Dynamic Heterarchy in “Generation X”

Hayles, in Electronic literature, discusses the link between the human being and the digital computer as one ripe with with complexities on the “physical, psychological, economic, and social” levels (47). She also includes that the environment we surround ourselves with equally effect how we interact with digital media. Such that, the way in which an individual chooses their lifestyle determines what types and what complexities of digital media one makes use of. This involves all of the layers of interaction a human may have with the digital world- laptops, cellphones, blackberries, MP3 players, ipods, just to name a few.

We are physically connected to these devices, as they aid in the progress of a day- at work, at school, at home, communicating with family, checking in on the news of the world, etc. We are psychologically connected to these devices, as they aid in organizational skills, give us reminders of things to do, allow us the communicate with significant others, etc. We are economically connected to these devices, as they display for the individual a placement on the social ladder- having the latest version of the iphone, for example. And lastly, we are socially connected to these devices, because digital technology has been ingrained into our society on a much higher and deeper level then perhaps thought imaginable. Our everyday lives involved immense technological interaction, even for the simplest of tasks.

Now, perhaps to make the arguement that such a network of interaction could exist still today between the individual and the novel is too difficult; but there are certain works out there that broach a new frontier of literature. Douglas Coupland’s Generation X is one such work. Much as Hayles describes the computer’s dynamics as “based on relatively simple electrosilicon circuits” (47), where its processes function much like DNA as a continuous web of connectivity and play (46), Coupland’s work functions on a similar basis. There is a main text that fuctions on different levels of narration, while it also interacts with sidebar comments, images, and definitions. The text itself performs in much the same fashion as a digital work of literature would (take Michael Joyces Twelve Blue for example). The reader may or may not choose to read the “links” or “sidebar” comments at once, at the beginning, at the end, or intermittenly while reading the body text. This creates different levels of readership and of interaction with the text, and creates different paths of recognition of the story.

Hayles writes:

“Anthropologists have long recognized that humans have been biologically, psychologically, and socially shaped by their technologies at least since Paloelithic times. The New wrinkle is the power of computers to perform cognitively sophisticated acts. Compared, say, to a hammer or stone ax, a computer has much more flexibility, interactivity, and cognitive power…. Humans engineer computers and computers reengineer humans in systems bound together by recursive feedback and feedforward loops, with emergent complexities catalyzed by leaps between different media subtrates and levels of complexity.” (47-48)

There is no clear idea that one or the other is more domuinant than the other, that the human cocreates more with the computer, or that perhaps the computers engages the individual more. The levels of hierarchy are constantly, therefore, in a state of perpetual flux, as both the human and the computer continue to evolve.


Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic literature: new horizons for the literary. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008.

Coupland, Douglas. Generation X: Takes for an Accelerated Culture. New York: St. Martin;s Press, 1991.

Erica Fidrych


~ by ericafidrych on February 22, 2010.

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