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Response: Hypertextuality–Beneficial or Damaging?

Ilana Snyder makes a very compelling argument about the changes in textuality and the growing values of hypertext in the chapter “Reconceiving Textuality.” However, there are negative and damaging aspects to hypertext that she never considers.

Snyder completely disregards the value of authorial intent. Although, hypertextuality is appreciated because it is a “democratization of access to information, knowledge and the academy,” the downside is that the author and his/her intent becomes devalued and marginalized (Snyder 50). In hypertextuality the reader becomes so highly active in creating the text that the purpose for which the text was originally created, the intended meanings of certain passages, and  rhetorical techniques to target a specific audience are forsaken.

Snyder also fails to discuss how one might study a text if it is hypertextual and dispersed. If readers are playing an active role in giving meaning to the text, what structures do they have for reading and analysis if conventionalized themes, plot, and genres are erased in hypertextuality? If hypertext is different from traditional text, how would one go about studying and analyzing it?

Furthermore, Snyder falls short of discussing what kind of readers are creating and developing this hypertext. If anyone and everyone is involved in creating a text in, then how do you determine the ethos of the reader? Is the reader being objective with their reading and analyzing, or are they only reading and focusing on what they please? If the reader is given more value and power than the author, what credentials, academic or otherwise, do they have that substantiates their input compared to someone who studies a text in a linear fashion?

Lastly, in hypertextuality, a text loses individual value because “the totality counts more than the individual document,” (Snyder 51) and this is something Snyder disregards. Although hypertextuality has the ability to link a vast amount of material together, the centrality of a text is dissolved to the point that there is no one conversation, discipline, or ideology, but all are interconnected. While this is constructive for certain studies, texts are also independently valuable for the direction and distinction they provide, such as specific historiographies like post-WWII women’s labour movements.

Consequently, while Snyder provides a valuable articulation about the benefits of hypertextuality, she fails to consider its negative and damaging aspects on authorial intent, readership and reader participation, and the loss of textual individuality.

Works Cited

Snyder, Llana. Hypertext: The Electronic Labyrinth. New York: New York UP, 1996.

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