The World-Wide Web as a Cyborg Author in the Postmodern Mold

by

David Wall

daw3g@virginia.edu

December 12, 1994


Recent trends in literary criticism have focused on the nature of the author and the definition of a text. Debate has arisen about whether a text is words on a page or the ideas formed in a reader's mind upon consuming a creative product, and whether an author is a single person who organizes facts and presents them to readers or is instead the collection of circumstances that influence the writer and move him or her to generate a product. Postmodernism favors the notion that everything is relative, and that creation and interpretation make sense only in the context of the environments in which they occur. Postmodernism was not conceived to allow for the possibility of the cyborg author that is beginning to take shape in the form of the World-Wide Web, but the Web fits its model of the postmodern author and consumer nicely.

The Web allows human creators to post documents made up of all sorts of media to machines, which are equipped to allow readers to experience the documents. The Web also allows human writers to interact with their audiences on an immediate scale, and encourages discussion among the members of a community in a way that is much more difficult under the currently predominant system of lone writers and lone consumers separated by an unwieldy mechanism of agents, publishers, marketers and retailers. Writers can get reactions to their works directly from their audience, which likely will influence their future works, and consumers receive the writer's material in the context of a community of Web users with similar interests, which provides much of the context in which the writer's product is consumed. Thus, it is more apparent that both creators and consumers of documents are heavily influenced by their environments. The Web is a testing-ground for postmodern theory.

Not only is the Web a testing-ground, it is an author. The Web assembles texts and presents them to readers, even steering them to certain sites instead of others. The Web enables consumers to experience texts they would not otherwise experience, and in that way fits the postmodern definition of an author.

To better understand why the Web is itself an author, we must understand how Web texts are different from standard texts. In the case of a standard text, a single author sits down, assembles a group of facts in the form of a piece of written work or in another medium, and sends that product, however indirectly, to a consumer, who assimilates the product. Whether the author is really one person or a collection of cultural and experiential exigencies that led the fact-assembler to produce the text is another issue entirely. The important thing is that there is one human being who serves as the producer of a text and one human being who consumes that same text.

A Web text, in contrast, is almost never the product of a single human fact-assembler. It is rare that a Web user will log on for the purpose of using a single page. The whole appeal of the Web is its hyperlinks, and the text a Web surfer consumes is a collection of individual documents, perhaps each written by a different human being. Each of these individual parts of a Web text was written with knowledge of at least some of the other parts (nearly every Web document is linked to at least one other) but the individual human document creators had no control over which sites have links to their document, and the way in which the Web user reaches their document. They have control over their own document, but that is only a fragment of Web text.

The Web as a Cyborg

Why, then, is the Web an author if it is merely a collection of more or less unintelligent machines containing pages of information placed there by authors ignorant of most of the rest of the documents available? How is the Web an author any more than a conventional library? The difference is one of immediacy: Web documents are generally short in length, and may be strung together into a Web text within a short period of time. The other, more important difference is the unique nature of the Web. It is a cyborg, a combination of human beings and machines that determines the texts consumed by Web surfers in a way that neither the humans nor the machines could determine independently. In this way, the Web functions as a cyborg author in the postmodern mold.

Donna J. Haraway says, "[a] cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction" (Haraway, 149). The Web fits this definition because it is simultaneously human and machine. The material posted to the Web by human beings is the reason for the Web's existence, but that material would be essentially useless if the machines that make up the Web did not provide it with a means of distribution and thereby give media consumers access to the creators' products. The Web is a cyborg in the sense that it extends the capabilities of both of its elements: the human beings could not distribute and access the information without the machines, and the machines would be uselessly interconnected without the information provided by their human counterparts.

The cyborg itself is invisible, and can be identified only by its component parts.

Our best machines are made of sunshine; they are all light and clean because they are nothing but signals, electromagnetic waves, a section of a spectrum, and these machines are eminently portable, mobile - a matter of intense human pain in Detroit and Singapore. People are nowhere near so fluid, being both material and opaque. Cyborgs are ether, quintessence" (Haraway, 153).
The cyborg Web is indeed a quintessence. It is the spirit of the producer-consumer relationship that until the Web's rise was encumbered by the awkward trappings of the publishing industry. Where before there was a long string of steps between creator and consumer, the Web is immediate, direct , and a lot closer to invisible than the old system.

