Currents: An E-Journal Left vs. Right Side of the Brain:
Hypermedia and the New Puritanism1
by Jerome Bump
The University of Texas at Austin

Currents in Electronic Literacy Fall 1999 (2), <>

  1. Have you noticed the following changes in students and our culture over the years? Electronics displacing writing? Images replacing words? Drama displacing exposition? Interest in multimedia -- movies, television, computers, videogames, etc. -- displacing interest in literature and books in general? Obsession with the present obviating interest in the past? A decline in the sophisticated, higher-order ability to think seriously, conceptually, abstractly, deductively, inferentially, and sequentially; a decline in belief in the value of reason, order, analysis, logic, hypotheses, argumentation, and generalization; a decline of abhorrence of contradiction; of capacity for detachment and objectivity? of tolerance for a delayed response? Is there more egoism now? More impatience? More laziness? More emotion? Has the goal of the student become contentment rather than growth? Do you feel increasingly called upon as a teacher to be an entertainer? Have what used to be called audio-visual aids taken center stage?

  2. In the culture as a whole is show business displacing public discourse? Cosmetics and judgment by appearance displacing ideas? In the age of the Internet is truth being drowned in a sea of short-lived, irrelevant, trivial, incoherent, simplistic, nonhistorical, decontextualized fragments of information?

  3. If this is your experience, no doubt you do or will like Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985) and Jane Healy's Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Don't Think (1990). Both have become important books. Postman's has been assigned to all students in the freshman English course at the University of Texas, the largest campus in the States, where it has already generated considerable discussion, and the author will be visiting the campus during the spring semester. However, Postman has only one chapter on teaching. Healy is the one who focuses on education, often framing the debate in terms of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. In this regard she is following in the footsteps of Jerry Mander who, in Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (1978), suggested that the brain of someone watching television was akin to one in which the right hemisphere had been cut off from the left. Healy asks, "Are today's environments encouraging the most useful hemispheric development for our society's future needs?"(127-8). Her answer appears under the headline "Languishing Left Hemispheres? Perceptive professionals report that children in classrooms seem to be thinking and learning in increasingly more nonsequential and visual ways.... predisposing them to deficits both in effective coordination between hemispheres and in higher-level linguistic and organizational skills of the left hemisphere. They may particularly lack practice in the use of left-hemisphere systems of auditory analysis and in the skills of logical, sequential reasoning"(132-3). In Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video (1989) Gregory Ulmer rejoices in this triumph of the right hemisphere: "electronic thinking does not abandon, exclude, or replace analytical thinking; it puts it in its place in a larger system of reasoning" which includes "the unconscious, the right brain, inner speech, the mind of the savage, child, or even 'feminine style'" (66). He presents a list "distinguishing right from left-brain features" and reminds us that accounts of right-brain thinking "also tend to line up symmetrically with accounts of creative or inventive thinking" (67). These comments illustrate how, in many debates about the role of computers and multimedia in education today, the traditional dualisms of the head and the heart, reason and emotion, verbal and nonverbal knowing, logic and intuition, linear and holistic thinking, analysis and synthesis, abstraction and metaphor are often subsumed under the basic dichotomy of the left vs. the right side of the brain.

  4. Whatever hemisphere is favored, most critics believe that "we can neither preserve the educational system unchanged nor throw out the 'literate' ways of thinking. We have, in some way, to move the humanities from the old to the new operating system"(Lanham 264). Like many who defend the new hypertextual, multimedia versions of the book appearing on CDs and on the Internet, Richard Lanham, in The Electronic Word (1993), suggests oscillating between the two approaches (264). He is inspired in part by Jay David Bolter. In Writing Space: the Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing (1991), Bolter hails the movement from the self-imposed visual poverty of the printed book to the greatly enhanced electronic version of the illuminated medieval manuscript that is digital art. Lanham praises the movement from the fixed and silent signal of the printed book to the richer but more volatile combination of writing + voice + image of digital display, a wider, fuller spectrum of expressivity that is to be the new operating system of the humanities. Both Bolter and Lanham wrote their books because the turn from the verbal to the visual arts was and is being met with increasing resistance. Their opponents -- Postman, Healy, Kernan, and Bickerts -- are sometimes represented as the puritans. I will call them the humanist puritans to distinguish them from rationalist puritans, to be discussed later.

