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Is this another Sokal Hoax?

"You can buy any number of books on 'quantum healing', not to mention quantum psychology, quantum responsibility, quantum morality, quantum aesthetics, quantum immortality and quantum theology. I haven't found a book on quantum feminism, quantum financial management or Afro-quantum theory, but give it time."
- Richard Dawkins, A Devil's Chaplain (Page 147)

Is this another Sokal Hoax?

Reposted from:

Quantum Feminist Mnemotechnics:
The Archival Text, Digital Narrative and the Limits of Memory

Carolyn G. Guertin
Senior McLuhan Fellow, UofT

Chapter 4. The Knot: Disorientation
ii. Knots in the Cosmos

"In space-time everything which for us constitutes the past, the present, the future is given in block... Each observer, as his time passes, discovers, so to speak, new slices of space-time which appear to him as successive aspects of the material world, though in reality the ensemble of events constituting space-time exist prior to his knowledge of them." ~ Louis de Broglie

"A paragraph is a time and place not a syntactical unit." ~ Lyn Hejinian

Connectivity has been called the genius of feminism by theorist Robin Morgan (53), and this genius is being realized in electronic spaces and texts in more complex ways than in any other medium to date. Connectivity's key position in the quantum feminist universe is reaffirmed by VNS Matrix's choice of the image of the matrix--the cosmic womb--as its symbol as much as by the OBN defining its local chapters as "nodes" that "collide, disintegrate, regenerate, engage, disembody, reform, collapse, renew, abandon, revise, revitalize and expand" (OBN FAQ 7). These structural and mechanical concerns are not accidental. Quantum feminisms do not inhabit a network; they are the network of feminist discourse in virtual space. In the archival text, this dynamic connectivity, interconnection and disconnection is both narratological structure and the means of navigation in space and time. The lurch and the jump of a browser's deterritorialized journey through a hyperlinked text simultaneously problematizes connectivity, perspective and the nature of multidimensional space even as it explores them. The tendency is always to speak of and visualize the tangible rather than what lies in between joining one artifact, page, or space to the next. Carolyn Guyer dubs this no-place between screens a "buzz-daze state," that is a feeling of dis/orientation in "being split among places" (n.p.). Luce Irigaray has asked, "What do we call a gap that is full?" (qtd in Joyce, 1995, 207) and in the webbed space of hyperlinked fiction the pregnant gaps between the nodes are at least as important as the textual nodes themselves. The nodes exist in conjunction with the dynamic space of the journey and cannot be discussed in isolation. This information gap can only be travelled through and never visited directly because it is the interpolation of space and nonspace. It is mnemonic space: the fleeting space between the moment of remembering and forgetting. This is not the white space of the printed page, but instead the full, noisy gap of the cyberspatial leap through sensual and perceptual space. These gaps are felt, not seen.

Quantum feminist works make no attempt to reconcile this dislocation between networked nodes and their gaps in space-time. Instead, they foreground and use this aspect, highlighting the disjunctures of the subject's position as she is depicted and as she voyages through the text. These nodes of the new media--what we might think of as pages in a print context [1] or as windows on a computer--are sites of both connectivity and dislocation that are interwoven with and perforated by links, those directional indicators for leaps to new locations across the "gutters" of the form (as Stuart Moulthrop dubs these breaks). "Gutters," he says, are "both the division between components in sequential art and by analogy any boundary that separates cultural domains" ("Misadventure" n.p.). These gutters are pauses, structural gaps, moments out of time and spatial entities in their own right, as well as low moments in the history of (print) culture. The sites of connection between nodes as destination are both fluid and fixed, constantly forming and reforming as we call them up, jump the divide via links, and encounter them anew, recontextualized and resituated by arrivals and departures across the gaps in our browsing and rereading. Nodes are self-contained units that branch multidimensionally across rifts of space and time.

