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The effect of all the above is to ‘invite’ the reader to be actively involved in producing meaning. When faced with electronic text, the reader is required, and able, to choose his own path to disentangle the threads of meaning within the virtually infinite network. In fact, he is forced to find his own navigation through this web, much like being thrown into a jungle with only a map and his wits to guide him. It is not possible to engage hypertext passively. While it is still possible sometimes to read electronic text linearly and following a hierarchical order, most of the time the structural devices prompt him to discard linearity and to make decisions. The usage of different types of links throughout the piece (unidirectional, bidirectional, string-to-string, one-to-many, etc.) further multiplies the reader’s choices. It is like being at a fork in the road, surrounded by a pattern of exits, entryways, and possible routes. The larger significance of gaps arising due to non-linearity means that more is expected of the reader – he has to do more work and connect the fragments to bridge those gaps. The reader is able to change direction and focus as he moves along different paths, and assimilate a variety of perspectives from various threads of the text. He can enter at any point according to his leisure/research interests. He can perform a search for a topic that he needs more information about. While reading an argument, he can juxtapose it with a rival one (opening several windows if necessary), decide whether to return to the original one, or even search for others. Footnotes, endnotes and bibliographies virtually come alive in this respect, because by clicking on them, they can be read side by side with the main text. The reader can even create his own counter-argument or annotation to the electronic article, and hyperlink it somewhere else as an addition to the text. These, according to Michael Joyce, lets ‘hypertext readers not only choose the order of what they read but in doing so also alter its form by their choices’ (http://iberia.vassar.edu/~mijoyce/What_s_hypertext.html). With hyperfiction, he can choose to follow one of the many perspectives in the narrative, skip to parts that are more interesting, or even try to solve a mystery thriller by reading different accounts simultaneously. On a more aesthetic side, he could change fonts and colours or re-size windows and graphics, to suit his most demanding preferences. The cumulative result of all these actions is that readers actively manage to determine the content and meaning of the text for themselves, as envisioned of a writerly text. They are their own bricoleurs, in a sense. Thus, the meaning they gather is the fruit of their direct and active participation in the production process.

  A corollary of this is that hypertext is able to produce an infinite number of possible meanings/interpretations. Any two persons will go through the same text differently and uniquely. Different readers will take back with them different threads of information, and the position in which they are situated between the ‘text’ and the ‘actions’ varies infinitely for various people. In short, everyone will have their own unique version. The reading experience is an individual path which no two readers will share. Thus, with every person who reads it comes a slightly varied version of meaning. The number of ‘versions’ is thus potentially limitless and inexhaustible. In this sense, hypertext also fulfils the vision of the writerly text having many different meanings simultaneously at different levels.

 

Conclusion - a point to note 
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