Ut Pictura Hyperpoesis:
Spatial Form, Visuality, and the Digital Word

John Tolva
Department of English
Campus Box 1122
Washington University
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
Tel: (314) 727-7547
E-mail: jntolva@artsci.wustl.edu
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~jntolva/


This essay discusses the visual characteristics of hypertext (space, contour, depth) by situating it, as an artistic form, in the literary traditions that it extends and modifies. While, from a literary perspective, hypertextuality is nothing new, what is revolutionary is the way that computerized hypertext emulates the spatial and visual qualities that literary texts have historically struggled to effect. To illustrate the concept of spatial form I have chosen to analyze the mola web, a hypertext which is unique, though not abnormal, in the extremity of its link structure. One needs only think of the ubiquitous metaphor of the labyrinth in hypertext criticism [5] or of the recent attention given to spatial user interfaces [17] to see how dependent is the idea of hypertext on a spatial form.

KEYWORDS: hypertext, spatial form, ekphrasis, visual, flatland, mola, World Wide Web

Data overload equals pattern recognition. Any word, or process, or form, pushed tothe limits of its potential, reverses its characteristics and becomes a complementary form.
Marshall McLuhan

The dialectic of word and image seems to be a constant in the fabric of signs that culture weaves around itself. What varies is the precise nature of the weave, the relation of warp to woof.
W.J.T. Mitchell


In his quest to visualize extra-dimensional space, the nineteenth-century German mathematician Georg Riemann developed a simple metaphor. Riemann proposed thinking of two sheets of paper--each one representing a discrete two-dimensional universe--pasted together exactly at the site of a small slice made in the center of each page. (Edge-on the sheets would look like a hyperbola whose two curves meet in the middle.) He then imagined a two-dimensional creature ambling across the outer surface of one sheet and passing through the aperture created by the joined slits. Moving from the top to bottom sheet, the creature in effect makes an extra-dimensional leap. It has moved from one 2-D flatland to another and, though this new world obeys the same physical laws as the old one, the bug is completely disoriented. The landscape is changed utterly but through no fault of the linearly-moving bug. To a three-dimensional observer the bug seems to have flipped upside down (though, unable to conceptualize up and down in its two-dimensionality, the bug would not perceive such a flip) [10]. Theoretically the bug has traveled "through" a hitherto unknown space; its movement has created a third dimension (if only momentarily) in a 2-D world. This space, the paradoxically empty rift between the two sheets, exists only in retrospection, in the knowledge that one is no longer where one began. To use a three-dimensional example: we do not ever see the elevator shaft through which we ascend in a building, though we know, through a process of inference, that we have moved through some space since the topography we are presented with when the doors re-open is noticeably different than the one we left in the lobby. The shaft, like the rift in flatland, is what Roman Ingarden calls an "imaginational space"[8]. It exists only because of our perceptual refusal to admit any spatial discontinuity in a Euclidean universe: we think space, therefore it is.

Riemann's paper-based metaphor is useful to consider for two reasons, both of which grapple with the vexed and vexing relation between text and space. First, my verbal description of the warp known as "Riemann's cut" shows, crudely, the difficulty of conveying the concept of space with words alone (for instance, the diagram [Fig. 1] certainly relates the scene more clearly than the preceding verbal description).

Fig 1: Riemann's Cut

The inability of language ever to create a spatial presence as vividly and precisely as pictorial representation may seem like a point not worth arguing. Yet, this descriptive limit is the essence of the many lines of distinction--mostly smudged by hypertext--traditionally drawn between the visual and verbal arts. Second, and more importantly, the model of the intersecting sheets of paper--parallel, interpenetrating planes connected by zero-length "worm holes"[3, 10]--is one way of visualizing link-rich text. Physicists call such a thing a "multiply connected surface"; we call it hypertext.

