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The point of this project in its broadest sense is to highlight how the medium in which we encounter literature affects our understanding of it. To help demonstrate the various ways the internet as a medium acts to influence our experience, I've provided five different ways to view chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Most often when books are made into "e-books" the visual format changes substantially. Blocks of readable text are often still split into "chapters," which instead of including many pages, usually only present one long page. And these pages aren't turned, they are "scrolled." Usually the words are presented in one color, without illustrations or images, as simple content. Project Gutenburg, for example, has generated thousands of html files that provide the world, free of charge, with hundreds of classic works of literature in the simplest possible format. Which is wonderful, but boring. I hope you agree that reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland like this is, in some way, vastly inferior to a printed edition and that, especially by removing the images, this "plain text" version of the text is actually fundamentally different than Lewis Carroll's version.
A major improvement you can make to a plain text rendering of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is to include illustrations. Indeed there is no excuse in my opinion for omitting them, since it really is quite simple to add images to web pages, and even Carroll's original manuscript contained his own drawings to accompany the words.The illlustrations really are an important and even necessary component of the "text," for reading the book with illustrations is a rather different experience than reading it without. Represented here are the John Tenniel's illustrations, placed as closely as possible in relation to the words as the first printed edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland from 1865.
Hypertext, according to Wikipedia, is " text displayed on a computer or other electronic device with references (hyperlinks) to other text that the reader can immediately access, usually by a mouse click or keypress sequence." Wikipedia articles are actually full of great examples of hypertext, since the information within an article is usually linked to other related pages. The concept is actually an old one. For instance, most reference materials (dictionaries, indices, footnotes, encyclopedias, etc.) are all aranged on a similar idea. Hyperlinks act like "super-dictionaries" or "super-footnotes," taking us instantly to a new page, saving us the work of having to flip through to find the desired information.
However, the addition of hyperlinks to a page completely destroys the act of reading linearly. Just as no one would sit down to read the dictionary from beginning to end, it is pretty pointless to try to read a website linearly. In these "hypertexted" chapters, in which various words and phrases are linked to "footnotes" with explanatory or related information, you will have to decide over and over again whether to click those links or not, and if you do, whether or not you to return to what you were reading before or to follow another link to another page. The hyperlinks are certainly disruptive, but the trade off is the interesting or scholarly tidbit you might pick up if you click. But the best part is that you have the crontrol over whether you go there or not.
"Hyperimages", like hypertext, are images that contain hyperlinks, so that a user can click the image to reach another page. The images in my "hyperimage" version are also "roll over" images so that when a user moves the cursor over the image a new one appears. This is another effort to streamline the reading experience, so that while you are reading you can notice how the experience might change when different illustrations are used. This type of formatting also demonstrates the interactive nature of a website and how that aspect of this particular medium can affect our experience of reading. Example to the right: two different renderings of Alice with the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle by Arthur Rackham and Maria Kirk.
Finally, since the Web not only supports text and images but also video clips, I have presented for you a very brief (roughly one minute) flash movie version of the first part of Chapter 5. This video, which I made to match the visual asthetic of this website, represents the new types of "electronic literature" that have been developing over the past ten years. Incorporating images, movement, color, and text, this movie is a medium all its own, which itself must be interpreted and "read." Similarly, another feature of "electronic literature" is well-demonstrated in the iPad version of Alice. iPads, and other "e-readers" are still in the developmental stages, but this particular version of Alice highlights the interactivity that many future electronic texts will employ. This Alice makes reading more and more like a game, giving readers control, not over the "text" itself, but certainly over their reading experience.
Alice for the iPad
Ad for "Alice for the iPad"
Review of "Alice for the iPad"
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