In her essay "The Roots of Nonlinearity," hypertextualist Christie Sheffield Sanford says that modern physics has erased the concept of absolutes in time and space and that this is evident in the texts of the new media as well. She uses indeterminacy theorist Werner Heisenberg to support her theories; he said: "There is no definite initial point of view from which radiate routes into all fields of the perceptible ... all perception must ... be suspended over an unfathomable depth. When we talk about reality, we never start at the beginning" (qtd in Sanford, "Position"). In Sanford's hyperlinked text as in life, we begin anywhere and remain immersed in the sensuousness of the present moment. Focusing on this 'sensible' realm of theoretical physics, Heisenberg demonstrates in the physical world that the observer's very presence undermines cause and effect, and influences "the flow of events" ("Probability"). Flow is something that we generally connect with time and linearity, but in the new media, as in physics, cause does not always neatly equal effect. Sanford strives to realize Heisenberg's theories in the "passages" [2] ("Emptiness") of her essay through the use of DHTML layering and multiple windows--a way, she says, of "coding the page in a more temporal and spatial manner" ("Dynamism"). Like a comic book, Sanford's essay factors the narrative gaps and gutters directly into her 'story'; unlike comics, there is no prescribed sequence or predetermined narrative trajectory for the browser to follow in this text. Trying to cut her text "adrift" from conventional concepts of narrative ("Configuration"), Sanford describes the expanding geometrical space of her particularized narrative/essay as a dandelion's ripe seedhead scattered by the force of a breath: "Seeds writing on the wind" ("Emptiness"). And "Heisenberg" she says, "wanted us to learn the handwriting of atoms" ("Emptiness"). Sanford's atomic handwriting is a constellation of particles linked across a textual sky of space and time. While the 'Roots' of her theory of are not so much historical as interdisciplinary, her thinking visually plots--geometrizes--the curved space-time trajectory of the nature of a new form. The interlinked network of hypertextual narrative has frequently been described as a web or as a rhizome, a quilt, or as a collection of threads or boxes within boxes; however, it might in fact be most revealing to think of each node as a topological knot that is both connector and connection across spatio-temporal boundaries.

The means of accessing the spatio-temporal 'information' of the new media text beyond the interface is via the conceptual designs or visual mapping of these structural knots that get depicted as iconographic or metaphorical architectures. The interface is the visual realm where the structure of the textual information is conceptualized, where its boundaries are drawn and where we as browsers interact with the computer in space. In the Windows and Macintosh operating systems, the metaphor we engage with is that of an office desktop via files, folders and a trash can or recycle bin. In electronic narratives, the interface is designed anew for each text with the metaphor being specific to the content of that particular work. In his article "Visual Structuring of Hyperfiction Narratives," Raine Koskimaa discusses how the quilted technicolour, conceptual and metaphorical map of Patchwork Girl occupies cognitive space in the text as a highly symbolic directional or navigational indicator. This quilt is also the site of intertextuality, the place where the voices of the parent texts--L. Frank Baum's Patchwork Girl of Oz and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein among others--reassert themselves and intertwine with the monster's own. Symbolism not withstanding, interface metaphors of networked texts are perhaps most remarkable for their uselessness. By 'useless' I mean that their value is primarily aesthetic in nature. They do not function very well as literal maps because, even as they direct our navigation, they are primarily metaphorical in nature. Like Califia 's mandala and its paths in four compass directions, the metaphors of engagement create a sense of order in the midst of randomness and remind us that we are 'lost' in the text. In Patchwork Girl, the quilt serves to remind us that Jackson's monster is descended from a long line of monsters, including Mary Shelley herself. These metaphors continually jog our memories that cartographic space is not literally navigable and encourage us to seek out the informational gaps and unexplored areas of the text, what Koskimaa calls the "'blank areas' on the map" (Koskimaa n.p.). They also transcode the topological dimensions of the narratological knot onto a two-dimensional plane where conceptualization of the whole is simplified. These interface metaphors are also crucial to our experience of and navigation through the text. It is our ability to navigate these interfaces as conceptual space with a mouse that engenders agency for the browser.

Even as it aspires to transparency, the interface is ultimately the window or doorway through which we access a text. This is because the interface is primarily a navigational tool giving access to the stored archival materials that constitute our readings, as well as forming a jumping off point over the particulate structure of the text. Most interfaces, Patchwork Girl's for one, incorporate a default mode where the author has provided a path that gives the illusion of order and an apparently linear reading trajectory. The text itself constantly works to undermine these illusions. As Stuart Moulthrop has noted of adventure games, "these constructions are fundamentally and paradoxically extensive, fundamentally riven, like their players, between one path and its alternatives, between saga and interface, hierarchy and network" (original emphasis; "Misadventure" n.p.). The Patchwork Girl's body is sliced up into bits, each with its own past and alternative futures, just as Violet's connection to past, present and future in Califia is fractured and discontinuous. Similarly, Steve, a.k.a. The Codger, gets trapped outside of time in the memory core of the Glide maze because "He still thinks there's only two sides to the maze--to anything. Only ins and outs. He can't see the in-between" (vi.29-5). They entangle their own stories and space of engagement with the world and with their own tensions between the hierarchy of normalcy and the network of personal realities. The ambiguities inherent in such a network of holes help hold together the associational order of the fiction. Koskimaa observes that in hyperfiction: the nodes or "lexias themselves don't create a strong feeling of temporal succession or causality among themselves. On the other hand, as Landow pointed out: 'The very existence of links in hypermedia conditions the reader to expect purposeful, important relationships between linked materials'" (qtd in Koskimaa n.p.). It is our act of reading that constructs the connections in meaning across the gaps, for, these are not simple, linear, one-to-one linkages, but archival collections of associationally related data.