But how is the Web any more of a cyborg than a car with its driver or a piano at which a skilled player sits? The main difference is that the products of the Web, "texts" to be taken in by a consumer, can be generated even after the human creator has posted his or her material and logged off the Web. The reason the Web is an author in the postmodern sense is the machines enable the human consumer to surf the sea of material created by human beings, and may in fact steer consumers to certain texts. Haraway agrees that the cyborgs are well-suited to the function of the author:

"Writing is pre-eminently the technology of cyborgs, etched surfaces of the late twentieth century. Cyborg politics is the struggle against perfect communication, against the one code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of phallogocentrism. That is why cyborg politics insist on noise and advocate pollution, rejoicing in the illegitimate fusions of man and machine" (Haraway, 176).
In this passage, Haraway hints at the intelligence of cyborgs. If something is capable of engaging in politics, which is the struggle for control, it must have the ability to determine which entity has control of a particular community or situation. Authorship, after all, is a political activity since it is the process of creating a text that will affect the nature of the text consumed by the receiver of creative work. The Web, through mechanisms that are explained in later sections, creates Web texts and serves as an author both of them and of communities. The Web engages in cyborg politics in the same way it engages in cyborg authorship.

The starting point of a Web text comes from the surfer's mind in two ways. First, the surfer comes to the Web with a particular set of ideas, experiences, prejudices and interests in the spirit of the traditional postmodern reader who compares the facts assembled by the author with those in his or her own mind and synthesizes a text from them. Second, the Web surfer decides with which Web site the session will start, either through the hotlist of his or her browser client (which is really just the set of prior experiences and interests encoded onto a computer), or through the use of a Web search engine that takes the human consumer's internal list of interests, translates it into computer code, and begins the consumer's text at an appropriate Web site. From the starting point, the Web surfer has a limited number of links to choose from, a number that was determined by the (probably) human being that encoded the Web page, and can in fact only choose one of them, based on his or her own whim. The generation of a Web text in the form of a series of Web documents is always influenced by both human and machine. The author of the surfer's text is the community of individual document-writers who made up their own page plus the computers that allowed the surfer to view them and assimilate them into his mind. The author of a Web document is the cyborg Web.

Not only is the Web a cyborg, but it is beginning to become what Manuel DeLanda termed an intelligent machine. DeLanda wrote about military machinery that is capable of making decisions and completely cutting human beings out of some decisions involved in fighting battles. The Web is not a member of DeLanda's "machinic phylum," the category of machines that exist without the assistance of humans, and it is not yet intelligent, primarily because it has no ability to learn and apply new rules based on experience. It has the ability to interrelate documents and combine texts in ways the creators of individual documents never intended. The mechanized aspects of the Web, such as its search engines and lists of resources, serve to direct Web users to certain resources. (De Landa interview)

The Web abounds with discussions of cyborgs and cybernetics. Some of the most interesting articles appear in The Arachnet Electronic Journal on Virtual Culture and Postmodern Culture. Another site devoted to such debate is Virtual Chimps and Cyborg Gorillas, and an excellent definition of human-machine entities appears at Cybernetics.

The History of Hypertext

The history of hypertextual systems and the discoveries of its developers is also interesting. Hypertext, conceived as the Memex machine in 1945 by Vannevar Bush as a way for scientists and scholars to keep track of interrelated data and establish a system of "dynamic footnotes," was developed in the 1950s by Theodor Nelson and other government scientists. "In the 1960s Nelson realized that computers could cause the creation of nonconsequential texts, that is, reports or essays that could be read in different sequences depending on the user's interests" (DeLanda, 218). The scientists found that hypertext, as the offspring of a cyborg, could facilitate the creation of something neither the human nor the machine components of the cyborg had intended. In other words, they found that the cyborg, without any help from particular machines or human beings, was capable of authorship. Machines and human beings were involved in creation, but only as part of the cyborg, which actually did the authoring.