  5. Postman,as we have seen, opposes the new operating system of the humanities. He praises the first great revolution in education, from an oral culture to the age of writing and the alphabet, and the second, initiated by the printing press, but is dismayed by the third, which he calls the electronic revolution. If he could, apparently he would return to what he calls the Typographic Age, which ushered in rationalism, individualism, modern science, and new genres of prose. All that was lost then, from his point of view, was the medieval sense of community; poetry, which became elitist; and religion, which became superstition.

  6. From the opposite point of view, that of the defenders of multimedia, the triumph of the printed book was the triumph of the isolated, puritan reader, suspicious of icons and theatricality, clutching a text stripped of almost all the expressivity that graphics, fonts, typography, layout, and color could provide. Reading Lanham and Bolter, the triumph of the new digital arts seems akin to that of the number one tourist attraction in Paris, Notre Dame, where "the book" is not just enshrined but performed in a group setting, supported by hauntingly beautiful music, dazzling art, sculpture, stained glass, and architecture.

  7. But the movement from linear thought to hypermedia is not just a retrieval of past possibilities; it is also a voyage into new territory. Bolter points out that "More effectively than the codex or the printed book, the computer reflects the mind as a web of verbal and visual elements in a conceptual space" (207). Lanham adds, "Surely we'll begin to learn what happens to the brain, how its pathways are formed and reformed, when it learns to process language, spoken and written, and how it mixes its inputs of soundand visual image. I'd also want to mix in ... what we are learning from behavioral biology as well. The arts and letters clearly work in the domain of game and play, and game and play are 'vacuum behaviors,' as Lorenz called them, which reveal the basic hungers of the human biogrammar" (273).

  8. Because hypermedia, combining hypertext and multimedia, is best adapted to the whole brain, the right as well as left hemisphere, it liberates visual literacy and other kinds of multiple intelligences rather than stigmatizing all those that don't culminate in abstract theory. (Perhaps the most attractive feature of this new movement for some is that "electronic text makes alot of 'theory' unnecessary," Lanham 260). Howard Gardner "proposed that there was not just one, monolithic kind of intelligence that was crucial for life success, but rather a wide spectrum of intelligences, with seven key varieties. His list includes [not only] the two standard academic kinds, verbal and mathematic-logical alacrity, but [also] the spatial capacity seen in, say, an outstanding artist or architect; the kinesthetic genius displayed in the physical fluidity and grace of a Martha Graham or Magic Johnson; and the musical gifts of a Mozart or YoYo Ma. Rounding out the list are two facets of what Gardner calls 'personal intelligences': interpersonal skills, like those of a great therapist such as Carl Rogers or a world-class leader such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and 'intrapsychic' capacity that would emerge, on the one hand, in the brilliant insights of Sigmund Freud, or, with less fanfare, in the inner contentment that arises from attuning one's life to be in keeping with one's true feelings" (Goleman 38). Hence "this new mixture in the human sensorium will revolutionize that segment of instruction we now stigmatize as 'remedial'. Some people are better at images or sounds than at words, and some people who have not had the verbal education they wanted or needed can come to it later in life through images and sounds. It will all be one single spectrum of expressivity, with no need to stigmatize any area of it. Behavioral neuroscience is teaching us nowadays a good deal about how the lateralized brain works. Electronic text will allow us to engineer 'reading' to fit the brain's needs and ways of proceeding far more adroitly than print's one-size-fits-all approach"(Lanham 129). Presumably this also fits Healy's goal of expanding our teaching methods to honor children's latent abilities.