Printed communication is the planar world of the bug. As the human interface with the text, our eyes--like the flatbug--scamper across the paperscape in one of two dimensions, up-down or left-right but never through; there is no depth. We may physically turn the page, but this act is peripheral to the reader-text transaction. (Who, for instance, actually recalls turning individual pages when reading a book?) Our perceptual machinery rides along the unicursal tracks of print-based syntax. But as nearly every commentator on hypertext has pointed out, the presence of links in a field of text disrupts the traditional flow, derailing cognition from syntactical linearity. Literary hypertext exploits the aesthetic possibilities of such disruption, both thematically and structurally. Like the cleft between flatland worlds, links add a spatial dimension to the primarily temporal medium of text, opening up a panorama of possibilities for the author. The act of traveling links, while not a function of the language itself, essentially creates space.


Let us succumb to temporal convention for the moment and begin at the beginning. Before discussing the spatial aspects of text and hypertext, the traditional distinctions between visual and verbal media--a kind of genealogy of the sister arts--must briefly be outlined. Ever since Lessing wrote his "Essay upon the Limits of Poetry and Painting" in 1766, students of the visual and verbal arts have struggled to subvert his separation of the two modes into the categories of space and time [13]. Visual art--an iris by O'Keefe, a kiss by Rodin, a monochrome by Adams--all these forms exist in space and as such are apprehended by the viewer nearly instantaneously. Conversely, verbal art--an elegy by Donne, a novel by Austen, a tale by Twain--all forms with little intrinsic physical space, must by necessity be read during an interval of time. Thus, the spatial/visual arts are characterized by the simultaneity of signs (color), while the temporal/verbal arts are characterized by the succession of signs (language). So with this historic, if somewhat unstable, distinction we ask: what does it mean for words to approach the condition of visuality? Put another way, what is the consequence of poetry, poesis, functioning ut pictura, as a painting does? The traditional interpretation of Horace's statement is that the expressive potential of poetry aspires to the condition of painting, that is, to the condition of unmediated representation of the natural world. This search for the "natural sign"--the symbol so transparent that its artifice is indistinguishable from reality--is most easily recognized in the current cultural craze for virtual realities and other hyperreal forms of delusion. Yet, this impulse is also the motive traditionally assigned to any verbal construct (most often poetry) that seems self-consciously to be emulating or evoking a static, visual (and hence painting-like) moment.

How is this done? One way is to reject what Stuart Moulthrop calls the "delusion of verbality" and acknowledge that, in fact, "the word is a image after all"[17]? Some examples of literally making writing visible or spatial thus include calligraphy, pictograms, concrete poetry, and rebus puzzles. These marginalized forms acknowledge the word as an image like anything else and so exploit the possibilities inherent in its physicality. Text on a screen, in its very malleability, has affinities with this kind of word art. Changing a typeface and formatting for a certain kind of emphasis are both ways of charging words with visual meaning.

An adjunct category of visible writing is illuminated writing in which text is usually accompanied by a frame of visual information and decoration. Elaborate marginal glossing and intertextual patterning often made illuminated medieval works as beautiful as they were unreadable. Contemporary multimedia and hypermedia, in which visual elements are woven into the virtual fabric of text-based documents, obviously owe much to the tradition of illustrated manuscripts. (Indeed, the digital environment reduces all its components to the binary code of 1's and 0's and encourages thinking of the sister arts as identical twins at the most fundamental level.) Perhaps the truest verbal yearning for the representative power of the visual arts is demonstrated in a small sub-genre of literature that employs the rhetorical device known as ekphrasis. "Ekphrasis," explains W.J.T. Mitchell, is used "as a model for the power of literary art to achieve formal, structural patterns and to represent vividly a wide range of perceptual experiences, most notably the experience of vision"[14]. Keat's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is the archetypal example of ekphrasis: it evokes a visual stasis and vividness solely through words. But, since ekphrastic evocation is wholly a function of the linguistic elements of the text and so has no unique correlative in hypertext--a medium whose distinguishing characteristic, the link, is a non-linguistic unit--it does not directly concern us here. I will, however, return to the idea of ekphrasis in the discussion of the mola web. But what about "regular" hypertext, unadorned link-rich text? How do we account for the undeniable sense that we are navigating some kind of space when we are reading hypertext?

