It might be argued that hypertext cannot exist as a truly feminist space outside of authoritarian discourse because the author defines the play of the hypertext as a whole. To a certain extent this is true, but a wholly random hypertext is also untenable: it would unravel into nonsense. Each feminist hypertext is built on its own system guided by its own, individual framework of associational logic. In feminist hypertext, the reader plays a far greater role that in traditional paper-bound literary works because of the unique way electronic text privileges subjectivity.
More often than not the 'random' nature of hypertext is contained in the reader's leap of faith in selecting each link. This is an empowering process. Michael Joyce says that "Capturing the flow..., channeling it, the reader turns the text to distinctive uses of her own, which she can float upon or navigate through. She begins to voyage, both in space and for space" (Joyce, 1995, 245). The fluidity of this kind of reading may seem random to the reader until she has encountered enough of the text to map it in her own mind. As well, the more densely constructed a hypertext is, the more random the experience of an initial voyage. Witness Kathryn Cramer's rigorously-structured, backward-moving narrative in In Large and Small Pieces. On a first reading, it feels erratic and disorienting. Mary-Kim Arnold's Lust also achieves the illusion of randomness because the female characters are unnamed. The same screens act as explanations for both female characters' situations while the male characters are variables that change. It is this process of choice inherent to hypertext that led Jay David Bolter to call the form "a structure of possible structures" (144).
Michael Joyce's quest for a program that would create fiction that changed every time it was read ultimately gave birth to Storyspace, designed by Joyce, Bolter and Smith. (Storyspace and its distributor/publisher, Eastgate Systems, have played a seminal role in both producing commercial hypertext and in providing a forum for people interested in the art.) More recently, other technological developments like VRML, Java and cgi servers have resulted in texts that can generate screens or lexia entirely at random. Needless to say, this works best with texts that rely on image more than on a narrative, but some defy the odds. Christy Sheffield Sanford's Red Mona, for example, is a slide show of welded text and image that produces entirely different readings depending on what order the cards fall in. Petra Mueller invites chaos theory into her hypertexts by electronically linking her hypertexts to automated satellite weather reports (that change on the hour). Both Patricia Seaman's New Motor Queen City and Judy Malloy and Cathy Marshall's Forward Anywhere give the reader the option of reading the text in a random order or of following it in a more sequential form. See Malloy and Marshall's article "Closure Was Never a Goal In This Piece" for a more in-depth analysis of their aims and method.
The result of this random function is a sense of dislocation in space, time and language. The disorienting intersection of text and image is a new language, and it is what Marshall McLuhan called "the next logical step": "not to translate, but to by-pass languages" to arrive at a state of "weightlessness" and "speechlessness" (84). This is Isadora's dance once again. This is what Umberto Eco calls "work in movement" (qtd, Joyce, 1991, 83). This is an embodiment of Deleuze and Guattari's trademark, postmodern schizophrenia and it is Frederic Jameson's rupture of spatial-temporal continuity. Guyer calls the modern sense of creative dislocation "being split among places" or a "buzz-daze" (Buzz-Daze). But where the postmodern condition is alienating and dislocating, hypertext is inclusive and intimate. It draws the reader in as a key element in the text through its connections in space and, because hypertext recreates this state on more intimate terms, it invites a weightless or a nomadic association rather than a homeless, disconnected one. It owes more to Guyer's creative state than to Deleuze and Guattari's pathological one. We choose to hover over and under and in and around the cells of a hypertext. Like Rosi Braidotti who chooses to be what she calls a 'nomadic subject' because she sees it as a way of "blurring boundaries without burning bridges" (4), feminist hypertext is an elaborate, multidimensional architectural space woven of subversive bridges.
Part of this subversion lies in the way that hypertext requires rereading. It is in revisiting a particular narrative that hypertext most effectively undermines and subverts. Katherine Hayles says:
Rereading exposes our earlier assumptions about the text and, by doing so, resituates us in time and space. Michael Joyce sees rereading as actually forming another space in the continuum of the text, a theoretical one (Joyce, 1997, 582). Such are the facets of the form: the reader not only becomes a part of the text, but the act of (re)reading itself does too. This is modular narrative at its most complex. This is a swarm that casts shadows.
The altered sense of the temporal and the spatial is the metatext of our reading, for, feminist hypertext is innately metatextual. The more the text emphasizes our own dislocation in time (see, for example, Jane Yellowlees Douglas's I Have Said Nothing), the more we are aware of the flesh and the bones and the particular cells of the narrative's form. This is integral to a genre that proposes to undertake social critique. In fact, Stuart Moulthrop sees the subversive potential of hypertext as being embodied in its inherent sense of (technological) rupture and breakdown that self-consciously exposes political agendas and forces us to question our own assumptions (Moulthrop, 1997).