Scientists learned more as they turned hypertext cyborgs loose on networks of computers, DeLanda says. First on the ARPANET and later on the Internet, researchers experimented with hypertext and other programs and discovered several things. First, the data traveling across the network had to be given "local intelligence" - the capability of navigating its way from point of origination to destination without instructions from a central traffic-control computer - in order for the data to flow rapidly, efficiently and smoothly. They discovered that intelligence was essential to large-scale computer networks. Second, they realized

... that if messages could find their own way around, maybe the very content of a message could be made to be its address. That is, if a message's subject matter could determine its destination then recipients could be delivered messages by the topic. This meant people could send messages to no one in particular, allowing the message to reach whoever was interested. In this way, users of the network were able to easily find people with related interests. Demons became agents for amplifying collective communication (DeLanda, 224).
They discovered that it was the demons, the small bits of computer code designed to handle a particular utilitarian function, that were handling not only the routing tasks, but the function of deciding which network users would be interested in which texts. They were creating the sorts of nonconsequential texts DeLanda mentioned. The demons, the machine component of the network cyborg, were taking the creations of the human element and synthesizing it into new strung-together documents that made up the texts consumed by the ultimate users of the information. Though the early subject-sorting and distribution experiments fit the model of the Usenet newsgroup better than the model of the Web, the concept is the same. The cyborg is creating new texts.

DeLanda wrote his book in 1991, before the Web was much more than a small-scale experiment on computers in Switzerland. He does, however, hint at the cyborg brain the Web has become. He says, "Rather than perpetuating the man/machine dichotomy, and abstracting now the initiativeless tool, then the human controller, the next step is to merge the two into a man-machine assemblage. This would be the mind of a robot" (DeLanda, 164). He goes on to describe the need for an artificial inductive calculus, capable of making logical jumps from specific examples to general rules, and describes the progress being made in the development of such a calculus.

But the Web already has such inductive engines in place, in the form of forums for reviewing the creative products posted to it and statistical algorithms for reporting which resources are most popular among Web users. Those reports and reviews, the products of fairly simple computer procedures, have the potential to work together with the human part of the cyborg and perform inductive reasoning. This inductive reasoning takes the form of the Web's review and popularity mechanisms looking at specific examples of what other Web users have done and liked, reporting that to an independent Web user, and then that Web user deciding to do the same thing. Thus, the cyborg Web has the capability of acting not only as the author of individual Web texts, but as the author of the canon for entire communities. This is not intelligence per se, but it is a function of a cyborg. The machines are affecting the lives of human beings.

There are several Web sites that deal with artificial intelligence issues. They include the Iowa State Artificial Intelligence Research Group, and an article by Pushpinder Singh at the University of Canberra.

The Web as an Author of Community

In the past, publishing houses have served as a sort of "cultural author," determining the cultural canon by deciding what to publish and what to ignore. The cyborg Web has the potential to take over this function, not only with its vast collection of text and simple publishing procedure but with its mechanisms for arbiting taste. Web sites that provide means of attaching critiques to published documents are part of this, as are statistical algorithms that generate top-ten lists and other indicators of what the community of Web users is doing.

The existing system of communicating creative products from creators to consumers has not changed much since the invention of character-based systems of writing. For thousands of years, only certain creative products made it into print because only a very small percentage of the population was capable of producing written material. Scribes generated written texts when a tiny percentage of the population was capable of expressing themselves with written language, and hand-operated printing-press operators did the same thing more efficiently.

Now, at least in the Western world, most of the population is capable of creating written texts but very few people see their texts published to more than, at most, a few hundred people. The issues now are of economics, not literacy. It is inefficient for a publishing house to do a press run of fewer than tens of thousands of books, and so the publisher must decide which products are likely to sell at least that many copies. Publishing houses are forced to cater to the center, leaving fringe communities with obscure interests without bodies of text to call their canons.

