Author Espen J. Aarseth's, essay Nonlinearity and Literary Theory appears in the New Media Reader[1].

Aarseth believes writing amounts to much more than merely signs and symbols. Writing, to Aarseth, is a form of meaning making which can be broken into two basic units, textons and scriptons. Textons are the smallest unit of discourse. They are bits of information, that in context, convey meaning. Scriptons are unbroken sequences of textons. which together, produce the context needed for true meaning. According to Aarseth, hypertext is non-linear because it allows a re-ordering of scriptons.

Aarseth classifies non-linear texts by the following features:

Topology: A nonlinear text (or hypertext) does not have a fixed topology, but one determined by the user's navigation through it. Static or fixed text's on the other hand, do have fixed topologies (structures, hierarchies).

Dynamics: In dynamic texts, as opposed to static texts, the scriptons change.

Determinability: The degree to which a user can move through a text in multiple, selectable pathways.

Transiency: If time alone changes the meaning of signs, then a text is considered transient. (Conversely, if time does not effect meaning, it is considered static). Transient text can also be synchronous ("real-time" or in synch with the user) or asynchronous (if not operating in "real-time.")

Maneuverability: The ease of access to scriptons.

User-functionality: Specific purposes that the text supports.


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