Navigational devices encourage us to search for a linear temporality along our journey, but in hypertext fiction what we actually uncover is a form of Sanford's 'turbulence': (reading) sequence rather than succession, instantaneity rather than simultaneity or synchronicity, indeterminancy rather than order. These elements are often foregrounded with alternate plots or multiple narrators. Electronic fiction, with its self-conscious roots in secondary orality and archival structure, privileges a multiplicity of voices and informational fields over causality. These texts thereby lend themselves to a chorus of voices and discourage singularity in perspective. This douses the reader in a babble of voices--like the Patchwork Girl's many, many owners of her original parts. It is we as browsers who must separate the threaded points of view in order to assign order and intent to events in the text. This is emblematic of Castell's network society with its material Space of Place, embodied existence plus objects of cultural memory like architecture and monuments, and its timeless (or pan-temporal) Space of Flows, simultaneous, virtual, informational and economic fields, where the interplay between Place and Flows produces a dialectic (Kluitenberg n.p.). It is also a representation of rhizomatic structure. Sequence becomes the story when reading is the plot, and our goal as browsers becomes the impulse to map the text or to flesh out the gaps in the narrative rather than reach closure. As Stuart Moulthrop says, "To conceive of text as a navigable space is not the same as seeing it in terms of a single, predetermined course of reading" (qtd in Koskimaa n.p.).

Like the knot, the rhizome also exists across all of the dimensions of space. It is multilayered and complex, pushing its way in all directions into an envelope of earth, and, like the multilayered windows of the Macintosh and Windows operating systems, we often navigate Jackson's and Coverley's hypertexts through sedimentary windows that are stacked within the text [3]. (Glide is different as I will discuss later.) Browsing in the network text becomes a way of sorting through the threads of the narrative as a mnemonic gesture that selects knotted patterns in the fabric of the story, rather than the plot. Terry Harpold too has evoked the knot in the context of hyperlinked fiction. He says,

I will propose, in place of the customary metaphor of a docuverse constituted by a set of linked threads, another metaphor: the docuverse as a weave of knotted threads. The figure of the knot is preferable to that of the link in that it figures both the interlaced relations of discrete narratives and the gaps between them. (Harpold 171)

I see the knot and the link as distinct; the knot transcends space-time, reaching across all planes simultaneously as a means of information storage, whereas the link is a means of navigating through this information and enacting the spatio-temporal jump, the act of browsing. The link is a jump within a system, a connection through disconnection, whereas the knot is always already connected, uniting the flow intradimensionally as it simultaneously severs the flow of information by tightening around itself. The link is a gesture performed by the body whereas the knot is a method of information encryption, the means by which the data gets written on the body. If the link is gesture--what we do--then the knot is what we are--our memories: those emergent properties of our perceptual system as a whole. Robert Shields argues that the hyperlink is a "process of invocation or a 'calling'" that is key to the gestures of data storage and retrieval (Shields 153). The link is a rupture of space-time while the knot transcends dimensions like the Möbius strip, existing across the divide, linking between. The link is action and dynamic change; the knot is structural and archival. The conceptual knot is the way memory gets stored in the text and in the body (of the text). This means that if the knot is a storage device or medium, then the link is the means of navigation through a text, literally being the performance of the dynamic organizational structure. The knot, as a model of the performed cosmological structure of narrative in the new media, helps demonstrate how the body, subjectivity and memory weave together the gaps of the spatio-temporal dislocation of virtual space to become a new way of speaking--and inhabiting--feminist networked texts.