  9. Indeed, hypermedia enables us to fulfill the promises of all those who have called for more right brain and more progressive education. It challenges us to "participate in the invention of a style of thought as powerful and productive as was the invention of conceptual thinking that grew out of the alphabetic apparatus.. .to learn how to write and think electronically -- in a way that supplements without replacing analytic reason" (Ulmer x). For Ulmer the "converging descriptions of primal logic constitute the invention of a new discourse that can be learned and practiced as a calculus of composition, as an invention" (60). The goal of this new discourse is not to abandon critique but to balance it "with the aesthetic playfulness and immediacy of interpersonal contact inherent in computer-based manipulations of information, text, and graphics" (Tuman 130). Lanham adds that digitalization of the arts means that the other arts "will form part of literary study in an essential way"(11); "the walls between painting and music and sculpture,... architecture, and literature" will dissolve"(13).

  10. My own contribution to this discussion focuses on the role of emotion. Resistance to hypermedia is often due, I would argue, to its association with the right side of the brain and thus with feeling. Healy states the obvious: "Video is persuasive. For immature viewers -- and perhaps for mature ones as well -- it pulls on emotions and evokes mood more readily than does print" (339). We are reminded of the danger of this feature every time violent video games, television, and movies are linked to aggressive behavior. Frustration, anger, and rage at computers themselves are often versions of "technostress"(Brod). Hence it is not difficult to connect computers and multimedia to the decline in "emotional intelligence" documented by Daniel Goleman. His best seller of 1995 focused on a problem Healy recognized in the schools: "If the 'emotional' brain is preoccupied with fears or anxiety, it may fail to activate the proper cortical switches for attention, memory, motivation, and learning"(Healy 239). Adopting the definition developed by the Yale psychologist, Peter Salovey -- [1] knowing one's emotions, [2] managing emotions, [3]motivating oneself, [4] recognizing emotions in others, and [5] handling relationships -- Goleman shows how important emotional intelligence is for mental health, education, social competence, business success, intimate relationships, and physical health. The rage inspired by and/or directed at computers is a good example of the inability to manage emotions.

  11. Despite the stereotype of the cold computer nerd who retreats to the world of cyberspace to avoid relationships, hypermedia can facilitate as well as retard emotional intelligence. For example, it can trigger the sympathetic imagination much better than print. For most mature as well as immature viewers, one picture of a suffering child is more persuasive than pages of words supported by tables of statistics. Postman concedes "that whatever power television might have to undermine rational discourse, its emotional power is so great that it could arouse sentiment against the Vietnam War or against more virulent forms of racism. These and other beneficial possibilities are not to be taken lightly" (28-9). Lanham does not discuss the emotional impact of hypermedia. His goal is "revival of the classical system of education, the theoretical paideia, of an applied rather than a pure, an interactive rather than a passive, conception of the liberal arts" (110). I suggest that the goal be extended to include emotional literacy, as Aristotle did both in his rhetoric and poetics.

  12. Lanham comments, "We have had so hard a time selling the Great Books partly because we have systematically travestied their greatness, strained out -- both in commentary and translation -- half of what makes them great. They weave their spell out of the ancient quarrel between the philosophers and the rhetoricians, and we have cut that quarrel in half and broken the spell"(105). What we have strained out, as many graduate studies of literature make abundantly clear, is not just the rhetorical but also the emotional, the affective dimension of literature that attracted readers to it in the first place. I, for one, am reassured that the emotional impact of literature is greatly enhanced when voice, music, image and video are added to the words in CDs and web sites.

  13. Lanham asserts that since much of Western literature "is oral in origin and nature, and self-consciously rhetorical, and since electronic text is both oral and rhetorical to a degree, [it] can reveal to us aspects of our greatest works of art -- literary, artistic, and musical -- that we have never noticed before" (131). He argues that "the interactive audience of oral rhetoric... has returned in force. The ritualistically silent audience of the 19th century was an audience of 'readers' observing a print convention" (76). In fact even as late as the 19th century much of literature, even fiction, was performed aloud to groups, as Philip Collins has shown. In any case, while the hypermedia movement "enfranchises the oral/rhetorical/ dramatistic/semiological world in the same way that print did its literature/philosophical/positivist opposite" (Lanham 214), it often overlooks the way that the new media also enfranchises emotional response.

