Authorial expectations for the reader

My cut up, cross-linked narratives and the tangled expository sections ask for a reader dedicated enough to spend time with the text and eventually encounter ideas in cut-up descriptions, dialogues and expositions scattered through different nodes. But is this realistic?

There are several issues here.

Is it sensible for me as an author to expect that a complicated structure and a long text will be encountered in its entirety? Perhaps this would be more likely if the text was delivered on a CD which the reader purchased. But if the work is encountered on the web, what happens? Do we know?

Web reading habits tend toward scanning rather than in-depth investigation. An author can try to meet this by providing interesting, visually engaging material with clear navigation. But this tends to get in the way of producing complexly linked textual effects that demand passage across multiple nodes.

This is related to the Google drop-in problem, which works against complex textual maneuvers.

In composing the long text I found myself wondering if any reader would ever encounter the whole. In that respect I found it comforting to have the book version as well, though it does not contain any of the narrative materials or expanded treatments found in the hypertext. (But what if the book is not published?)

How do we increase the reader's desire for complex linked structure and ability to encounter it?

From my teaching experience I know how hard it can be to learn how to read complex argumentative books and essays. Try teaching Hegel to undergraduates, or getting them to appreciate Plato's self-ironical dialogues.

There's hope. For one thing, the growing practice of making and following links in the blogosphere may help readers sustain attention across multiple nodes and produce a different sort of web reading.