If the networked text is a web connected by knots, then each knot forms a node and each node is interwoven by automated links. The nodes are everywhere and nowhere, appearing and disappearing as we call them up and allow them to linger in our memory. The links they contain are not usually random, but can follow any number of sequential paths from spatially adjacent node to node. The threads that allow us to browse along these paths are linked, encircling the emptiness of the gap in themselves that they cradle, but we make our individual choices within that framework as to which direction we choose to travel. The knot is a connector plug into the web of multiplicity in the networked text and, as such, it is both subjective point of view and virtual place in the simultaneously hollow and full network of the text. A useful parallel might be drawn from mathematics; in knot theory, a series of base knots have each been assigned a number. Among the most cryptic string of numbers, no two knots are identical and yet they are numerically irreducible. In mathematical equations (as in the networked text), the ends of knots are joined to form a feedback loop or Möbius strip "to 'keep in' the knottedness" (Fink 49)--the empty space. Each mathematical knot is one of a nonhierarchical, nonsequential string of numbers occupying topological space. (In fact, attempts to predict a mathematical sequence for knots have even bamboozled sophisticated computers [Fink 51]). Rhizome-like, threads come together geometrically and are ends of the same string or a part of a networked whole because a knot by definition is tied in a single piece of rope around an empty gap in space and time. If we apply this mathematical model to space-time geometry, the essence of cosmology, we discover that the universe itself is informational [4] being a web with matter perforating space and with all points linked together through the spatial dimensions. If we apply a knotted cosmology to narrative structure, the universe of the quantum feminist text might be seen as a web woven of information multiplicity representing, like space-time geometry and Celtic knots, the connectedness of all things and the path of a lifetime. Like the universe, the nodes or knots of the networked text always exist connected in time and multidimensional geometric space, starting into wakefulness when a browser activates a link and engages with the material in the present tense--which is sensory space, a space that is a state and place of embodiment. Each knot or node in space can therefore also represent a particular trajectivity--in short, a unique point of view--and thereby birth fractal subjectivities or perceptual dimensions within the text itself. It is this union of knot as both perspective and place that engenders situated knowledges for a browser of the networked text. Each point in place is a specific embodied position.

In The Maze Game , for example, when The Codger gets trapped inside the maze--inside of the game itself, that is--Óh-T'bee's twing (a motion in space as she dances to resolve irreconcilables in her memory core) begins to loosen the knots that are binding him and his eight avatars in virtual space:

The smaller knots unraveled. But there was one big knot in the center of his awareness for which he could not find an end to begin unraveling. It was all one string, winding in and out of itself. He could sense the parts of it, curving away from where he was located. He could travel on the paths, he could even push it around a bit, pull the loops through each other, but as he pushed a clearing in on one area, another grew denser, more complex (vi.25.1).

It is when Steve realizes that he is the knot he is "trying to untie" (vi.25.2) that Óh-T'bee consents to reinstate him in the game. It is only as a knot though that he can occupy the fractal subjectivities of nine simultaneous selves across multiple dimensions. The storage medium for himselves is a conceptual knot in the Outmind's core.

A narratological construct of knots in space as a fictional structure--like Indra's net, Aboriginal songlines and the World Wide Web--is a cosmology on a human scale that inhabits metaphysical, sensory and perceptual planes. If each quantum feminist text is a web of unique knots and a universe in its own right, then the interface must be designed specific to each system with each 'universe' having its own rules, regulations and "nodus operandi" (Fink 44). There are in fact not one but several space-times in operation in each hypertext. The browser, narrator(s) and the structure/technology all inhabit their own personal dimensions. Sometimes these align. In the metatextual spaces of Patchwork Girl, the monster as a self-reflexive voice reading her own 'text' occupies a perspective that is very close to that of her browser. The browser of Califia, on the other hand, can accompany Augusta, Kaye and Calvin on their journeys, but she always remains at a distance as an observer of their travels and discoveries. Glide is different again. The browser must assume the role of a Dancer in order to receive a three-glyph or nine-glyph oracle and play the game. The browser does not become one of the four Dancers in the novel though; their roles are played by the Dancers themselves. As browsers, our own dance makes us a participant in our own right. The glyphs that make up the oracle, which the Lily casts for us, are the gap or the hole--the three missing characters on the 27-glyph game griddle. As the gap in the maze, these three glyphs contain the meaning (including the outcome) of the dance, which must be interpreted: "the meaning of the missing glyphs is always clear in hindsight. Strange, because everyone still interprets it [the game] differently. But the retrospective interpretation seems to bring some closure" (v.24-2). While we acquire a truer interactivity with the Glide oracle and Collabyrinth than with the other texts, we still only play at the game through the oracle, rather than dancing and dying as a Dancer. In addition to the browser's and narrator's space-times, each of these texts also has a technological or structural space-time that is important too. The browser does not simply read the texts, but must navigate the interfaces as well. The gaps and ruptures that we travel through are the larger landscape of the textual cosmos. Oftentimes, the facts of physical navigation have a spatio-temporal effect on us as we browse that is outside of and beyond the story. Since the networked text does mimic cosmological motion in space-time, it might be useful to first draw some parallels with Gottfried Leibniz's eighteenth century metaphysical cosmology that evoked a network of connectivity.

