AND Texts

thumbnail icon reading: poly
thumbnail image showing hand and text: One imagine
circle of icon images and usernames
screenshot of twitter with hashtag #cccc2010 from 2010-era Twitter interface
chatroulette image of man in leopard-printed cat suit
thumbnail icon reading: act
screenshot of Twitter circa 2010 showing tweets mentioning @FredFeeder
portion of yellow circle with text: The 2009 Annual Felton Report
thumbnail icon with word: ask
Justin Lewis workspace, showing spines of book
circa 2010 screenshot of @pothos Twitter feed
Many Eyes dataviz, a network graph
silouette of human
page of Nick Felton's personal data, titled Distribution
Tag Cloud, words polymorphous and friend are prominent
RFID Card Reader, wires connected to circuit board
thumbnail icon reading: about
thumbnail image reading: watch
thumbnail image reading: breach
Infoviz of Tiger Woods's apology speech
monthly calendar with dates' squares colored various shades of red
David Sommerstein, a white man at desk with microphone and music CDs
Twittervision (dataviz): map of Americas with red bird and pop-up text
portion of Make Manifesto image
Text Rain Agumented Reality installation: shadow of human grabbing falling letters
Sixth Sense Augmented Reality demo: young man with words projected onto his t-shirt
thumbnail icon reading: transmit
Sixth Sense augmented reality project demo: virtual keyboard projected onto a hand
IOGraphica mouse tracking: a series of many squiggly lines with black circles
a blurry silouette of a man

A useful overstatement: We subject ourselves to texts. We know that the text, fully appreciated, will bring us pleasure. We train ourselves and each other in appropriate ways to approach texts (eyes downward, quietly and respectfully). We learn increasingly sophisticated procedures and rituals. We build stately buildings in which to study texts, to write and talk to each other in an effort to increase the sophistication with which we take pleasure from our texts.

We learn to channel our polymorphously perverse enjoyments. Once we crumpled delicate pages in our small hands, chewed on the corners of bindings, scribbled across pages in primary wax colors. Now we literally marginalize our pleasures, writing around the text, away from the text, at a distance.

A wild overstatement to be sure, but still it holds a grain of truth. After the insurgencies of reader response criticism, post-structuralism, feminist readings, and even hypertextual weavings that decenter the textual object, we still maintain relative physical separation from our texts. The text is out there, on the shelf or on the screen.

I want to ask what happens when we begin to take less-authorized, polymorphously perverse pleasure in our texts, when we begin to treat texts less as objects out there and more as objects that we—literally—transgress the boundaries of, fragment, unmake, and remake.

Here's the tricky part: If we teach ourselves and our students that texts are made to be broken apart, remixed, remade, do we lose the polymorphous perversity that brought us pleasure in the first place? Does the pleasure of transgression evaporate when the borders are opened?

In a sense, yes: What matters is not simply that texts can be taken apart—such was always the case (Burroughs, n.d.). What matters is what that transgression indicates about our relationship to textuality itself, to a culture that celebrates ownership and an imperial sense of authorship.

In our brief recognition of this ideological construction, in that moment before we repress the pleasure and return to our normal relationship with text, we retain the possibility to change things.

I think that, as our society changes, at the very moment when it is in the process of changing, the author function will disappear, and in such a manner that fiction and its polysemous texts will once again function according to another mode, but still with a system of constraint—one that will no longer be the author but will have to be determined or, perhaps, experienced [expĂ©rimenter]. (Foucault, 1977/1984, p. 119)

This hypertext is not a sustained, intellectual inquiry; it's more of a border skirmish or box of curious, conceptual objects. The map above contains icons leading outward one step. From there, you can move back to this map page by clicking the Polymorphous Perversity title at the top of the page or click hyperlinks to move laterally in the text or outward to other materials on the Web.

This hypertext is also a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Licensed work. Here's a 92 MB zipped archive of the original 2012 webtext and a 175 MB zipped archive of this version that you can inhabit and remix.