Interestingly, in hypertext theory (and what I am noting here has been reprised also in theoretical writing on interactive cinema and more recently interactive documentary) there is little research that investigates how to write hypertextually. It is common for writing and making to be pushed to manuals, how-tos or collaborations with hopefully sympathetic developers and interaction designers.
Historically this is simple to understand for many of those writing about forms of new media come from theoretical histories that pay little to no attention to the materiality of making, or media, in any but rudimentary ways. This scholarship adopts (largely unknowingly to the extent that it is unnoticed, and where raised regularly dismissed as of minor or no concern) a Cartesian separation between material thing and idea where what is studied and theorised about is valorised and hypostatised into thought and argument but the materiality of page, paper, and type are regarded as secondary, a material supernumerary to what matters.
This is one of the divisions and differences that marks the historical divide in new media studies between theory inflected from post structural literary traditions versus those from cinema studies. Cinema, as an explicitly industrial and technical practice, where the machinery simply cannot be avoided (apart from all the equipment and technical staff used to make a film the influence of craft unions has also ensured that every film that is watched lists the roles and names of everyone who has contributed, in any way, to its realisation) has always cared about its material substrates. Arguments about lighting technologies, developments in film processing, the way film responds to colour temperature, and then more recently intense debate about the ‘loss’ of the aura of film in itself (grain, exposure contrast, and noise) that accompanied the move toward digital recording technologies, all attest to the very near presence of materiality in cinema. That this seems to have been expressed largely as a fetish (in the same way that writers fetishise the form of the book as a serially ordered thing on paper between hardback covers) though might be one way to recognise that cinema studies has actually paid little real attention to materiality as we are trying to understand it here.
When we turn to new media studies, in spite of the theoretical heritages employed, the materiality that cinema studies has at least fetishised appears diminished. New media studies then seems closer to literary theory in this diminution (though some of the anxieties about ebooks do cross into a trite discussion about the book as material thing) of materiality as it has, certainly to begin with, emphasised the way in which the digital erases distinctions between media types (text, sound, image and video all appearing as the same to the computer) and so begins from the premise that materiality no longer really matters in a world of computers and new media. Even recent work reflects in areas that are ‘discovering’ the digital (for example interactive documentary) you can witness a critically naive wonder at how plastic and malleable everything becomes digitally, with this malleability then easily sliding into a reading of the digital as a friction free virtuality where anything becomes possible. This view has been recycled historically, as each area comes to digital and new media in turn (it is evident in the excited rhetoric that accompanied early hypertext theory, the same terms where reprised by different scholars in the first wave of multimedia, then interactive cinema, and more recently interactive documentary), and seems to be sustained by the humanities scholarly community’s significant ignorance and misunderstanding of what is involved to make anything in digital media.
The exception to this generalisation is where the most interesting contemporary work is being undertaken, for instance in the areas of software studies, platform studies, media archeology, and some corners of the broader digital humanities. This is work being undertaken by Bogost, Montfort, Parikka, Chun, and Kirschenbaum, for example, and what is striking about all of this work is how important their material experience of making digital media has been. Whether this experience is a reasonable competency in writing code, having an understanding of assembly languages, or even playing with electronics, each of these writers are deep digital makers, and so are well aware of the deep material resistances of digital media.
Recent work in interactive documentary appears to repeat the simple distinctions of earlier first wave hypertext, multimedia, and interactive cinema theory. Similarly much of the scholarly work focusses on what things mean, with little understanding of what they actually do.