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Intertextuality: the digerati and the literati


The New Yorker has an interesting article about the future of reading, library and books. There’s a quote by Kevin Kelly that caught my eye:

“all the books in the world� would “become a single liquid fabric of interconnected words and ideas.� The user of the electronic library would be able to bring together “all texts—past and present, multilingual—on a particular subject,� and, by doing so, gain “a clearer sense of what we as a civilization, a species, do know and don’t know.�

This exposes the gap between the digerati and the literati. The idea of the a “single liquid fabric of interconnected words and ideas” is called intertextuality and was introduced into the conversation by Julia Kristeva.

Kristeva referred to texts in terms of two axes: a horizontal axis connecting the author and reader of a text, and a vertical axis, which connects the text to other texts (Kristeva 1980, 69). Uniting these two axes are shared codes: every text and every reading depends on prior codes. Kristeva declared that ‘every text is from the outset under the jurisdiction of other discourses which impose a universe on it

While the digerati dream of a liquid, hyperlinked super document living on Web servers, the literati know that texts are connected on many axes. And the connections are not simple links, they contain politics, power, poetic and gender influences— they shade meaning.

Texts are always already connected, but literal connection in a super hypertext document could make implicit links explicit. But will explicit links also expose the influence of the linking? As with all software, it’s not about the code, it’s about the user. In this case, the locus of meaning, the only really important connections, are in the mind’s eye of the reader.

Published in culture hci innovation interaction design philosophy value writing zettel


  1. It’s the November 5th issue, just got mine in the mail. Oddly enough, it was available online before the issue came. You can read the article online by following the link “the future of reading, libraries and books” in the post.

  2. Carol Knowles Carol Knowles

    I was interested in your blog on the New Yorker article on Intertextuality, “The digerati ad the literati” and wondered if you could specify which issue int he New Yorker I can find the article?

    Much appreciated


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