  14. Comparing hypermedia and printed versions of the same text, we realize that while abstract prose in print facilitates intellectual reading, it can impede emotional response. In purely theoretical print discourse, for instance, the distance between the head and the heart often becomes greater. The icon of "the heart" stands not just for the right side of the neocortex but also the older amygdala or emotional brain with which it is so closely allied. That is the part of the brain that is most feared by some heirs of the Age of Reason. It is primarily because the right side of the neocortex has more direct access to the amygdala and emotion that media that appeal to it are resisted. In the past Darwin and Freud, fearing domination by what we now call the right side of the brain, were identified as puritans of rationalism (Fleming). The new rationalist puritans are usually university administrators (Bump, "Teaching") and/or social or natural scientists, though some of the humanist puritans share their desire to preserve the rationalist structure of education.

  15. Postman, however, is one of the humanist puritans who critiques the dogmatism of rationalism: "In the Middle Ages people believed in the authority of their religion, no matter what. Today, we believe in the authority of our science, no matter what" ("Informing"). As Reiss noted, "the analytico-referential discourse sets itself apart from and opposes all other styles of cognition, taking them at best as objects of study. The ideology of science takes an aggressive stand against all challenges to its exclusive claims to be the knowledge effect"(Ulmer 66-67). Tuman cites Bowers' critique, in 1987, of "the assumption that the individual is the basic social unit within which we locate the source of freedom and rationality, . . . and that rationality is the real basis of authority for regulating the affairs of daily life' "(Bowers 2,Tuman 122). Tuman traces criticism of rationality back to 1974, to Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The critique of reason is much older than that, of course (Bump, "Creativity"), but Pirsig's narrator is a good example of "a man determined to overcome the dichotomy between emotion and reason" (Tuman 48). He failed partly because he was "using the ultimate tool of print literacy, an ever more powerful critique" (49).

  16. Hypermedia is another kind of tool altogether and its impact will be very powerful indeed. Electronic media and digital art clearly do challenge the reliance on abstraction and traditional logic that dominates universities and "learning" today. Heirs of the Age of Reason have noticed that there is now a powerful rival to the black and white bias "toward the disembodied concepts of Platonic philosophy" (Lanham 78). Conceptual argumentation is challenged by a return to narrative; exclusive reliance on words and mathematical symbols by behavioral and experiential thinking; pure theory by concrete art; analytical thought by creative imagination; the impersonal by the personal; the alphabetic by the imagistic; the serious by the playful; the passive by the interactive; the left side of the brain by the right. Instead of complaining, Lanham stresses the advantages of behavioral thinking: "We evolved as a species which learned to 'think' in terms of specific behavioral situations. This behavioral thinking stands much closer to the surface of life in an oral culture than in a literate one, but it is essential to human thought of any kind." 'Thinking' in behavioral terms -- with all the reliance on appearances, local knowledge, private interest, that it brings with it -- is our native mode of thought. Conceptual thinking rides on top of it. Surely any full definition of 'reason' wants to integrate the two"(245).

  17. However, rationalist puritans resist any significant change in the definition of reason, and to this day almost all courses in the university still address primarily the left side of the brain. During the 1960's there was a growing protest against this myopia. It was acknowledged by more and more teachers that "'intellectual accomplishments represent only one small aspect of human experience. To emphasize facts and information [exclusively is] to contribute excessively to alienation, desensitization, and personal fragmentation'"(Moustakas, Personal Growth, 1969; Brand, Therapy 35). Hence, during that decade the Ford Foundation sponsored several efforts to renew "education for the 'whole' person" (Brand, Therapy, 39-40). Though I spent the 60's in college, first as an undergraduate, then as a graduate student, I was aware of no such movement. Indeed, it seemed the more education I received, the deeper became the split between the left side of my brain and the right, splitting reason from emotion, language from feeling. In 1970 I came to the University of Texas at Austin, and fifteen years of ostensibly objective "research" in an institution that the student newspaper once labeled the Church of Reason not only anesthetized me more completely, but endowed me with an amazing ability to spin complex webs of words to defend myself from emotion and thus from the whole right side of my brain. I am became another example of the loss of feeling in postmodern culture adumbrated by Bickerts.