Not only does the Web cater to all parts of the interest spectrum equally and serve as the author of each of the texts the members of each community read, it can serve as a cultural author for each small community of like-minded individuals. Through its intelligence - the cyborg components (machine-based statistical algorithms an human beings who serve as respected critics and reviewers, all existing simultaneously in the ether of the Web), the cyborg can steer people to certain texts and away from others, serving the same function, and perhaps perpetuate the same problems, as the publication infrastructure of the present.

Parts of the Web that are equipped with statistical algorithms and other sorts of popularity meters to tell Web surfers what other users have been doing can steer them to certain products of certain human creators, such as the Best of the Net site maintained by Mosaic Software and the top-ten list of alternative-music songs, maintained by KZSU, Stanford University's radio station.

This is different from the existing mechanism, in which human arbiters of cultural taste decide how to allocate their limited manufacturing, marketing, distribution and retailing resources based on their knowledge of how large segments of the population spend their money, even though the existing system is rife with computer models designed to predict how popular new books, movies and songs will be. These computer models take into account such variables as the name of a book's author or a movie's director, the previous popularity of characters in the creative product (i.e., Jack Ryan or Lassie) and cultural trends, such as the bizarre dinosaur craze of 1993, and generate predictions of popularity which help those who control presses and studios decide what the public will be able to consume. The difference is that the computer models of the existing system are somewhat insulated from the culture they are supposed to simulate. Sure, actual people created the cultural trends that fit into the predictive algorithm and yes, people previously illustrated that they like movies that feature certain recurring characters. But there is an element of time lag that prevents the current system from understanding the current state of the social mentality. Because of this lag, the current system is not a real-time cyborg author like the Web, which can use up-to-the second data to bring its cultural authorship function in line with the community of human beings it serves.

Mark Amerika, a Web-based artist and publisher of the on-line magazine Alternative-X, favors the decay of the existing publishing scheme and the rise of micro-communities fostered by the cyborg Web.

Niche communities, many of which already exist through the zine scene, will become, by virtue of the convergent electronic environments, virtual communities ... Avant-Pop artists and the alternative networks they are part of will eat away at the conventional relics of a bygone era where the individual artist-author creates their beautifully crafted, original works of art to be consumed primarily by the elitist art-world and their business-cronies who pass judgment on what is appropriate and what is not. (Amerika)
Amerika uses the term Avant-Pop, discussed further in the next section, to describe the mode of literary criticism that arises from the constant interaction of the creators and consumers of creative material that takes place in Cyberspace. More relevant to the discussion of this section, though, is his idea that the rise of the Web leads inexorably to the fall of the traditional publishing hierarchy that in many ways is repressive to small-time, "undiscovered" artists.

The Web has the potential to be made up of tens of thousands of cyborg authors of community, each affecting the product-consumption list of a group of consumers much smaller than the nearly universal audience today's publishers have to try to woo. The cultural-taste arbiters of the Web work on a smaller scale, since there is a much smaller infrastructure between producers and consumers. Instead of deciding how to appeal to as much of a giant audience as possible, the cultural authors of the Web, including most-popular lists and usage statistics, describe the trends established by a particular community. In doing so, they affect the trends of document readership and thereby influence the nature of the Web texts consumed by Web surfers.

They do not, however, absolutely dictate what a community will consume, as the existing system does. As it stands now, if a work isn't deemed to have sufficiently broad appeal, it is not published and the community of people it would have interested are left without products to consume. Ignoring for the purpose of argument such phenomena as password-protected sites and commercial sites that require their users to have a certain level of wealth, there are no Web sites (no components of potential Web texts) that a surfer cannot visit. Some may be easier to get to than others, since there are sites with no links leading into them and others that are not listed on directories and search engines, but all are available. Under the system of the cyborg Web, consumers are free to ignore the advice of taste-arbiters and explore as they wish. The Web is a cultural author in the sense that many Web users will be swayed by its built-in authorities. It is not an absolute cultural author like a system that decides whether creative products will be either very popular or non-existent.