Verbal space is a perceptual effect, an artistic sleight of hand. In the same year that Vannevar Bush proposed the "memex," a machine used for spatial organization and retrieval of (mostly textual) information, Joseph Frank offered a definition of spatial form in literature that persists today [1, 6]. Frank called the spatializing technique a "deliberate disconnectedness," an "art of a thing continually alluding to itself, continually breaking off short." In this formulation, the act of reading proceeds through time as usual, but the fragmented nature and sheer density of allusion in the literature of Pound, Eliot, Joyce and others gives up "syntactical sequence . . . for a structure depending on the perception of relationships between disconnected word-groups." By its very nature a phenomenon apprehended in re-reading, textual spatiality defies effective demonstration by quotation. Nevertheless I have selected a relatively compact passage from T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland that implies, if it does not totally portray, the kind of space that inheres in juxtaposition and repetition:

	Here is no water but only rock
	Rock and no water and the sandy road
	The road winding above among the mountains
	Which are mountains of rock without water
	If there were water we should stop and drink
	Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
	Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
	If there were only water amongst the rock
	Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
	Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
	There is not even silence in the mountains
	But dry sterile thunder without rain
	There is not even solitude in the mountains
	But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
	From doors of mudcracked houses
				If there were water
	And no rock
	If there were rock
	And also water
	And water
	A spring
	A pool among the rock
	If there were the sound of water only
	Not the cicada
	And dry grass singing
	But sound of water over a rock
	Where the hermit thrush sings in the pine trees
	Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
	But there is no water

The relentless iteration of themes and motifs and the stutter-step of the narrative flow freeze the moment perceptually, creating a complementary space outside of the poem (in the reader's mind). "To be properly understood," Frank continues, "these word-groups must be juxtaposed with one another and perceived simultaneously; only when this is done can they be adequately understood; for while they follow one another in time, their meaning does not depend on this temporal relationship."

This, of course, is exactly what happens when reading hypertext. The space we seem to be maneuvering is "imaginational." Like bugs in flatland, we momentarily extend the traditionally linear (i.e., 2-D) reading act into a third dimension when we travel a link. The generous possibilities for linking in hypertext fiction and poetry create all the more opportunity for the reader to engage in this sense of extra-dimensional reading. In its simplest form, hypertext narrative evokes space by undermining chronological order and causal relationships. What dense allusion and repetition achieve in modernist poetics is technically emulated, indeed made more complex by, hypertext structures. As Michael Joyce has argued, the hypertext author and the reader together create a sense of textual contour.

Contours are discovered sensually and most often they are read in the visual form of the verbal, graphical or moving text. These visual forms may include the apparent content of the text at hand; its explicit and available design; or implicit and dynamic designs which the current reader or writer perceives either as patterns, juxtapositions or recurrences within the text or as abstractions situated outside the text [9].

The author creates links, designates the paths along which the reader may travel, and thus, in a much freer manner than modernist authors, structures the network of allusions, parallelisms, and juxtapositions that contribute to the sense of textual space. Rather than only perceiving stasis in the act of connecting an allusion from two disconnected parts of a modernist poem, the hypertext reader, following a link on her own volition, senses that she has actually traveled to the new space. Hypertext externalizes the cognitive mapping of disconnected word-groups that is a pre-requisite for the sense of space in modernist literature, what we might call non-computerized hypertext. Space in hypertext is still imaginational, for a literal spatial representation would become a virtual reality based merely on the organizational principles of hypertext. Yet, it is a more vivid, more tangible space that we inhabit (or perhaps, that inhabits us) when we have (or think we have) a greater control over the reading process. (The graphical manipulation of lexias and the iconic depiction of structural features, of course, adds to the reader's sense of spatial presence as well.) Hypertext undermines the temporality of the verbal arts because the fundamental and unavoidable linearity of the act of reading often convinces us that we are moving sequentially when we are, in fact, only circling, spiraling, weaving in and out. Oscillating thus, we perceive any piece of art as both a spatial and a temporal construction, a singularity of Einsteinian spacetime. A text is spatial insofar as its perception requires grappling with its physically written (and not orally delivered) state; likewise, an image is temporal insofar as its perception takes place in time. So, hypertext does not create new problems in the tidy distinctions between visuality and verbality; it merely complicates them exponentially.