  18. In 1985 I became the first director of what eventually became the Computer Writing and Research Laboratory of the Division of Rhetoric and Composition of the University of Texas at Austin. Given the stereotype of the computer nerd as the cold and cerebral Spock of Star Trek, presumably this would have completed the split in my brain. However, I discovered other aspects of the human interface of computers while teaching in our networked classrooms. My image of the aggressive adolescent alone with his violent video games was balanced with a picture of students interacting through a computer network. I was aware of the research on "flaming" in email communications (Sproul and Keisler) and saw in my own classroom how "the directness of digital writing sometimes surprises the writer -- and may even upset the reader. So writing without barriers can also prove to be writing without restraint"(Heim 209-10). Yet I also saw, and reported in an essay in Computers and the Humanities, how in our networked classroom there was more emotional honesty and self-disclosure, less fear, less shyness, and less aggressive domination of the discussion (55-9). Postman is "opposed to the use of personal computers in school because school ... has always largely been about how to learn as part of a group ... how to be socialized as a citizen and as a human being"; he worries about the "personal computer because it seems... to emphasize individualized learning" instead of social interaction ("Visions"). However, over ten years ago I observed the opposite. I noticed that as individuals generated dissensus of opinions but became aware of their feelings, they discovered that they had much more in common than a consensus: powerful emotional bonds. The medieval sense of community, dissolved by the Typographic Age according to Postman, was being restored in the classroom. The students' goal was not to "enhance their own individuality by gaining the acquiescence of other individuals," nor was it simply "to be accepted, to join, to be regarded as another member of the culture or community that constitutes the writer's audience" (Bruffee 651), but rather to explore the paradox of simultaneous difference and similarity, discovering a common humanity -- membership in the largest community of all.

  19. In other words, I observed first hand the emergence of what has been called the new postindustrial, postmodern sensibility. The public realm that at times seemed such a threat to the solitary, private reader "is now identified as a source of emotional support" (Tuman 11-12). "Behind the widening acceptance, and often advocacy, of the educational value of networked computing lies the recognition that computer-mediated communication really does have revolutionary potential. All those committed to social change, in or out of the classroom, are encouraged by the possibility that 'one of the most important world-wide effects of computing might be its introduction of a new ethos of cooperation'"(McCorduck 65, Tuman 87). The classroom is to be "the 'new post-print community.' This means establishing a climate where put-downs are disallowed, where people are encouraged to express their ideas without fear of recrimination, and where diversity is appreciated, not depreciated'" (Gere 103, Tuman99). "Although not devoid of conflict or failure, the peaceable writing class is a model of the new family, a place where the instructor is 'more a guide than an authority figure'" (Frey 100, Tuman 104).

  20. As I taught or, rather, "guided" in that classroom, I was trying to bring the two halves of my self together. I received no encouragement from the local Church of Reason, but did find a few books which suggested I was not alone, especially Gabriele Rico's Balancing The Hemispheres: Brain Research And The Teaching Of Writing (1980) and her Writing the Natural Way: Using Right-Brain Techniques To Release Your Expressive Powers (1983). 1983 was also the year of Sinatra and Stahl-Gamble's Using the Right Brain in the Language Art. Though these books had no impact on my campus, Betty Edwards' acclaimed Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (1989) became popular in courses in visual literacy. More books soon appeared demonstrating how writing was far more than a cognitive domain, such as Henriette Klauser's Writing on Both Sides of the Brain (1987), Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life (1990), Elaine Hughes'Writing from the Inner Self (1991), and Bonnie Friedman's Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life (1994). After years of following these leads, I was intrigued and encouraged by the first entry in the 1995 program of the annual convention of the College Conference on Composition and Communication of the National Council of Teachers of English. Workshop #1 was "Beyond the Cognitive Domain: Classroom Practices in The Teaching and Learning of Writing," sponsoredby the NCTE Assembly on Expanded Perspectives on Learning (AEPL). Attendance at this NCTE Assembly workshop introduced me to the works of one of its founders: Alice Brand's Therapy in Writing: A Psycho-Educational Enterprise(1980), The Psychology Of Writing : The Affective Experience (1989), and Presence Of Mind : Writing And The Domain Beyond The Cognitive(1994). At the AEPL CCCCs Preconference Workshop in 1996, I heard Prof. Brand integrate her approaches to writing with Joseph Ledoux's research on the two sides of the brain.

