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What does software engineering, writing HTML, and cyberspace generally have to do with good old-fashioned reading and writing? What does multimedia have to do with Alchemy? I don't know, but I'm working on it... From the perspective of literary theory, it seems possible to approach just about everything as if it were a text. A movie, a piece of music, a commercial, etc. may all be seen as texts. Whereas this methodology, at times, may be no more than a cover-up for the scholar's lack of knowledge of the topic in question, it does often prove to be illuminating as literary theory boasts many refined tools with which to grasp the issues at hand, drawing as it does upon a very long tradition. If literary theorists have today encroached upon the role of philosophers in former times, we may believe the situation somewhat akin to philosophers' discussions of disciplines outside philosophy. Think of Hegel's discussion of the fine arts, for instance; Hegel, who seldom if ever abandoned his way of thinking about things on thought's own terms, while acknowledging that thinking is vain that does not operate from within the object under scrutiny. Does Hegel's philosophy of art mean anything to an artist? The answer, I suppose, remains controversial. Today, we are not likely to think of works of art as taking part in the World Spirit; nevertheless, Hegel may have insights that are still valuable to us. Suffice it to say that Harold Bloom, the literary critic, cherishes Hegel's insight that Shakespearean characters are "free artists of themselves." If we have learned to bare with philosophers' misreading of things outside philosophy as if it were philosophy - if we will grant them this trope (this lie as Nietzsche would have said), then surely we must allow our contemporary literary theorists the licence of seeing texts where no text exists.

I propose that we view the Internet as one large text, a conjecture not too unreasonable it is hoped. After all, so much material on the Net is already text. Indeed, it has been argued that all of its contents is no more than just plain text - that images, graphics, music, sounds, video, etc., when broken down to the level of the digital code, are found to be just plain text. Arguably, this is false. When clicking an image, the user interacts with not a text but an image. Or so I believe. Think in terms of user friendliness. How huge the difference be between the all-text interface and an interface that encompasses sound and images in addition to text, thus making things intuitive and hence so much quicker for the user. To say that all contents of the Net is in the final analysis no more than just text is at best reductive; more probably, it is neglecting the ontology of the user interface and undermining the concept of multimedia. What I mean, then, when suggesting that we regard the Internet as one large text is that we should be alert to the similarity between the user's situation in front of the computer screen and the time-honoured tradition of reading and writing. Whether the user is chatting, emailing, or surfing the Net, he is forced to make use of the faculties of reading and writing. Whereas the traditional process of reading and writing is often characterized by a huge time-span between writer and reader (as when we read Plato), the computerized equivalent is characterized by simultaneity or a delay of a comparatively insignificant degree. If reading and writing embodies a relationship of sending and receiving, we must congratulate the Internet on having made this transition so much quicker than what it used to be. The Internet is therefore an improvement of the traditional process of writing and reading. But the Internet is more than that: it has potentials that go way beyond the textual media. Although, at present, the Internet entertains only the senses of sight and hearing, it will in time develop into a vehicle for interaction encompassing the entire human sensorium. Although we may now see a similarity between the Internet and the medium of the book, the Internet will soon demonstrate its definitive superiority.

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