One particularly rich example of dimensional complication is the mola web, a hypertext created by Carolyn Guyer, Michael Joyce, Nigel Kerr, Nancy Lin, and Suze Schweitzer and placed on the World Wide Web [15]. This eminently collaborative hypertext capitalizes on the features (and exploits the limitations) of the global network and its commercial interfaces known as browsers. While the Web is certainly not the only hypertext environment available for creative writing, and though it is fraught with shortcomings, its use as an arena for serious literary hypertext is a relatively new and unexplored one. Hypertext of all kinds exhibits spatial form to some degree; that this essay considers only one hypertext network (viewed with one of many available interfaces) should not be taken to mean that I consider it the only, or even a representative, example. Like any hypermedia environment, the World Wide Web presents authors with unique opportunities for evoking spatial form and visuality.

Useful to consider before examining the mola is that its "context," the World Wide Web, operates (for better or for worse) on an unabashedly bookish metaphor. Individual screens are almost universally referred to as "pages" and, though there may be no causal or linear organization to these pages, the reader is encouraged to move forward and backward among them just as in a book. There is, then, a tension inherent in web-based hyperfiction since any spatial form generated by the links must necessarily work against the sense of linear pagination encouraged by the web and its browsers. The mola web nevertheless flies in the face of this structure by making multiple "slices" in every page. It is a collection of sheets comprised totally of Riemann's cuts: every single word and image yields. Everything is linked; nothing lies outside of the web; surface equals depth. A graphical lexia called "Moure" posits the question "if there is a name surface, then what else is there? is what is ‘different' from the surface depth or is it another surface?" In fact, the story behind the web's name, mola, belies its strange surface configuration. The authors describe a mola as

a fabric panel which has been layered, often very complexly, in reverse-appliqué patterns or images and used as the bodice section of the blouses worn by the Kuna women of Panama. The few records of the time indicate that when Europeans reached Panama in the 17th century, the Kuna women probably did not cover their upper bodies but instead painted them in geometric designs. It is possible that missionaries persuaded them to transfer their traditional torso paintings to decorated clothing [15e].

Thus, the history of the quilt pattern is one of surfaces yielding to one another, from dermal to external to hypertextual. Already there is a spatial paradigm which we may superimpose to guide our reading experience. But no paradigms are needed really; the totally linked surface offers ample opportunity for the reader to travel the rifts between the textual flatlands, momentarily to create new dimensions.

The mola web is a surface multiply folded in upon itself, allowing the reader/viewer to move in any direction from any unit. In a lexia called "The Plan" Joyce explains, "The idea is that we make a web page where there are three levels: the mola, the texts, the scraps. Each of the first two is linked across its entire surface (that is every part of the graphics, every word of the text). . . The idea was to defuse (diffuse) the hierarchy by spatializing the links"[15a] As in unlinked text, this spatialization is effected perceptually, imaginationally. A lexia called "linking heuristic" says it succinctly:

The linear is merely a stronger local compulsion, i.e., situated time represented spatially, and so it is represented here, where (whenever) it is needed, by repeated (though separated) instances of links to the same place [15b].

Hypertextual reiteration--not merely remembered as when the reader travels along linearly in a print narrative--but actual and experienced, spatializes the links; or, rather, the links spatialize the reiteration. Sequence gives way to reversibility, as in a piece of visual art. Yet, there is more than spatial form to this project. The mola web is hypertext taken to its logical extreme--exhaustive linking--and at this extremity we find that, amid the tangle of discourse, distinctly visual patterns rise to the surface.

Let us start the exploration of the web at what is described as the "front door." The patchwork components of the hypertext (including fiction, documentary, song lyrics, transcribed conversation, graphics, and links to external sites) collectively define the "weave" (an etymological pun on the word "text"), but the mola proper [Fig. 2] is the captionless image that begins the hypertext and which acts as a kind of synoptic point of entry into the text-block appliqué.

Fig 2: The mola "map"

Ten distinct sections, each a flat meander-like pattern suggesting the meta-symbol of hypertext, the labyrinth, comprise the map. Placed over the seams are five "signature stamps," one for each of the authors, which are linked to personal text spaces that act, in the words of Joyce, as "stitches" for the weave. The center patch, which links to Kerr's signature, presents the outline of a hand poised as though about to tap a button on an unseen mouse: an iconic beckoning to enter the web.

