Google drop-ins

If a hypertext is on the web with its pages already formed (as opposed to being generated from a data base on demand), then it will have been spidered by search engines and readers will be able to drop into the text at any point. From Google the reader arrives at some page in the middle of the text, with no knowledge about and no particular intention of reading the long complex text.

This is very different from the controlled environment of stand-alone hypertexts presented with special software. This frustrates authorial attempts to define paths and starting points, and to create rhetorical effects that take multiple movements for their performance.

For hypertexts that deliver information, search engine random access provides no problem. The reader looks and finds and leaves.

But the situation is different for some expository and most literary hypertexts, where meaning arises over sequences of nodes. If the author wants such readers to keep on reading the text, rather than collecting tidbits from one or two pages and then departing, then the author needs to provide some vision of the whole that might change the reader's intentions, as well as navigation aids that suggest where to go next. Navigation devices become instruments of seduction.

Hypertext has been celebrated as freeing the reader, making them co-authors, "wreaders," yet that presumes a kind of dedication in the reader that the web does not encourage. If "afternoon" or "Victory Garden" were on the web, would their complex structures and textual effects be as successful as they are on a CD? On the web the reader never confronts only the work at hand.