  21. Ledoux is cited extensively by Goleman, whose concept of emotional intelligence includes "the emotional mind's special symbolic modes: metaphor and simile, [which] along with poetry, song, and fable, are all cast in the language of the heart. So too are dreams and myths, in which loose associations determine the flow of narrative, abiding by the logic of the emotional mind" (54). Ironically, though these are ostensibly its subjects, in 1995 in college English departments, the "emotional mind" was being marginalized even more than usual by the triumph of abstract theory. However, for people outside the ivory tower, Goleman's extensive documentation of studies of the difference between normal academic intelligence and emotional intelligence and the importance of the latter for mental health, education, social competence, business success, intimate relationships, and physical health brought this movement into the mainstream of American life.

  22. Though too new to be even mentioned in such books as Emotional Intelligence, Using the Right Brain in the Language Arts; Writing on the Right Side of the Brain; and Brain Research And The Teaching Of Writing, computerized "hypermedia" -- words, graphics, sounds, animation, and video integrated by hyperlinks -- produced a new genre in which linguistic access to the left side is supported by multimedia access to the right. The impact on research and teaching in English of computers, already significant, has become truly revolutionary as multimedia CDs and web sites compete with or replace books, periodicals, and even scholarly conferences. An example of the new "book" is UT CD '99, a Web-enhanced, multimedia CD-ROM sent to more than 11,000 students accepted for the fall 1999 semester at the University (web version). Two of the most popular literary research webs which "publish" articles are George Landow's Victorian and PostColonial Webs at Brown University. The 1999 Online Conference on Teaching Online in Higher Education is an example of how MOO technology can be used to create a new version of the scholarly conference.

  23. In short, reading no longer is confined primarily to the left side of the brain. If we consider the act of reading of, say, the Dante web site constructed in my class in 1998 by Olin Bjork and Christopher York, the word "reading" seems to require quotation marks, so different is it from the usual meaning of the word. Steve Bickerts, considering hypertext in The Gutenberg Elegies (1994), asks "Do we still call it reading? Or would we do better to coin a new term, something like 'texting' or 'word-piloting'?" (164). Even those words become inadequate when hypertext becomes hypermedia. Whatever the interaction is called, Bickerts, a humanist rather than a rationalist puritan, complains that the new technologies provide merely "instrumental" rather than "affective" communication (229).

  24. I invite you to test his assertion at the Dante web site. The opening image of the author gives way to two maps of Hell, one a close up of the other. As the "reader's" mouse passes over various layers, the ones available for "reading" at this time change color. When the "reader" clicks on one, s/he is confronted by the most famous visual interpretation of that circle, an engraving by Gustave Dore. Then the "reader" chooses which English translation s/he wants, Pinsky or Mandelbaum, and the medieval Italian appears on the left, the English on the right, both usually superimposed over a modern image of the horror of that particular circle of Hell. The use of images as backgrounds to text is a particularly felicitous appeal to both sides of the brain (unless the "reader" is visually impaired). More importantly, the Italian is interspersed at times with little signs saying "Audio" or "Video." Clicking on the "Audio" invokes a man or a woman's voice performing the medieval Italian. This, to me, is a very important added dimension. We forget that until this century almost all literature was meant to be read aloud (Collins). In all the years I taught Dante in E603, World Literature and Composition, I searched for a recording so that students could hear the magnificent word music that made Dante so famous. I never found one, even in modern Italian. Olin and Christopher, however, recorded two professors of Italian performing particularly important passages, and included the voices in their version of the Inferno. They thus restored part of the original "reading" experience of the text. The video option increases the emotional impact of the text even more dramatically, as the latest film interpretation of Hell appears on the screen on demand. Integrating the video clips and the voices inthis way, with the images and texts, results in a more powerful and complete "reading" experience which, in this "reading" belies Bickerts' assertion that the effects of interactive multimedia programs on users mirror the "affectless" assemblages of postmodernism (137).