With a mouse click on the map the reader slides into the (mostly) textual strata of the web. Though they may be portions of larger phrase-based links, every word, except headers, can be explored. Revealing another debt to the model of print, many current graphical interfaces for the World Wide Web designate fixed (non-hyperlinked) text by using an ink-black font color. Such words occur only rarely in the mola (usually in the headers) and their fixity seems as clumsily misplaced as the lone hyperlink in a long electronic text. The mola forces the reader to notice the interface, to look at rather than through what Richard Lanham calls the "maximally self-conscious" surface [12]. Perhaps the best example of this self-consciousness comes from the signaling of links. Current graphical browsers usually represent links in two ways, by underlining and by changing the color of the text. The only difference between the two methods is that underlining alerts the reader to the boundaries of the individuated link-chunks. To be sure, this will change as the web adopts more sophisticated link structures. But for now the clumsiness of the interface, this "momentary advantage of our awkwardness," (to recycle a comment by Joyce) creates irony: the underline subtly reifies the linearity of the reading act, which, of course, wholly works at odds with the fluid, dynamic architecture of a hypertext like the mola. I thus find the mola web much more aesthetically palatable (and less linearly determined) by deselecting the link underlining on the browser. Lost with this move are the link delimiters, but gained is a new, totally word-based texture to the quilt, one that de-emphasizes the horizontal nature of textual syntax and lets the vertical and diagonal patterns of the multi-colored words emerge.


This patterning--the literally visual aspect of the mola web--derives from the three-part color scheme that some browsers use to differentiate various states of links. For example, the Netscape Navigator browser uses blue to denote a link to a lexia that has not previously been visited, purple for links to areas already encountered, and red for the fleeting moment of tactile interaction when the mouse clicks on the text. These colors can be assigned by author or reader, though in the mola web their default values are used throughout. Thus, as readers move through the text spaces, circling back to previously visited lexias or encountering new "pages" that contain links to previously visited lexias, the once-monochromatic text fields slowly cleave and coalesce into a two-tone patchwork. Like dog-earing, that patently visual and mildly intimate mark of the reader upon book-based text, the color-shifting of the mola charts the reader's temporal progress. The ratio of one color to the other plots the amount of the web that the reader has encountered. As the reader moves around the web, the visited link color scheme seems to bubble to the surface, subsuming its counterpart.

The patterns of the weave are wholly functions of the browser's denotation of lexias visited, not of the links used to get to them. Thus though the text steadily morphs into a uniform dog-eared purple, the reader can never be sure that he has traversed each and every link. Also, unlike dog-earing, the color switch is always in a state of flux. Eventually the browser's list of visited links--an analogue to the weaver's schematic for building a quilt--resets itself, returning the text to the original, undifferentiated pattern of blue. Like a book that perpetually flattens out its dog-ears and rehabilitates its spine, the mola periodically re-dresses itself, assuring that the visual stasis of the patterning at least occasionally submits to the fluidity of the medium.

The act of reading itself, and nothing inherent to the hypertext, precipitates the visual designs in the mola web. As in a splatter-painting by Jackson Pollack, what emerges from seeming chaos is distinct, though random, pattern--what Joyce calls "contour." In an essay called "Poem Descending a Staircase," William Dickey brings the issue to the fore. He writes not about the World Wide Web but about HyperCard, an earlier page-based hypertext system:

Whatever underlying pattern or geometry is built into the poem will not immediately be apparent to the viewer, who can encounter only one word at a time; the recognition of such structure can come only gradually, so that the viewer's apprehension of the visual and the conceptual shape of the poem is generated in the process of viewing it, rather than appearing as an initial given. The sense of chance, of an aleatory element affecting the viewer's understanding of the work, has been incorporated as a fundamental element of the poem [2].

