- Why We Did Not Produce “Dreaming Arnold Schwarzenegger” as a Book, Several Articles, an Encyclopedia, a Video, an Annotated Bibliography, and a Museum Installation (or Did We?)
Forum on Hypertext Scholarship
AQ as Web-Zine: Responses to AQ’s Experimental Online Issue
Eventually, They’re going to put you in a petri dish And therein they’re going to grow you. Not all of you though. For instance They’re not going to grow your head And they’re not going to grow your body.Edward Dorn 1
Our project, “Dreaming Arnold Schwarzenegger,” is as much personal as it is narrative or analytical or even explanatory. We have no difficulty seeing hypertext—especially as it works on the World Wide Web—as a culture-medium. We wondered what we could “grow” in [End Page 258] this medium; what aspect of ourselves—with or without our heads or bodies—could we cultivate? What would “ourselves” mean in hyper/cyber-space? And why, in considering the hypertext scholarship project, would we want to invoke “ourselves” at all? And why are we sure we don’t have to lose our bodies or our minds?
In “Dreaming Arnold Schwarzenegger,” the subject matter is us in a very personal embodied way; we not only studied it as we were trained, and analyzed it as intellectually required, but we also dreamed it as we feared we would, as we all fear we will when a subject of our analysis takes over our lives. Dreaming our subject is so close to “dreaming up” our subject that we often feared we had crossed the boundary that no academic wants to face: slipping across the threshold into Casteñeda land where the shamans may have been only in our heads.
There’s no question that hypertext, as it has been manifested until now on the Internet, has had some shamanistic tendencies. In discussing images of shamanistic metamorphosis in Olmec art and its relationship to computer imaging technologies, we have argued that such representations suggest
a richer, more complicated world than the one we walk in daily, a world whose passage requires illusion, imagination and fantasy or at least the willingness to consider imagery that “sets the viewer’s psyche in motion, reveals arbitrarily rather than describes thoroughly, disturbs more than it satisfies, and strongly suggests the impossibility of seeing everything at once.”[ 2 ] Images of metamorphosis are designed to do just that,
we have said about morphing. 3 Why can’t this also apply to hypertext, especially as practiced by academics?
It hasn’t applied to academic writing until now for both traditional and practical reasons. In practical terms, it is nearly impossible to get a book or journal article published with any radical sense of design and with anything other than text and a few paltry illustrations. The tradition of the academic paper is even more restrictive and, as we argue in our website, this limits our understanding of any subject. The solution, we felt, was not just bigger books with more pictures, or looser books with better text, but a combination of traditional text forms with the supporting, supplementary materials that made this text possible. We all have drawers and basements full of notebooks and videos and scribbled napkins and e-mails that lead us through our subjects better than a tight, logical, proper argument. [End Page 259]
Like detectives, we want to accumulate and make available the evidence that led to our story. In his (beautifully designed and illustrated) book to accompany the art exhibit “Scene of the Crime,” Ralph Rugoff suggests a “forensic mode” that uses evidence not to seek the one truth of the subject or event but to emphasize the “cluelike and contingent status” of evidence as it is pieced together in a narrative. 4 Many narratives can be stitched from the evidence and emphasizing this contingent nature of our arguments is one of our major goals. But in good deconstructive form, the supplementary material, the supporting evidence, will not stay in its place and it is the exchange of center and periphery that becomes so fascinating. This is why the...