Singin' in the Rain:
cinema and hypertext

Hypertext, or hypermedia as the process has come to be known, (see, for example, Bolter, Delany, or Landow) is principally a text driven and computer based form of reading that allows multilinear pathways through a body of material. Being digital, it can easily incorporate other media elements, including sound, still, and moving image. In addition it is possible to provide multiple versions of a document, taking advantage not only of different publication formats but also different reading and writing technologies.

Where hypertext theory has involved issues of what might be described or regarded as literary, critical, or discourse theory it has tended to rely heavily on various poststructural philosophies. In general these have wished to emphasise hypertext's ability to make literal the critical assumptions of much of poststructuralism, reading like a prayer for the decentred text.

The terms of such argument have included hypertext's apparent ability to remove hierarchy, produce a reading structure that eschews the book's logocentrism, dissolve the distinctions between author and reader, and shift the domains of privilege between the canonical and the marginal or exegetic text. While many of these claims have perhaps been exaggerated, and certainly in the first flush of hypertext theory certainly misplaced, recent developments (for example Moulthrop) have frankly acknowledged both the limitations, and the more reasonable possibilities of such work.

This essay hopes to situate itself in this latter and more recent practice. It is a closely argued close reading of a particular film sequence, emphasising throughout the ways in which the sequence structurally repeats the concerns of the film in general (a form of the hermeneutic circle) It is also an attempt to conjoin theory and techné in new media, offering itself as a preliminary investigation of how such technologies can affect theoretical practice as a particular discursive field, and finally it is a putting into play of the more significant, and problematic, issues raised by hypertext theory as it seeks to entwine multiple rhetorical pathways through the material.

This work is heuristic, a performance of what advocates of the medium call for, and is a working model for what hypertext and cinema theory might be.

Created in 1998 by Adrian Miles, details, republished 2006.