Dickey here alludes to the experientially visual aspect of hypertext. As in a painting, the act of viewing the mola web is associative. The eye naturally jumps from color patch to color patch, not resting on the individual words for more than a few seconds. Reading the mola linearly (that is, focusing on the words as words) necessarily comes after the associative act of viewing. After a while the reader/viewer actively searches for the blue (pristine, unvisited) text just as an art critic peers hard to find new items, textures, and colors in a painting or sculpture. Indeed there is chance (what Dickey calls the "aleatory element") involved in this process, for nothing the authors could hard-wire into their creation can dictate the path that the reader follows. Words suggestive of links, visual cues to links, and especially guard fields have traditionally insured that the author had some degree of control over the reader's trek. Because there can be nothing suggestive of a hyperlink when everything is one and because the World Wide Web in general disallows conditional linking, the authors of the mola have no such tools at their disposal, but they don't seem to mind. An untitled lexia comments:

The concept of hypertext is mercurial because it is unstructured. The reader is the structure, the builder, and the architect, and in this creation, it has created life. The burden of clarification is lightened because there is less of a need for clear cut answers. The answers are a product of creation [15c].

It quickly becomes clear that interactivity and chance (the interactivity of chance as well as the chance of interactivity) define the contours of the mola. One particularly apt example: among the so-called level of "scraps" in the mola--links to external sites on the World Wide Web--is a site called URouLette, that actually lands the reader at a randomly selected server anywhere in the world.


Even a hypertext as seemingly chaotic as the mola can be explored logically. As J. Yellowlees Douglas has noted, the drive toward establishing cohesion and closure persists even in hypertext. Our desire for order "is satisfied when we manage to resolve narrative tensions and to minimize ambiguities, to explain puzzles, and to incorporate as many of the narrative elements as possible into a coherent pattern"[4]. Yet, the question of the mola quilt's intrinsic structural order is not satisfied by recourse to the reader's perceptual act of organization. Another untitled lexia offers this explanation:

Hypertext is a reflection of the entropy that exists in the universe. We, the artists, try to create order, but at the same moment this adds to randomness for we continuously change the meaning, the form of our creation. As we create more randomness in structure, there is more order in our minds. Life appears hectic and chaotic to the observer; however, it is actually habitual and sane to the "artist," much like hypertext. . . . [15d]

Drawing an analogy between the second law of thermodynamics and creative endeavor, we might call hypertext as an art form a mirror of life's disarticulation. On the visual level, the mola quilt does exhibit an entropic tendency: it slowly loses its uniformity of color, bleeding into a matrix of tachiste-like swatches. The reader's attempt to navigate in a systematic manner disrupts the colored uniformity of the parts while simultaneously triggering the emergence of patterns--itself a re-ordering. Yet, given enough time and exploration, the quilt inexorably reverts to a single color. Absolute zero, entropy's end. Visual closure exists. (At least it exists for a while, until the reader switches browsers or resets the link list.) Closure can be achieved in another, more surreal way too. The reader could conceivably match the color of the visited link text to the color of the background. Each encounter of a text-space would then effectively obliterate all references to that text-space. The gray substratum would swallow the text whole, assimilating its pixels into the uniform texture of its canvas. Like William Gibson's electronic text Agrippa (A Book of the Dead) that erases itself after it has been read, the mola would literally be a self-consuming artifact, slowly disintegrating into nothingness. The lexias to which the vanishing links refer would still exist (though, made up of links, they too would begin to dissolve) and the link foreshadowing would continue to work. (To be sure, the reader could just as easily set the color of unvisited link text to match the background, thereby assuring a slow materialization of the text from the screen's blank background.)

Even accounting for the intriguing possibilities of such color assignments, the mola web (given enough time) still inexorably cycles from order to disorder and back again. In spite of the intrinsically hypertextual preclusion of narrative closure in the mola web there is a peculiar impulse to visual completeness--one ostensibly tied to the completeness of the reader's experience. Relevant here is the ancient distinction in the visual arts between hyle, matter itself, and morphe, the form imposed upon it. Disproportionate amounts of the former--heavy, distinct brush strokes in a painting for instance-- emphasize the process of creation, highlight the status of the representation as an artifact. Claude Gandelman, in Reading Pictures, Viewing Texts, extends this notion to the verbal arts: "hyle can be shown as collage: pasting newspaper clippings within the literary text, a technique used by Dos Passos, or pasting together bits of conversation heard on the street, as in the poem conversations of Apollinaire. . . . It introduces "noise" into the art work in the shape of the seesaw game between two systems"[7]. As a verbal work, the mola web is nearly pure hyle, "tantamount," Gandelman says of the aesthetics of unfinishedness, "to a foregrounding of disorder over order, or randomness and noise over organization." Yet, we know that the trajectory of the weave is toward visual completeness and chromatic uniformity. Readers are compelled to explore each untraveled link, to separate the signal from the noise, to suppress all the textual "spots of indeterminacy" (Unbestimmtheitstellen), Roman Ingarden's term for the interstices of meaning in a textual composition. The reader finally creates a space in which to situate the quilt.

