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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Grammatron of Cybertexts

Grammatron is a hypertext created by Mark Amerika. Amerika views himself as a “cyborg-narrator creating a discourse network that serves as a distribution point for various lines of flight to pass through and manipulate data linked together by the collective-self.” Inspired by Post-Humanism, specifically the works of Deleuze & Guattari and Donna Haraway, Amerika argues that hypertexts function as “an alternative to the more rigid, authoritarian linearity of conventional book-contained text.” The experiential aspect of reading a hypertext, supercharges the way in which reading and writing always occurs in the middle of things, the reader/participant is not constrained to what is immediately before them, but is free to pursue a multiplicity of connections and linkages through clicking “their way into new writing or textual spaces (at this point we would expand the concept of writing to include all manner of text, graphics, moving pictures, sound, animation, 3-D modeling, etc.).” Reading and writing thus ought to be conceived as machinic, as part of a process of assemblage and composition. Books and discourse in general always-already occur within a network, a specific milieu. We do not possess language rather it is given to us indirectly.

Amerika is making a descriptive more than prescriptive statement about the nature of texts that cyberculture hypercharges. Amerika writes; “on the net, nobody knows how sexy you really are, how bad the dog gets whipped, how crude the sadistic brute can be, how ambiguous the thought patterns generally are, what race makes you salivate, what gender makes you cringe, what age you first got laid, in whose biology you are now swimming, in what hospital you gave birth, in what signal you now divest.” Amerika’s point is that we need to “rethink representation.” The fact that what virtual documentation is “always already fictionalized” means that we are “moving beyond the knowing and entering a world of immersive topographies that open up unknown narrative worlds composed of unstable identities, ambiguously located intentions, and surrogate lovers.”

While Amerika’s work may seem overly abstract, out of touch, or romanticized, its force as an analytic nonetheless contains an immense potential for political liberation. Activist, performance artist and critic Guillermo Gomez-Pena crosses borders physically, academically and virtually through his work on multiculturalism and Chicano Studies. Gomez’s notion of the Cyber-Aztec in his work “The New World Border” views cyberculture as a resistant space that fragments and frustrates traditional identity categories and forms of hegemonic thought. Gomez is highly indebted to Gibson and cyberpunk in general, “The New World Border” narrates a science-fiction “gringo-stroika” about the future of the U.S. Gomez does not just unwittingly celebrate border-crossing but uses his works to point to the paradox of identity politics and resistance in a postmodern economy. Resistance must simultaneously occur locally and dispersed while retaining its trans-cultural or global aims in order to ensure the desire for fluidity does not compromise the necessity of strategic essentialisms. Capital simultaneously deterritorializes rigid forms of identification with the nation-state or race while finding ways to commodify the dispersion of identities.

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