Leibniz called his metaphysical map for a universe of networked beings a monadology. Each being, a monad, operated like a computer terminal on a network. Each was freestanding and autonomous, the One in the Many and the Many in the One, simultaneously plugged into a larger interconnected system, but existing in isolation as a singular subjectivity aware only of its own virtual world:

The term monadology comes from the Greek monas , as in "monastic," "monk," and "monopoly." It refers to a certain kind of aloneness, a solitude in which each being pursues its appetites in isolation from all other beings, which also are solitary. The monad exists as an independent point of vital willpower, a surging drive to achieve its own goals according to its own internal dictates. Because they are a sheer, vital thrust, the monads do not have inert spatial dimensions but produce space as a by-product of their activity. Monads are nonphysical, psychical substances whose forceful life is an immanent activity. For monads, there is no outer world to access, no larger, broader vision. What the monads see are the projections of their own appetites and their own ideas. In Leibniz's succinct phrase: "Monads have no windows" (Heim 97).

Are the monads perspectiveless subjects or subjectless perspectives? Despite their very multiplicity, they are virtual and manufacture intrinsic dimensions through their dynamic, if two-dimensional, unfolding. Anything that does not take up space must occupy a immaterial realm and, as such, the monad's existence is in a sensual and perceptual universe driven by subjective will. The implications of producing space for the nomadic voyager in the virtual text are rendered dynamic as the browser in motion, unlike the binary monad who can only move in two directions, does not simply create but performs space as well in the reading of the text. Furthermore, nomads are all window. It is their perspective, their subjectivity that is key to their behaviour and movement in space-time.

The static monad sees life only in simulation in its interface with an individual reality, and experiences that reality through its senses (Heim 98). This is cosmology on a personal scale: "Like Indra's net, each monad mirrors the whole world. Each monad represents the universe in concentrated form, making within itself a mundus concentratus" (Heim 98). The significance of the monad's cosmology is that each one's universe is complete and offers a unique perspective. Like the shifts in perspective that have marked the great ages of Western civilization, so the monad becomes isolated as a singularity, a single universe in a clockworks of many universes: each a freestanding terminal in a larger network, each irreducible from the system that she emerges out of as an individual (Deleuze, 1993, 24). Conversely, in addition to these qualities, the nomad privileges subjectivity, but one that is in a fractal state; it is in flux. In other words, the nomad embodies trajectivity. In motion with her perspective constantly changing, the nomad, unlike the monad, is self-aware. For her, the birth of situated knowledge occurs in the environment of information multiplicity.

These are two maps of the electronic world. The virtual networked universe makes space (the other universe, the physical one, has been in a constant state of expansion since the big bang) and expands in response to the needs of all of the individual browsers; however, it is also important to realize that the network is also an alternate image of the physical universe as it exists in hyperspace. Hyperspace as a concept was born in the 1980s as a result of physicists' attempts to reconcile the contradictory theories of quantum mechanics and relativity. Where quantum mechanics explains the behaviour of microscopic objects and molecular topologies, Einstein's general theory of relativity explains the behaviour of heavenly bodies and the conception of the universe. These theories follow different mathematical models and contradict each other. Both could not be true, or so it was assumed. Physicists proposed instead that the two conflicting cosmologies could in fact be reconciled if the basic building block of matter was not the atom, but something resembling a knot of DNA: a string or a tiny knotted loop that is the keeper and memory of the nature of all matter through its harmonic resonance. With the introduction of the conceptual knot--superstring theory as the foundation of everything--into the fabric of space, hyperspace was born. Hyperspace is a tapestry of the eleven dimensions that physicists now believe comprise the known universe. Only the first four dimensions, collectively known as space-time, are sensible to our perceptions; all the others are microscopic and extra-sensory. The higher dimensions are undetectable to senses and so literally 'inconceivable' in our own imaginative space. By definition then, the senses, the perceptions and time (time being reduced to a single dimension of hyperspace and no longer a governing dimension) are all elided from the scientists' view of the physical universe. Personal experience, like time, is demoted to the position of "structured nothingness" in the new physics (Wertheim 217) or, as Gary Zukav argues, the process of experience might be said to occupy its own dimension outside of space-time (295). By contrast and in startling opposition to the physics of the cosmos, cyberspace like lived experience reinserts the body in time and space back into the universe of the matrix.

