Since computer writing and reading is "primarily visual,"
Bolter reviews the history and means of using images within the
text. In this chapter he is interested in showing how hypertext
contains and refigures "originary" elements of writing.
Electronic texts combine picture-writing and text in a dynamic
space, the icons (which he compares to pictures) providing an
organizing structure for the words. The computer screen does not
operate within a closed system of signs, he argues, but is able
to receive new icons (unlike the alphabet, but like picture
writing). Electronic text is not only inclusive, it is
constructive, as the earliest texts were. The computer also
"promises to redraw the boundary between margin and memory"
because of its dynamic nature, which allows the reader to choose,
even construct, a path through the text. Bolter notes the oral
quality of the relationship between the reader and the text
because of the reader's ability to influence the outcome. He
concludes by explaining that within hypertext many different
systems of representation can co-exist. (Kristin Bolton.)
David Bolter. "The Elements of Writing." Writing
Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing.
Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1991. 45-61.
Text: Selective Annotated Bibliography.
Department of English, University of Minnesota
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Created 5 May 1995
Last revised 17 September 1996