and women and how they responded, instead it is about how the subjective and collective meanings of women and men as categories of identity have been constructed... (Scott, p.6)

    Just as all forms of literature: drama, epic, essay, novel, poetry, short story, novels, plays, and movements in literature: such imagism, romanticism and surrealism and the many national literatures: American literature, Catalan literature, English Literature and German literature have become available to wide audiences through the printed text so they too are becoming popular throughout the world via the Internet with the literature of every genre imaginable.

    The Internet was made to be indestructible. The American government wanted to find a way to survive nuclear war, or asteroid crashes or any of the other predictive ends that may occur. It is as if all the prophecies of the pass two thousand years about the end of the twentieth century would end in a destructive manner gave rise to the concept of a means of communication that would still be operatable even if the destructive predictions came true.

    There is still in the collective memory of the human race the destruction of the Library of Alexandria in 641 in which a thousands years of scholarly work was stored. Now we have a way to save the world's knowledge no matter what happens, whether the vast majority of life on earth is destroyed in nuclear war, or natural disaster, global warming or collisions with rocks from space. Human knowledge will survive humans. Of course what narrative is found by a future generation will need to be de-coded by a future generation.

    Books will not lose their place, only the reader will. Books will undergo transformation through interpretation and presentation as all literature always has. The Biblical scholar Stephen Prickett prefaces his Origins of Narrative with:

    During the late eighteenth century the Bible underwent a shift in interpretation so radical as to make it virtually a different book from what it had been a hundred years earlier...far from being divinely inspired or even a rock of certainty in a world of flux, its text was neither stable nor original, the new notion of the Bible as a cultural artefact became a paradigm of all literature...

    (Prickett 1996)

    Just as Prickett speaks about a shift in reading the Bible there is now a shift in reading the universe (Pricett 1996 p.155). Our current shift in reading via the World Wide Web is a shift in partaking of narrative exchanges.

    The Internet will prove to be a great source of introduction to new writings, whether from a new writer or an already established writer. For example, a novelist could put their first chapter or an introduction to their novel on the Internet and if the reader wanted to purchase the novel then they would pay for the remainder of it by credit card and either have it sent to them electronically or download the material and print it themselves.

    Multimedia is changing how narrative is presented. The onus is upon the reader whether to evaluate material on the World Wide Web and to develop the critical skills needed to give meaning to what is seen. Anyone can self-publish and have Internet sites looking highly polished and professional with very little effort using web page editors. As literature via the World Wide Web becomes ubiquitous, being all things to all people, each reader (the witness of the narrative) will create a different perspective to the original creation. The author has not died but instead has grown up and is part of a true literary-exchange

    With the WORLD WIDE WEB's availability to all the individual writer-poet-heroes an individual voice of the age will no longer be occurring. There will never again be another Roland Barthes, Wordsworth, Shelley or a Shakespeare. Where there was once but a few voices now there are thousands each with a different point of view and crying out to be heard.

    The World Wide Web is a digital speak-easy where literature is experienced as a process of mutating volatile virtual texts. Literature on the World Wide Web reflects the unpredictability of human life which has come close to extinction. As narratives merge, link and interact through the use of the World Wide Web humanity will redefine itself and survive, which without the Internet it might not have.



    Term originated by author William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer the word
    Cyberspace is currently used to describe the whole range of information resources available through computer networks.


    - Above, excessive or beyond. meta = among about or between


    - is a subset of interactive multimedia.


    Generally, any text that contains links to other documents - words or phrases in the document that can be chosen by a reader and which cause another document to be retrieved and displayed. Ted Nelson claims to have originally coined the term Hypertext.


    (World Wide Web) -- Two meanings - First, loosely used: the whole constellation of resources that can be accessed using Gopher, FTP, HTTP, telnet, USENET, WAIS and some other tools. Second, the universe of hypertext servers (HTTP servers) which are the servers that allow text, graphics, sound files, etc. to be mixed together.

    A more complete


    may be found at:


    • Aers, David. 'Community, Gender and Individual Identity: English Writing 1360-1430,' Routledge, New York, 1988.

    • Barger, John. Hyperterrorist s Timeline of Hypertext History at ( on the World Wide Web.

    • Berger, Peter. and Luckmann, Thomas. The Social Construction of reality, A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, Penguin Books, 1966.

    • Bolgar, R.R. The Classical Heritage and Its Beneficiaries: From the Carolingian Age to the End of the Renaissance, New York, 1964.

    • Bolter, Jay David. Degrees of Freedom

    • Bower, Gordon., Morrow, Daniel. Mental models in narrative comprehension, Science, vol. 247, p44, 1990.

    • Butler, Pierce, The Origin of Printing in Europe, The University of Chicago Press, London, 1940.

    • Calvin, William. How Brains Think - Evolving Intelligence, Then and Now, Basic Books, 1996.

    • Caracciolo, Peter L. ed. 'The Arabian Nights in English Literature', Macmillan Press, 1988, London.

    • Carter, Harry. A View of Early Typography up to 1600, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1969.

    • Chappell, Warren. A Short History of the Printed Word, New York Times, 1971, New York.

    • Chaytor, H.J. From Script to Print, W. Heffer & Sons, LTD., Cambridge, Massachusetts 1950.

    • Clancy, M.T. From Memroy to Written Record - England, 1066-1307, Havard Press, 1979.

    • Cohen, David. It was a dark and stormy site , The Weekend Australian, August 23-23, 1997, SYTE, p.8.

    • Cortazar, Julio. Hopscotch, trs., by Gregory Rabassa. New York: Pantheon, 1966.

    • Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species, John Murray, 1859, p137.

