WINDOWS INTO TEXT

The page of a book is fixed -- paper size sets the amount of type possible on a page. On the screen, however, the monitor's glass is simply a window into a boundless cyberspace. Instead of page-turning in a linear body of book-text, the screen can scroll in any direction. Not only can this window be moved more freely over the text, but multiple pages can be layered on the same screen. On MUDs, for instance, a user can have one 'window' open with a connection to LambdaMOO, and a separate opening connected to FurryMUCK at the same time. The user can be participating in two separate 'texts' simultaneously, organizing the 'windows' so that both are visible side-by-side on the screen at once. In hypertext, there is no single order or configuration for large bodies, or databases, of language.

In fact, the metaphors referring to reading 'through' text in a book are inappropriate to reading the computer screen. In a book, there is nowhere to go but "forward," turning to the "next" page of text, but in hypertexts, readers can move in many directions, and there is no 'one' right way to go.