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CyberText Yearbook 2000

Editor: Markku Eskelinen, Raine Koskimaa
Publisher: University of Jyvakyla, Finland: Research Centre for Contemporary Culture, 2000
Review Published: December 2001

 REVIEW 1: Jessica Pressman
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: Markku Eskelinen & Raine Koskimaa

Let's begin with what truly amazes us in Jessica Pressman's review of Cybertext Yearbook 2000. For some reason she has the nerve to define cybertext "as a medium in which the reading order is determined by the reader." We don't have the time or cruelty to repeat ourselves once again in explaining why cybertext is not a medium, and why there are users and user functions instead of readers in cybertext theory, and why random access (basic requirement for the reader to choose the reading order) is only one possible value of one parameter in Aarseth's seven-dimensional textonomical typology (and usually to be found in print objects very much resembling our yearbook).

However, this heuristic typology and its continuum of 576 media positions, into which Aarseth is capable of situating every textual object from I Ching to MUDs based on how its medium functions but independently of what the medium is, is the very source for the diversity that so baffles Jessica Pressman in her review. Still, we can't change the fact that the history of print literature and curiously print like hypertext literature has been able to utilize only 2 or 3% of those 576 non-hypothetical possibilities (this fact also turns hypertexts into a subset of cybertexts). Based on this rather elementary point of departure Cybertext Yearbook 2000 was then organized to display diversity in pairs or triplets of essays and interviews (Cayley and McHale on poetry, Janez Strehovec and Stuart Moulthrop on web objects, Aarseth and Frasca on space and time in computer games, Walker and the editors on narrative issues and so on). It's a pity Pressman completely misses these and other dialogic relationships not to mention finer points of contact, continuity and discontinuity between and among the essays and replaces them with her unfounded and ill-informed dichotomies.

Pressman seems to have faced surprising difficulties in getting our topic and main organizing principle right. Cybertext Yearbook 2000 is not about electronic textuality, it is about ergodic textuality (that is: every form of textuality that requires more than mere interpretative activity from the user). And it is exactly this media-independent perspective that allows us to address print and electronic texts as well as holopoetry or bacterial works of Eduardo Kac if only they meet the criteria. Here we have no other option but to conclude that the students of electronic literature are definitely not users of ergodic literature.

Cybertext theory has very interesting and complex connections to a wide variety of approaches, fields and disciplines, which should be evident to everyone who has actually read Cybertext. Consequently, we think it is a grave mistake to reduce this lineage to hypertext theorists and assume they prompted Aarseth's work. Be that as it may, it is very clear to us yearbook editors that we don't need to take any counterproductive detours through hypertext theory in order to connect cybertext theory to previous advanced theories of literature and text, as the latter usually lack the benefits resulting from the systematic study of the textual media the former can offer. In this context it is almost arrogant of Jessica Pressman to imply that we (or the contributors coming from eight different countries and equally heterogeneous intellectual and scholarly traditions) should submit to the same code of ancestral worship that may or may not be in one's best interests while specializing in electronic literature and hypertext narratives at certain US universities.

Markku Eskelinen and Raine Koskimaa
11.25.01

Markku Eskelinen & Raine Koskimaa


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