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"Writerly" Texts - The reader as a producer of the text.

Barthes’ Theory

            Roland Barthes, like many others, wrote about how hyperspace can be developed into what we know now as hypermedia or hypertexts.  He coined the term “writerly" text.



            Barthes foresaw that texts no longer needs to be confined in a printed media.  Hyperspace allows texts to be inter-linked by a network.  Thus books or texts no longer need to be read in a sequential manner, eliminating its conventional linearity.



            In his article, Barthes described what his picture of an ideal text should be.  Composing of blocks of short texts, or other media forms, these are linked together by means of multiple-paths, chains or trails in an open-ended, perpetual text form.  He introduced the terms link, node, network, web and path in lieu of the above. (Landow, p.3)


            What Barthes meant was that each of these text blocks consists of small amounts of details to a story.  The reader, through the various options available to him at every point, picks on one that he so desired.  This option is normally presented in the form of a hyperlink.  By clicking on it, the reader is brought instantaneously to a new page.  This is where new information is again presented to him, and again, giving him some choices to move on.


            The above process goes on and on, it could be endless.  The reader does not experience the sequential or linear inflow of details as though reading a printed text.  He merely collects bits of information, links them up in his mind, and gradually form a picture of what’s going on.


            This new learning experience ultimately puts the author in the backstage.  The latter no longer decides how information should be presented forth.  The reader, by his choices along the way, decides on the path he wants to take, thus decides on “his” fate.  The reader becomes the active creator of the story line.


            This new concept also allows for non-textual media to be involved along the way.  Video, sound, animation and other forms of data, can now be incorporated in a hypertext.  This was never possible with printed text.


            Again, as Barthes argued convincingly, the purpose of  such literary work is to make the reader the producer of the text, instead of being a passive consumer.  Hypertext simply calls for an active reader.  As he approaches a block of texts, choices are laid open to him, whichever pathway he chooses will eventually lead to his own “fate”.  Thus two readers reading the same book might just end up with different fates.