The mola web participates fully in the spatio-temporal dialectic of modernist art. Self-consciously desiring to create space through juxtaposition, reiteration, and allusion, the quilted hypertext is a giant, möbius surface of links. It is, in this woven way, truly ekphrastic. That is, the patchwork symbolic structure of the mola--links and words taken as a whole--not only describes a quilt, it literally evokes one. What could be more quilt-like than a spatialized weaving together of lexias? Rather than disrupting the concept of spatial form as some critics have argued [3], links generate it, thwarting temporal flow and opening a space for the reader's mind to construct the extra dimension needed to rationalize the act of "traveling" a link in a Euclidean universe that physically, logically disallows it. We think space, therefore it is.


  1. Bush, Vannevar. As We May Think. Atlantic Monthly. (July, 1945).
  2. Dickey, William. Poem Descending a Staircase. Hypermedia and Literary Studies. Paul Delany and George Landow, eds. (MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1994), 147.
  3. Dieberger, Andreas. Spatial environments to organize and navigate information and to communicate about this organization. In Position Papers on Spatial User Interface Metaphors in Hypermedia Systems (Sept. 1994,Edinburgh, Scotland). ECHT. http://www.gatech.edu/lcc/idt/Faculty/andreas_dieberger/ECHT94.WS.Dieberger.html
  4. Douglas, J. Yellowlees. "How Do I Stop This Thing?": Closure and Indeterminacy in Interactive Narratives. Hyper/Text/Theory. George Landow, ed. (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1994) 185.
  5. The Electronic Labyrinth: http://www.ualberta.ca/~ckeep/elab.html
  6. Frank, Joseph. Spatial Form in Modern Literature. The Sewanee Review 53 (1945) 229.
  7. Gandelman, Claude. Reading Pictures, Viewing Texts. Indiana Univ. Press, Bloomington and Ind ianapolis, 1991.
  8. Ingarden, Roman. The Literary Work of Art: An Investigation of the Borderlines of Ontology, Logic, and the Theory of Literature. George G. Grabowicz, trans. Northwestern Univ. Press, Evanston, 1973.
  9. Joyce, Michael. "(Re)Placing the Author: ‘A Book in the Ruins'," unpublished paper.
  10. Kaku, Michio. Hyperspace. Doubleday, New York, 1994. [Figure 1, copyright Oxford University Press, 1994].
  11. Krieger, Murray. Ekphrasis: The Illusion of the Natural Sign. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1992.
  12. Lanham, Richard. The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts. University of Chicago Press, London and Chicago, 1993.
  13. Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim. Laocoon: An Essay Upon the Limits of Poetry and Painting. Ellen Frothingham, trans. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 1969.
  14. Mitchell, W.J.T.. Picture Theory. University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1994) 154.
  15. mola web: http://www.world3.com/meme1/Mola/index.html
    1. The Plan lexia: http://www.world3.com/meme1/Mola/The_Plan_276.html
    2. Linking Heuristic lexia: http://www.world3.com/meme1/Mola/linking_heuristic_450.html
    3. Untitled lexia 1: http://www.world3.com/meme1/Mola/Untitled_102.html
    4. Untitled lexia 2: http://www.world3.com/meme1/Mola/Untitled_090.html
    5. What's a mola? lexia: http://www.world3.com/meme1/Mola/Whatsa_Mola_598.html
  16. Moulthrop, Stuart. Pillows of Folly. http://www.ubalt.edu/www/ygcla/sam/pillows.html#verbality
  17. Position Papers on Spatial User Interface Metaphors in Hypermedia Systems. http://www.gatech.edu/lcc/idt/Faculty/andreas_dieberger/ECHT94.WS.toc.html
  18. URouLette: http://www.ukans.edu/uroulette.html