There will always be respected authorities in any society, real or virtual. There are and always will be respected reviewers on the Web who make it their business to check out and critique new documents, much as KZSU publishes its top ten playlist songs on the Web, along with brief reviews. But these evaluation mechanisms are part of the machine. They will literally be products of computers in the case of automatically generated statistical reports, and they will be products of the Web-cyborg's human component in the case of written reviews (Someday, it may be possible for machines to recognize what makes a document, whether a song, film or piece of written matter, good, and generate a convincing review). In either case, the reader of the evaluation recognizes the Web itself as the "author." The cyborg has generated a review, and the cyborg is influencing the media diet of the populace.

The Web stands to substantially replace the publishing infrastructure in which manufacturing and marketing resources are rationed. First with music, numerical information and short bits of text, and later with works hundreds of pages long as the cost of home printing or readable display technology falls, the Web will provide a practically cost-free venue for publishing, distributing, critiquing, and archiving creative works. Creators of music and writing will get their first public exposure not through the whim of a magazine editor, contest judge or publishing house, but instead on the Web, where small-time creators will be able to distribute their wares in much the same way as programming hobbyists distribute shareware in the modern software market. The profit biases of the publishing houses will be eliminated from the equation of creator and consumer, and tiny communities of people with very specialized interests will be able to grow.

[t]he new Electronic Age ... will vastly increase our chances of finding an audience of like-minded individuals who we can communicate and collaborate with. The future of writing is moving away from the lone writer sitting behind a keyboard cranking out verse so that one day he or she may find an editor or agent or publisher who will hype their work to those interested in commercial literary culture. Instead, the future of writing will feature more multi-media collaborative authoring that will make itself available to hundreds if not thousands of potential associates around the world who will be actively internetworking in their own niche communities. (Amerika)
The above quotation illustrates another effect the Web will have upon the authorship of creative products. Now, producers of poetry, prose, music, and visual art products are concerned with impressing those who have the power to get exposure for their art. Under postmodern theory, these gatekeepers, with their marketability algorithms and theories about what sells and what does not, are part of the environment that makes a work turn out the way it does. They are authors. By helping to break down this concern of the producer of creative products by giving artists much more direct access to their audiences, the Web is an author, too. It is changing the conditions under which the creative act occurs. The cyborg Web is the audience, in some respects, since the individual creator likely does not know the nature of the human beings that consume his product, and instead writes for the cyborg, the Web that, by means of its human and machine components, will give him a response to his work.

The Web may be thought of as a return to the relationship that existed between document-producers and document-consumers in the time of cave paintings. Then, there was no weeding out of "good" and "bad" cave art; anyone who was capable of taking antler to granite was free to publish. The need to ration publishing resources had not yet developed, and so the chain that began with scribes and led to printers and agents and marketers and bookstore chains had not yet begun. The Web represents a return to the time when anybody express themselves to the general public, without concerning themselves first with impressing the gatekeepers that held access to publishing resources.

Avant-Pop as a Proposed Alternative to Postmodernism

Those artists who live and work with the cyborg Web by posting their creations to it and getting responses from their audiences via the electronic mail have begun to shun older forms of literary criticism in favor of modes that speak more directly to the environment in which they exist. Old theories, such as postmodernism, they say, are designed to accommodate the world of widely separated producers and consumers, and do not address the realm of cyber-art.

Amerika has established an elaborate on-line magazine, in which he provides a forum for artists to display their work and interested Web surfers to experience it. The magazine carries a disclaimer that says it is not a place where anybody can post anything, but his on-line museum serves as an example of relatively uninhibited relationships between artists and their audiences. The magazine, called Alternative-X, also serves as a publisher for Amerika's columns. In one of these, he described the Avant-Pop mode of criticism and its shunning of the presently popular standards by which creative products are judged.