  25. One of the key features of this new genre which Bickerts laments is the increased interactivity, inviting the reader to make decisions and participate in the creation of the text itself. In my own hypermedia, I focus on the interactivity of the new medium because I believe it facilitates the new teaching initiatives on my campus, both "discovery learning" and the Boyer Blueprint for Reinventing Undergraduate Education.

  26. As I "wrote" my own hypermedia, moreover, even more than when I was "reading" hypermedia, I realized how the other arts "will form part of literary study in an essential way" (Lanahm 11). I felt I was drawing on multiple intelligences, certainly on my emotional as well as my academic intelligence. The word "write" seemed even less adequate than the word "read" in this context. "Create" seemed more appropriate as I experienced "the walls between painting and music and sculpture, music, architecture, and literature" dissolving (Lanham 13). For example, in my hypermedia autobiography, I simulate the discovery of the world by a pre-linguistic child and of family secrets during adolescence. I used Authorware to create the program, but a few parts of the "text" are now on the web. It opens with a table of contents with photos. One option is "graph." If this is chosen, three graphs appear superimposed on a collage of family photos. One represents the ups and downs of love over the course of a life, another happiness, another spirituality. If "help" is chosen a video appears of the author explaining what he meant by each of these terms. If one clicks on the birth part of any of the graphs one is taken to that section.

  27. In the Birth section the interactivity is designed to simulate the way a three-year old encounters and remembers the world, without the help (or interference?) of words. It opens with a child's drawing of Pine River, Minnesota. As the mouse moves over different figures on the drawing and is clicked, the "reader" hears the sounds of the cows, the swing between the trees, the train on the tracks, etc. If the "reader" clicks on the dog, a collage of three photos of the child playing with the dog appears with the sound of the dog barking, followed by an animation of the dog running across the screen to invite the "reader" to share some of the joy apparentin the photos of the child playing with the dog. If the footsteps leading off to the right of the drawing are chosen, a Catholic icon, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, appears superimposed over the interior of a church, as appropriate music plays. The child's mixed emotions are suggested by the fact that the "reader" discovers that s/he can escape from the church only by actually choosing the heart itself.

  28. If the house in the drawing is chosen, a new child's drawing appears of a child, a dog, a house, the swing, a pine tree and four adults. One of the adults is empty of color and detail: if it is selected, the child's father's army photograph appears superimposed on his army registration papers with the sound of artillery shells being fired. If "help" is chosen for this figure or any of the other adults a video appears of the author explaining a little about each figure -- the only use of words in this module aside from those on the army certificate and the birth certificate. If the other adult figures are chosen, photos of the grandfather,the grandmother, and the mother appear. If the child is picked, two photos of the author as a baby appear superimposed on the official birth certificate, and the sound of a baby laughing is heard. If the house on this second drawing is chosen, one hears a sound perhaps not at first identified as that of a grandfather clock, the sound that dominated that household in the child's memory, the sound that can bring the experiences back. If the tree is chosen the "reader" is returned to the child's drawing of Pine River.

  29. The goal of the Adolescence section is quite different: to show the heavy influence of outside forces on the teenager. To make the "reader" feel some of the impact of those forces, it opens with a video of rock 'n roll bands of the time of the author's adolescence, including Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis, with Beatles' "Rock N Roll Music" as the background music. It includes scenes of couples dancing the dances of the time and ends with a speeding '59 Ford to recreate the appeal of these attractions for the "reader." This is replaced by a photo of the author as adolescent. The interactivity is more subtle in this module, especially when representing the power of family forces. To the lower right of this photo, for example, is a vase in the shape of head of Mary. It is a little brighter than the rest of the picture, but could easily be overlooked. It stands for something not immediately obvious to one who enters the house -- the religious atmosphere-- but if a "reader" chooses it, it is replaced by a photo of a madonna and child statue in a church, revealing the family's religion. The "reader" hears the author "reading" a quotation on the screen from the first autobiography, St. Augustine's Confessions, about Augustine's adolescent revolt against religion. If this is selected, an account appears of the author's loss of faith during these years. When the "reader" chooses "Continue," whether or not the vase has been investigated, the initial photo is replaced by a screen with two letters on it. One of the letters is from the author's teenage self to his adult self and the other is from his adult self to his teenage self. When the "reader" chooses, this is replaced by a collage of 4 photos, a report card, and a scout badge. As the mouse is moved over the collage, different phrases appear inviting the "reader" to explore different topics.