Cyberspace is a new dimension for embodied space for the twentieth century and beyond, Wertheim argues, that is more akin to medieval soul-space--celestial as opposed to terrestrial space--than anything we have seen in the intervening years. Cyberspace is sensory or perceptual space, and like Leibniz's monadology, it is a dimension of the body in space-time. It is nomadic space where each individual inhabits fractal and unique dimensions, existing as knots in an informational network of multiplicities. "Information multiplicities," says John Johnston, "are profoundly corrosive of older cultural forms and identities, dissolving subjects and objects alike into systems, processes and nodes in the circuits and flow of information exchange" (Johnston 3). Quantum feminist knots in the networked text, therefore by definition, become viral agents and sites of resistance, using the friction of the form as an aesthetic. This is discursive space where bodies write themselves through movement. But where phallocentric information multiplicities consume subjectivities, quantum feminist ones proliferate them fractally as orientations, trajectories, processes and movements.

For quantum feminist mechanics then, we can posit virtual space as a re-visioning and transcoding of Leibniz's metaphysical universe, his monadology, into the form of a nomadology--a pan-dimensional space that privileges trajective motion, the senses, subjectivity (i.e. perspective), multiplicity and embodied time. A nomadology, for Deleuze and Guattari, is also a corrosive agent, existing outside of the system/state and in opposition to it. The nomadic viral agent spreads its desire to circulate, to be in motion as a form of resisting static, singular subjecthood (to voyage is to willingly become foreign, they say), to refuse to be fixed within a paradigm or flattened to two dimensions, to refuse simplex dimensionality as a way of breaking free of the confines of linear narrative, and of refusing the containment of the page. Like the practitioner of the ars memoria , the nomad is always in the act of traversing space and it is this act that generates the spatial dimension of the threads of the networked text in all of its multiplicity. The fictional space is woven of a network of knots with each knot being always connected, always embodied, and always existing in relation. The vibrating strings or knots at the heart of a nomadology are memes, the smallest units of culture--narrative in this case--that are transmittable. Like monads, browsing nomads make space in the virtual information field, but nomads are also always already in motion, dynamic, viral and memetic, circulating in the arteries of virtual space--equal parts infection and resistance, always by definition outside of the economy of the system.

The knot as a form of resistance is also a useful metaphor for the interlinking of body and subjectivity in feminist texts. The fictional space must always be traversed between the nodes on the network. The virtual body in the performance space of the text is a component of subjectivity and of quantum feminist material concerns. As with everything else in virtual space though, there is no single unified or solitary body:

it is more adequate to speak of our body in terms of embodiment, that is to say of multiple bodies or sets of embodied positions. Embodiment means that we are situated subjects, capable of performing sets of (inter)actions, which are-- discontinuous in space and time. Embodied subjectivity is thus a paradox ... (Braidotti "Cyberfeminism")

Fractal bodies are fragmentary and interconnected, occupying and performing the knotted geometric dimensions in space-time in the same way that subjectivities and genders do. This is an embodied manifestation of the mnemonic nature of the browser's disjunctive journey through the archival text. It is also mnemonic space where conceptual knots get encoded or stored as repressed memories--lumpy snarls in the fabric of the text, so-called 'forgotten' events in our reading, items that we have encountered earlier that we continue to return to in order to resolve. This has significance in terms of the browser's healing journey, which relates to trauma and repressed memories, and also in terms of the measure of time as a repetition of intervals. Time and memory are virtual and "only become visible, hence real, by being measured" (Barnett 170) or recollected.

