The text itself may never need to end, but the person writing it certainly deserves a break somewhere, not to mention the reader. I remember reading somewhere that James Joyce once said that he spent his whole life writing Finnegan's Wake, and that that was the least the reader could do. However, not only am I not in his league (very far from it), but I really don't have the time to devote my whole life to a master's thesis that's going to be filed away somewhere.
Closure, or the lack of it, is a recurring theme in most discussions of hypertextual writing. Doug Brent, from the University of Calgary in his Rhetorics of the Web writes:
What, I now ask myself, is the point? Surely there must be more to this than the game (rather inconsequential it seems to me) of illustrating postmodernist assumptions about the instability of texts.In Brent's case it seems as though the author, rather than the text, can't seem to reach a conclusion, though the suggestion is that the hypertextual nature of the text continues to invite additional and further associations.
I can't say for certain what the point is for readers, but I have found certain interesting effects as a writer. I have found that writing in this form makes one resist closure. Every node is somehow questioned, extended, and deconstructed by some other node. The relentless drive toward a conclusion, even a tentative one, that print texts seem to demand is undercut by the demands of this new form of text. Whenever a series of nodes seemed to be working their way toward a final-ish sort of claim, I found myself deliberately looking for competing options, finding opposing viewpoints, or writing metatext that would question the text I was writing. (thistext.html)
Personally, if I find that something I'm reading doesn't hold my attention, whether book or web page, I'll leave it and move on to something else, and if I am interested, I'll want to read everything that the author has to say about the subject. I would hope that the same would hold when others read what I write, and I find it strange to think that some writers would actually assume a "take it or leave it" stance toward their own writing.
On the other hand, from personal experience I can confirm that there's
something real about the "larger whole". I'm an experienced web reader
who reads the URL of the page I'm clicking to before clicking, thus knowing
when I'm going to be going offsite and when I'll be staying with the basic
site I'm presently reading. Even for someone such as myself, comfortable
in this medium, and capable of identifying web pages and their relationship
to other pages not only by their URLs but by their various "physical" signs
such as the background image, the text size, the general layout of the
page and more, it's not hard to be led astray. Sometimes I actually get
the impression that I'm reading one large extended site and not a number
of distinct sites linked together.
Go to: Prove you're not making
all this up