An unconventional use of blog space — the rough draft of my hypertext nonfiction, “Being Cenantua”

Posted on April 20, 2008 by

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It’s most certainly a work in-progress, but for what it’s worth, I’m opening access to my hypertext nonfiction, “Being Cenantua.” Personally, I consider the site currently on par with a construction site in an early stage (READER BEWARE — there are “dead links.” O.K., by definition, they don’t necessarily qualify as “dead links,” the hyperlinked pages just haven’t been created yet!). Yet, what’s so significant about it is that I was able to show that open source blog space can be used for more than just blogs. “Being Cenantua” was (is being) created under the open source blog space available through WordPress.com (but, again, it isn’t a blog). Rather, this is an experiment in which the WordPress.com blog format serves as a platform for the creation of a hypertext nonfiction. Hypertext nonfiction is a genre of electronic literature (some might refer to it as “hypermedia“) and similar to the more popular form of interactive narrative known as hypertext fiction (for examples of both hypertext fiction and hypertext non-fiction published works are available through Eastgate).

The purpose of “Being Cenantua”
When completed (heaven knows how long that might be), “Being Cenantua” will be formally linked to and serve as supplemental text to this blog. Since my blog closely examines different issues about Civil War “memory” as well as the practice of Digital History, I figured it only fitting to create a hypertext non-fiction that serves as a form of introspection into my own “memory” of the American Civil War. I think that through the creation of a hypertext autobiographical narrative focusing specifically on my “memory” of the war, I can more efficiently interrelate different memories and experiences. Granted, this is just how my memory of the war came to be and it is not necessarily a reflection on how others think of the war, but I believe that it can provide a general idea about the different ways in which Civil War “memory” can develop in people.

A brief explanation of hypertext navigation
For those who may not be familiar with hypertext narrative, it is not read as standard linear text. Instead, hypertext is read by navigating through hyperlinks. Usually, the hyperlinks appear in each “node” (as designated by Roland Barthes; “lexia” if George Landow’s terminology is preferred). However, there is more than one way to navigate through hyperlinks. In the case of “Being Cenantua,” there are at least two additional ways to navigate through the hyperlinks; the blog format being the reason for so many different means of navigation. In addition to navigating through hyperlinks in the respective nodes, navigation can also take place as a matter of “tag surfing.” As the reader will note, at the beginning of text in each node, there is a list of hyperlinked “tags.” There are also hyperlinked “tags” available through the “tag cloud” that can be found in the widget column to the right of the node text. In any of these cases, using hyperlinks as a form of navigation empowers the reader with the ability to select a personal path through the narrative.

Though not a means of navigation through hyperlinks, readers may also make use of the “search box” that is available in the column to the right of the node text, and search for personal words of choice as a means of navigation.

Basics thoughts behind name and design
As the narrative relates how my “memory” of the war developed and evolved, when considering a name for the narrative, I use the word “Cenantua,” as I have used it for a number of years as a personal identifier in communications on the Web. It is believed to be one of the original native American words from which “Shenandoah” evolved. The Shenandoah Valley is also the place of my birth and my current residence. The title of the narrative is also an adaptation from Being John Malcovitch, a movie about a puppeteer who discovered a portal that literally lead into the head of actor John Malcovitch. Though my hypertext nonfiction isn’t so “sci-fi” in nature, it is my hope that this will offer a “portal” into the way that my “memory” of the Civil War developed over time.

The theme of “Being Cenantua” has been adopted from among the different themes made available through standard WordPress.com services. I have selected “Dusk” as the theme for the hypertext narrative as, in my opinion, it fits well with a dreamlike/memory-centered experience (not to mention that the use of the blue-gray color scheme fits quite while with the subject matter). There are also design features within the theme that are reminiscent of the Victorian Era, of which the Civil War era was part. Imagery is limited throughout the respective nodes as it is the hope that the imagination of the reader will serve to facilitate a more interactive experience.

Parting words to the reader
Please keep in mind that this is electronic narrative currently under development (at a very early stage) and will be expanded considerably over time. In the end, it is my hope that through this project, I will create an innovative form of hypertext and lend better understanding to others about how memory of historic events evolves through us, even though we were neither present or alive at the time of an historical event.

“Being Cenantua” readers are encouraged to post comments in the different nodes of the hypertext narrative. Other questions and comments about this experiment are encouraged through the comment block below.

Enter the hypertext non-fiction“Being Cenantua,” here

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