Kim’s Story: Hypertext as Phenomenal Cosmic Power with an Itty Bitty Utilization

Kim’s story is a fairly straightforward, linear memoir about Kim Moss’s childhood experience camping as a Boy Scout.  Yes, even though she is a girl.  It begins very simply, offering intriguing possibilities for followup:

When I was a young girl, I was a member of the Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts was my first experience with gamification.

Here’s a rope.

[hyperlink] Show me what knots you know. [/hyperlink]

Not only does she never really develop what she means by gamification, other than a reference to accumulating badges and leveling up, but she never really explains why she was a Boy Scout rather than a Girl Scout.  She says:

Of course, girls aren’t supposed to be Boy Scouts at all. I’ll forgive them for making me be one, though. They didn’t know.  They just wanted what was best for me.

What didn’t her family know?  That she didn’t want to be a Boy Scout?  That there was such a thing as Girl Scouts that offers both camping and the equivalent of an Eagle Scout? As a reader, I just felt that I was missing some kind of fundamental background information about her family–and about her, to know why she put up with the activity when she clearly didn’t enjoy it.

Even though this panel offers the first true hyperlink choice in paths by asking the question, “Would you rather be forced into the Boy Scouts or disappoint your family?”, there’s no difference in the following screen–it just starts with “It doesn’t matter which you choose”, in a rather frustrating meta-experience.  Other choices elicited slightly different opening line/lines in the next page, but in the end, the narrative all narrowed back to the same result.  Structurally, the layout of this story must have looked more like a stick than a tree.

I think I was so annoyed by this approach because it feels like the hypertext medium offers so many possibilities in terms of not only how you can tell a story, but what kind of story you can tell.  The choices the author made here to limit the direction of her narrative did reinforce her general theme of inevitability or fate, but it did seem like a waste–even if she wanted to stay truthful to the actual events of her biographical story, she could have delved into the thoughts behind her decisions (or lack of action as the case may be).   She could have speculated on how her life would have been different had she made a different choice (in the style of the varied Clue endings, perhaps: “This is how it could have happened…but here’s what really happened”).  As it was, with some links simply labeled “Next”, I wondered why she simply didn’t tell this story in a book/standard text form instead.

[Spoiler alert--last choice of story] 

And then, after accounts of how her stepfather left her to struggle on a winter hike alone, how she couldn’t dig an effective snow cave for winter sleeping, how weak she was and continues to be, the reader comes to Kim’s final, devastating question:

Do you think I’m pathetic?

Yes                        No

My immediate reaction was that this was the most awful thing to ask of a reader (or any human being!), but even as I clicked on “No”, I thought my answer might really, instinctively, on a completely irrational gut level, be “Yes”.  And I wondered, given the anonymity of the internet, how many people might click on “Yes”, even if this were published on a social media site like Facebook, even if they actually knew this person, because there’s nothing to stop them from being either cruel or honest-but-hurtful.

I won’t spoil the endings for each choice, except to say that they are self-deprecatingly depressing to the point that if this were one of my high school students, I’d be having a conversation with her guidance counselor right now for being a possible suicide risk and in need of a depression screening.

Was the effectiveness of this form for the ending payoff enough for its lack of utilization before?  I don’t know.  All I can say is that Matienzo need not fear a lack of emotion in hypertext.


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About Katie Kaczmarek

1st year English Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland. I'm interested in investigating how print authors are changing the way they write to appeal to the generation who reads differently because they have grown up with technology.

8 thoughts on “Kim’s Story: Hypertext as Phenomenal Cosmic Power with an Itty Bitty Utilization

  1. The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a twenty five foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  2. Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It will always be useful to read through articles from other writers and practice something
    from other websites.

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  4. I worry that the hypertext reading style is becoming so ubiquitous that rising generations will lose the ability to cohesively assimilate a long reading in a linear fashion. The attention-deficit induced by the easily available and promoted tangential reading inherent in this style seems to train young minds to not maintain focus, but instead chase down their whims.

    While this is often fine and even appropriate, for more formal and techincal readings, it becomes a detrimental habit and one not easily shaken.

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