Cybertext

Cybertext

In cybernetics the term cybertext is used to describe the concept of organization of the text in order to analyze the influence of the medium as an integral part of the literary dynamic, as noted by Espen Aarseth in 1997.

Overview

The term cybertext is derived from the word cybernetics, which was coined by Norbert Wiener in his book Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1948), which in turn comes from the Greek word kybernetes -helmsman.

The fundamental idea in the development of the theory of cybernetics is the concept of feedback: a portion of information produced by the system that is taken, total or partially, as input. Cybernetics is the science that studies control and regulation in systems in which there exists flow and feedback of information. Though first used by science fiction poet Bruce Boston (Cybertexts, 1992), the term cybertext was brought to the literary world’s attention by Espen Aarseth in 1997.

Aarseth's concept of cybertext focuses on the organization of the text in order to analyze the influence of the medium as an integral part of the literary dynamic. According to Aarseth, cybertext is not a genre in itself; in order to classify traditions, literary genres and aesthetic value, we should inspect texts at a much more local level.

Application

The concept of cybertext offers a way to expand the reach of literary studies to include phenomena that are perceived today as foreign or marginal (Aarseth, 1997). In Aarseth’s work, cybertext denotes the general set of text machines which, operated by readers, yield different texts for reading.

For example, with a book like Raymond Queneau’s Hundred Thousand Billion Poems, each reader will encounter not just poems arranged in a different order, but different poems depending on the precise way in which they turn the sections of page.

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