What if the page is unfelt, not "at hand"? What if eyes dart to keep pace as words move across a screen? What if images continually appear, disappear, fade in and out, accompanied by sounds--all kinds of sounds, not just the sounds of words? What if the viewer, tapping a key or moving a mouse, can change the words, the movement, the images, the sounds? What if the viewer, touching a button and clicking, unlocks new texts, new images, new sounds, new pathways? What does hypermedia teach us? How does it change us? What is the nature of our aesthetic response and how does that response affect the reader's return to the world beyond the screen?
Readers of IMEJ are probably familiar with these more recent questions and familiar with various responses. Hypermedia has been viewed as an art form that represents our perception of the universe in its non-linearity, simultaneity, and chaotic movements. It has been hailed as an art form that equalizes; it provides us with layered texts to be explored as needed or as desired; it invites us to participate in new acts of creation or recreation; it is often claimed to be free--but only to those who have access to a computer and the internet; it offers, some say, no single, authoritative voice and is ever-changing, rather than stable or dead. Perhaps hypermedia is changing the way we see or perhaps it is an art that evolved with an evolving human consciousness. Does it accurately reflect our experiences and ways of seeing in the 21st century, or is it creating a new world and shaping our responses to that world?
We live in a fast-paced world and are constantly bombarded by images from television, newspapers, and billboards, yet it still may be true that the "human mind is capable of being excited without the application of gross and violent stimulants; and he must have a very faint perception of its beauty and dignity who does not know this, and who does not further know, that one being is elevated above another in proportion as he possesses this capability" (Wordsworth, Preface, 1800). Without quiet, without the act of reading words and imagining their meanings, without concentration on a single medium, some believe the human mind will not experience the excitement that comes from within.
If, indeed, it is time to accept hypermedia, at least as a form of communication, if not an art form, then it is also time to ask if and when it can heighten and quicken our consciousness, increasing our ability to learn and to be excited from within. We hope the articles in this Special Issue of IMEJ will prompt our audience to discuss these questions.
Many of us who are teachers use hypertext as does Karl Terryberry in his Writing Center--to provide students with immediate feedback, to prompt them to exchange ideas and collaborate, and to link them to essential reference sources. Authors Jay Gatrell and Deborah Keirsey want to inspire their students, allowing them to see, read, imagine, and discuss "uncomfortable and confusing" world tensions; they use mural projects and hypertext to spark their students' curiosity, to provide them with discussion forums, and to open "portals" for self-motivated research and discovery.
How does hypermedia affect its audience? How do artists construct hypermedia environments so as to awaken rather than anaesthetize the human mind? Describing his method of creation, Edgar Allan Poe, in 1846, writes: "of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, what shall I, on the present occasion, select?" (Poe, 1846). The first five articles in this issue are experiments with hypermedia that prompt us to consider what constitutes the act of artistic creation and what "effects, or impressions" hypermedia has on the human consciousness. Nikitas M. Sgouros, Sophia Kousidou, and Yiannis Melanitis, intrigued by the idea that art can be a "social activity that is shared and shaped by the performance audience" rather than an individual and isolated act of reading, stage a multimedia and interactive version of Poe's poem, "Dream-Land," striving to create a heightened sensory awareness in their audience. Arguing that hypermedia has transformed literature, linguistically and structurally, Hazel Smith and Roger T. Dean allow our audience to experience this new art form and provide a theoretic discussion of how it works in "The Egg The Cart The Horse The Chicken: Cyberwriting, Sound, Intermedia." Yue-Ling Wong and Jennifer Burg present the hypermedia works of their First-Year Seminar students from Wake Forest University as they ask us to consider what constitutes art and how significant is the realization of one's creativity. The passion with which Wong's and Burg's students approached their university assignment is matched by the curious and enthusiastic tone used by Matthew J. Koehler and Punya Mishra in their article on computer-generated haiku. Inverso may be programmed to randomly generate words on a screen, but is art possible without human collection, human selection, and human perception? And how do we respond to WebArt? How do we design our screens? In her article, "Exploring Interactive WebArt: Implications for the Design of Learner-Centred Interactive Learning Environments," Lisa Gjedde studies the responses of three learners as she offers us insight into how different learners approach interactive art and defines questions for further exploration.
We look forward to
your response to this special issue of IMEJ.
Wordsworth, Willliam."Preface, Second Edition of the Lyrical Ballads." English Romantic Writers. Ed. David Perkins. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1967.