  30. "Relationships," for example, leads to a drawing of various stick figures. If the girl figure is selected, a timed display of a series of photos of dating conventions of the time begins to appear, with a video of couples kissing playing in the center of the screen. This fades to a billboard with the word "GIRLS" on it, with Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender" playing in the background. As each letter is selected, the author is heard articulating the fears and angers he felt about dating during these years. The first three letters also include selections from T. S. Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, about how people judge each other on the basis of appearance, inviting the "reader" to think of comparable experiences in his/her life. If the "reader" chooses the three small male stick figures, a selection from Booker T and the MGs plays, and a photo appears of the author as a teenager with three of his brothers. As each brother is selected, text appears explaining the author's relationshipwith that brother. If another set of male stick figures is chosen, music of the Ventures begins playing and photos appear of the author's best friend and of a newspaper clipping about the scholarships awarded to the author and his circle of friends. If the male parent stick figure on the drawingis chosen a photo of the author's father appears with an account of him. If the female is chosen a photo of his mother appears with a voiceover describing her. In the photo is also an ashtray with a cigarette in it and a full highball glass. These represent painful facts about the family, but they are not conspicuous nor illuminated. However, if the "reader" is persistent, s/he discovers that clicking on them makes them brighter and the rest of the photo darker. If the "reader" wants to discover more, clicking on the ashtray produces a history of nicotine addiction and lung cancer in the family and clicking on the glass reveals a history of alcoholism in the family.

  31. If "School" is selected four of the author's high school report cards appear. If the biology report card, or English, or physical education, or history report card, is selected, a text about the author's memories of those high school classrooms appears with voiceover. If "Hobbies and Activities" is selected, a collage appears of a stamp collection, a newspaper article about the debate team, and patches from scout and work uniforms. If "Graduation" is selected, the "reader" hears a car starting up and driving away. The black screen then fades to a picture of Amherst College, the subject of the next module.

  32. As I "wrote" these two modules in hypermedia, because I was accessing both sides of the brain much more fully, the memories came back more strongly, more vividly, in more detail, and the attendant emotions returned in force as well. The two fields I began to explore in 1985, computers and feelings, began to intersect and for the first time I felt like a whole person in the writing process.

  33. How does my experience relate to that of my students? Tuman offers an important caveat and call for further discussion:
  34. Is it not natural . . . for masters of print literacy -- and that is what writers such as Richard Lanham, George Landow, and Jay Bolter are -- to see hypertext and online literacy generally as doing for others what it has done for them? Yet in all this enthusiasm for the liberating power of hypertext, one question goes unaddressed: what happens to future generations of students who differ from Lanham, Landow, and Bolter in not having spent the first forty years of their lives mining the vast cognitive and psychological resources of print literacy? As Provenzo (1991) describes, sophisticated multi-media computers -- with only a minimal textual component --have already found their way into tens of millions of American homes-- Nintendo videogames. Yet too few are willing to consider the radical implications of these changes, not for our own print-based literacy practices and those of our high-achieving children and students, but for generations upon generations of future children who will grow up with only incidental contact with print culture. As a group, advocates of hypertext, their own careers energized by the acceptance of technology, seem too eager to make a virtue out of a looming necessity, and as such tend to gloss over the inevitable intellectual and social dislocations (the losses as well as the gains) represented by the radical restructuring, if not the demise, of print literacy (79-80).
    Advocates of online literacy may well have to rescue and re-integrate aspects of print literacy. Yet many administrators and scientists are unwilling to relinquish the almost total domination of the university curriculum by traditional rationality and print literacy. The Church of Reason also must expand and compromise if it is to attract today's students.

    1. I want to acknowledge the help of John Slatin in preparation of this article.


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