    • Drexler, Eric. 'Hypertext Publishing and the Evolution of Knowledge' , in 'Social Intelligence', Vol. 1, No. 2, pp.87-120, October 20, 1995.

    • Edwards, Brian. (chair) 'Myth and Ideology' and 'Writing about Writing', Deakin University courses in Literature Deakin University, Geelong Victoria, 1987-1990.

    • Eisenstein, Elizabeth. 'The Printing Press - As an Agent of Change, Volume II and II', Cambridge University Press, Sydney, 1979.

    • Eisenstein, Elizabeth. 'The Printing Revolution', Cambridge University Press, Sydney, 1993.

    • Encyclopedia Americana, Grolier Incorporated, 1989.

    • Febvre, Lucien, Trans. David Gerard. The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800, NLB, London, 1976.

    • Firstenberg, Allen. Addventure , at

    • Frye, Billy. Universities in Transition: Implications for the Libraries, in Dowler, Lawrence. ed. Gateways to Knowledge The Role of Academic Libraries in Teaching, Learning and Research.

    • Gilster, Paul. Digital Literacy, Wiley Computer Publishing, Hon Wiley & Sons, inc. Brisbane, 1997.

    • Goldpaugh Tom, Postmodern and Cyberculture

    • Grant, Kenneth. Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, Samuel Weiser, New York, 1974.

    • Hirsch, Rudolf. ed. Printing and the Spread of Humanism in Germany: The Example of Albrecht Von Eyb, in. Renaissance Men and Ideas, Schwoebel, R, New York, 1971.

    • Illich, Ivan. & Sanders, Barry. The Alphabetization of the Poplar Mind, Marion Boyers, New York. 1988.

    • Jonassen, David. Ed. The Technology of Text, Principles for Structuring Design, and Display Text, Educational Technology Publications, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1997.

    • Keller, Lynn. An Interview with Susan Howe , Contemporary Literature XXXVI, I, p5. 1955.

    • Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. The Poetics of Artificial Intelligence

    • Krieger, Murray, Ekphrasis, the Illusion of the Natural Sign, The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore Maryland. 1992.

    • Koestler, Arthur. The Act of Creation, Dell Publishing, New York, 1964.

    • Kuwamoto, Shu. Choose your own adventure at sho/choose_main.html

    • Lavagnino, John. Reading, Scholarship, and Hypertext Editions , TEXT: Transactions of the Society for Textual Scholarship, volume 8, 1996, p.1.

    • Ledgerwood, Dr. M.D. Hypertextualilty and Multimedia Literature (Conferences Semiotics of the Media at the University GH Kassel

    • Martin, Henri-Jean, Trans. David Gerard. The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800, NLB, London, 1976.

    • Maslin's Beach

    • McGann, Jerome. The Rationale of HyperText

    • McKillop, Alan Dugald. 'The Early Masters of English Fiction', The University Press of Kansas, London 1968.

    • McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy - the making of typographic man, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1962

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      Inc. London. 1990.

    • Odin's Castle

    • Onega, Susana. 'Telling Histories: Narrataivizing History, Historicizing Literature', Costerus New Series 96, Atlanta Georgia, 1995.

    • Pam, Andrew. URL: GlassWings/attendants.html.

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    • Prickett, Stephen. 'Origins of Narrative, The Romantic appropriation of the Bible,' Cambridge University Press, Sydney, 1996.

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    • Reid, Ian. (chair) 'Narrative Situations' and 'Narrative Exchanges', Deakin University courses in Literature Deakin University, Geelong Victoria, 1987-1990.

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    • Rosenzweigh, Roy and Brier, Steve. Historians and Hypertext: is It more than hyper? in Dowlere, Lawrernce. ed. Gateways to Knowledge The Role of Academic Libraries in Teaching, Learning and Research.

    • St John, N. Book review, The American Journal of Sociology 73 (1967).

    • Schlegel, Friedrich. Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, trs., introduced, and annotated by Ernst Behler and Roman Stuc, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1968. P.95

    • Scott, Joan. Gender and the Politics of History, Columbia Universtiy Press, 1988.

    • Showstack, Richard. Printing: The Next Stage: Discourse Punctuation in Jonassen, David. Ed. The Technology of Text, Principles for Structuring Design, and Display Text, Educational Technology Publications, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1997.

    • Spender, Dale. Nattering on the Net, Women, Power and Cyberspace Spinifew Press Ltd. North Melbourne, 1995

    • Spender, Dale. Why I m giving my books away , The Weeekend Australian, August 30-31, SYTE p.3.

    • Spender, Dale. Man Made Language, HarperCollins, London, 1980.

    • Spender, Dale. & Kramarae, Cheris. Eds. The Knowledge Explosion, Geneartions of Feminist Scholarship, Harvester Wheatsheaf, Sydney, 1993.

    • Tolva, John. The Heresy of Hypertext: Fear and Anxiety in the Late Age of Print

    • Vonnegut, Kurt 'SlaughterFive or The Children's Crusade', Jonathan Cape, London, 1969.

    • Wallace, . Neo-Tech .

    • Weinberger, Eliot. 'American Poetry since 1950', Marsili Publishers, New York, 1993.

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    • Zakour, John. The Doomsday Brunette at http://zeb.nysaes

    • Zervos, Komninos Konstantinos. cyberpoetry1995
    With one of the most interesting poetry presentations on the Internet - just hit the stop button at any time and read what you get.

    Date: Thu, 25 Sep 1997 22:25:03 +1000

    From: Dale Spender

    To: Terrell Neuage

    Subject: Re: female/male ratios

    just looked it up

    according to Danile McCaffrey of Netwatch

    47% of users are now women dale

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Dale Spender Internet:

    101 Boomerang Rd East Fax: +61 7 371 8780

    St. Lucia QLD 4067