For author and critic A.S. Byatt, knots represent not just memory, but the circuitous connections of an embodied subjectivity:

I've replaced the post-romantic metaphor with one of a knot. I see individuals now as knots... Things go through us--the genetic code, the history of the nation, the language or languages we speak...the constraints that are put upon us, the people who are around us. And if we are an individual, it's because these threads are knotted together in this particular time and this particular place, and they hold. I also have no metaphysical sense of the self, and I see this knot as vulnerable: you could cut one or two threads of it... We are connected, and we also are a connection which is a separate and unrepeated object (qtd in Bronfen 42).

This concept of knotted subjectivity as both connector and connection, plug and socket, is an apt description of the browser in the new media. Elisabeth Bronfen builds on Byatt's idea arguing for knotted subjectivity as multiplicity, becoming "a new form of integration" where both individual connectedness and " uniqueness" are given free play and equal time (42). The knotted subject is, therefore, not exclusively constructed by representations, but acts as both mediation and connection, severance and union, between two realities in a vulnerable body (50); the knotted subject is a modality or a mediator between the old master narratives and memory, the site where the body meets what is speakable in language. And, there are provocative parallels between this new knotted subject and the historically embodied subject of the hysteric. Under hysteria, Sigmund Freud dubbed these conceptual memory knots 'the navel of the dream,' a knot that he cut in his theory to explain the dislocation and disconnection of the hysterical speaking subject (Bronfen 45). The quantum feminist methods of countermemory and transformance are similar to hysterical speaking, both enacting as they do a discourse of resistance. However, where the hysterical subject is subject to memory traces that are written on and speak through her body, being in effect a passive receptacle for a wandering womb, the quantum feminist nomad interrogates memory and the body, choosing to be a wandering subject of her own representation. As a trajective subject, the nomad seizes agency and writes--or performs--herself into virtual space, always aware of the vulnerability of her connection to the material body (Bronfen 45 & 50). Both are oppositional stances. The hysteric performs her conceptual knots as resistance to cultural narratives and gender categories (Bronfen 45) and the quantum feminist, a polar opposite, performs her trajective resistance to the forgetfulness of patriarchal history through countermemory in motion in the space-time of new media artworks.

According to Stuart Moulthrop, hypertext narrative itself is innately a form of resistance; the browser enacts a "continuation of struggle" where fragility and vulnerability are integral to the act of reading:

Anyone who understands the ways of native hypertext knows that the point is not to struggle against hypertext. Rather the act of reading in hypertext is constituted as struggle: a chapter of chances, a chain of detours, a series of revealing failures in commitment out of which come the pleasures of the text. We must understand hypertext as an information highway in which every lane is reserved for breakdowns, a demolition epic in which the vehicles always and constantly blow apart. ("Traveling" n.p.)

Similarly, Terry Harpold talks of the trajectory of the text being composed of 'detours' and Joyce speaks of the 'contours' of the text. In "Ut Pictura Hyperpoesis," John Tolva discusses how the browser creates the space of the text, and feels anxiety over unvisited or unmapped sections of a work. "Readers," he says, "are compelled to explore each untraveled link, to separate the signal from the noise, to suppress all the textual 'spots of indeterminacy'" (Tolva n.p.). Electronic narrative works within an "aesthetics of unfinishedness, 'to a foregrounding of disorder over order, or randomness and noise over organization'" (Tolva n.p.), yet spatially and conceptually the narrative emerges from the aesthetic weaving of the browser's movement through the use of these virtual jumps--not the equivalent of the turning of a page, but a folding of space or a freefall into unexplored terrain. Traditional fiction involves a journey of enlightenment for the character(s), but electronic narrative's spiraling return marks a sea change or unfolding for the browser instead. Jackson's reader rediscovers the body, Coverley's browser maps the constellations both in the night sky and on the landscape, and Slattery's Dancer revisualizes language through gesture. The 'ending' and 'beginning'--in this case where the browser stops and starts moving through the text--are changed once a re-reading journey is undertaken. Tolva says that, "Rather than disrupting the concept of spatial form ..., links generate it, thwarting temporal flow and opening a space for the reader's mind to construct the extra dimension needed to rationalize the act of 'traveling' a link" (Tolva n.p.). It is not, therefore, surprising that hypertextual narrative lends itself so well to the political and nomadological concerns of feminist discourse with its frictional aesthetic and dynamic body in space-time.

The body speaking--familiar in the image of the hysterical body performing her conceptual knots, that is her stored and encoded traumatic memories--is the site of subjectivity when the body is in motion in the new media as the wandering browser. The body performs memory in time and space; in fact, time is motion in space (Tuan 179) where the body's performance of memories articulates resistance to cultural norms and gender stereotypes. This resistance in turn creates a fractal dimension, a dimension where all subjectivities and genders are simultaneously possible. The body activated in virtual space-time is wandering with a force that has not been seen since Plato's womb let loose in the immersive interactive space of the female form. And, since quantum feminism is a database of intensities redefining fractal dimensions and language for the body, this wandering does not liberate the body from the effects of trauma, but instead (and unlike the hysteric) reconnects and integrates the mnemonic knots as a new kind of sensual and perceptual space. An ecosystem of memory. The Patchwork Girl's body-based memories are preserved in the voices of their original owners where they are arranged on the topological geography of the body mapped out by the browser. Califia 's Violet encodes her memories bodily for the reader to experience, and Glide 's oracle and Collabyrinth swirl in space and time as a stage for performing bodies just as the Glide language had its origins in gesture.

As both connector and connection, the knotted subject--like the dynamic medium of Castells' Space of Place and Space of Flows--fills the gap with motion to become the interface between the audience and the machine (Wilding "Cyberfems" 3) in perceptual and sensual space. It draws the audience in as interactor and embodied speaking subject. This is Margaret Morse's site of installation art, the "discontinuous, unified space" (180), that "crucial space"--lived space--that is "in between" (Morse 157). This is the site of Slattery's proposed 3D interface for the Glide website: "The new website will move from inter-face (a surface, however expressive) to inter-space; one move through and around in addition to on and over" ("The Glide Project" 27). This is OBN's site of activism that "builds spaces" for resistant speaking (OBN FAQ #4). This is Jacques Lacan's gaps in the hysteric's discourse called the "inter-dit"--a pun meaning both 'forbidden' and 'between saying'--which, like chora, is a space outside of language inhabited by the unspeakable, by that which literally cannot be spoken (qtd in Harpold 174). If, as Donna Haraway says, the body is a machine made out of words inscribed by time and memory, then the performance space of knotted subjectivity is not simply uncontainable, but contagious and nomadic as well. It is transgressive speaking that circulates outside of patrilineal culture, and, like the cyborg, Jackson's monster, Coverley's Violet and Slattery's Outmind naturally enact their transgression in language frame-by-frame through body-based thinking: the audacious site of this truly monstrous thought process. A nomadology is a conceptually knotted subjective embodiment, forming the skin of mediation and connection between realities, the fraught interface between the virtual and the real. Knotted subjectivity in motion is uncontainable, quantum and viral, "sustained and disabled by the gap that opens up in the detour" of navigation (Harpold 174), but it is also integrally interconnected with the cosmological, narrative fabric, with both the gaps we leap and the story we travel through.


[1] In the same way, Stéphane Mallarmé proposed that a poet should "'avoid narrative' and 'space out'" a poem so that "the page, with its typographic space, not the line, is the unit of verse" (qtd in Ong 129).

[2] Sanford says, "passages are discontinuous or nonlinear. The language shifts in time/voice/setting in a significant way... I think of them as passages rather than paragraphs. They are both, but passages has a temporal connotation" ("Emptiness"). They also imply motion or movement through space. This is what Sanford dubs 'turbulence.'

[3] Steven Johnson has examined the revolutionary nature of the addition of the third dimension to the electronic environment:

Engelbart and Sutherland had endowed the digital computer with space [via the object-oriented interface]; [Alan] Kay's overlapping windows gave it depth. It was a subtle distinction, but a profound one. You could move in and out of the landscape on the screen, pull things toward you or push them farther away. The bitmapping revolution had given us a visual language for information, but Kay's stacks of paper suggested a more three-dimensional approach, a screen-space you could enter into (47).

[4] In fact, not only is the universe informational, but Stephen Hawking and other physicists have used information theory as the foundation of quantum theory. Entropy = information (as, for example, information is the content of a black hole) (Holz 452). Even more recently, DNA and information have been discovered to have mathematical equivalencies. In a surprising adaptation of findings, DNA genome sequencing packets have been applied to information flow on the Internet to improve transmission speeds (Sterling n.p.). Art is being resequenced into this paradigm as well. Lev Manovich sees the new media as occupying simultaneously an information dimension and an experiential or aesthetic plane (Manovich 66).



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