Literary establishment? Art establishment? Forget it. Avant-Pop artists wear each other's experimental data like waves of chaotic energy colliding and mixing in the textual-blood while the ever-changing flow of creative projects that ripple from their collective work floods the electronic cult-terrain with a subtle anti-establishment energy that will forever change the way we disseminate and interact with writing. (Amerika)
Amerika even uses cyborg terminology to describe the authorship of the cyborg Web. A cyborg could be characterized as having "textual-blood," and it is keeping with Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto that the human beings that make up part of the human-machine entity get nourishment from "experimental data" and "chaotic energy." The process described above is cyborg creativity. Artists interact with each other in ways that would not be possible without mechanized appendages. Machines are essential to humans' creating and consuming texts, and this leads to the decline of the existing publishing establishment.

Amerika proposes Avant-Pop as the definitive textual-criticism trend created by the cyborg Web. It is postmodernism stripped of its component of time-lag, since cyber-artists interact with one another and with their audiences on a nearly real-time basis. There is no need to allow for artists "bringing" things into the creative act: the experiences and knowledge base that will affect the creative act are right there, on the Web, in evidence when the artist produces his or her creative product and also present when the consumer of the creative product browses through them during the same Web-surfing session in which the new creative work is viewed. In that way, the newly created work and the background material that led to it are part of the same Web text. Amerika explained the Avant-Pop mode of criticism in the following way.

Postmodernism changed the way we read texts. The main tenet of Postmodernism was: I, whoever that is, will put together these bits of data and form a Text while you, whoever that is, will produce your own meaning based on what you bring to the text. The future of Avant-Pop writing will take this even one step further. The main tenet that will evolve for the Avant-Pop movement is: I, whoever that is, am always interacting with data created by the Collective You, whoever that is, and by interacting with and supplementing the Collective You, you will find meaning. (Amerika)
The "Collective You" of which Amerika writes may be the cyborg Web. From the point of view of any single Web user, the Web is composed of many people her or she has never really met and a string of machines that bring him or her closer to those mysterious people. "Collective You" may refer to the collective of "all of you with whom I, the artist, am interacting," and "you, the machines that handle the grunt work of this community." Substituting the phrase "cyborg Web" for "Collective You" in Amerika's writing would not change its meaning at all.

Avant-Pop, then, is but a subset of the postmodern mode of criticism. It is postmodernism stripped of the cultural and economic trappings with which we have saddled it in our modern society. Amerika is right to say that the relationship between creators and creative-product consumers will change by becoming much more immediate, but it is not necessary to establish an entirely new scheme of literary criticism to accommodate the new reality of the cyborg Web. The conventions of postmodernism are adequate to describe the authorship of the Web, and even under Amerika's definitions, the Web fits the postmodern definition of the author very well.

Conclusion: The Web as a Cyborg Author

It is evident that the rise of the World-Wide Web has led to a new testing-ground for postmodern critical theory, and that the Web fits the postmodern definition of the author better than any human author in history has. It fits the definition of the postmodern author because the Web is an entity capable of creation by its own right. The Web is a cyborg.

Composed of both human and machine elements, each of which extends the capabilities of the other, the Web fits nicely into the definition of a cyborg. The physical being of the Web is composed of networked computers, and its "spiritual" being is the microcode that enables them to work together and handle its various functions. Already we see that human beings, who wrote most of the code on which the Web runs, are intertwined with the machines.

The appeal of the Web, though, is the body of information that is placed on it by people. Human beings log onto the Web to use data, including creative products, that were placed there by other human beings. Through the infrastructure provided by the machines, Web users get data posted by human beings. To the individual Web user, though, the Web is not divided into two parts. It is a man-machine entity in which the two parts are conflated into a single being. To the user, the cyborg Web is the environment in which he creates material and the audience to which he exhibits his works.

In that way, the Web is an author under the postmodern definition of the word. The cyborg Web is the group of circumstances that leads to the creation of a text and the mechanism by which a text is assembled from existing conditions. When a creator posts something to the Web, he or she does so with knowledge of postings that have come before and the responses of consumers to those products. It is the human creator of works of art that is evaluating and reacting to the environment in which he or she exists, not a bulky publishing mechanism that decides for the creator what sort of art is worthy of publication and what will be left out of a community's reading list by virtue of its minimal sales potential.

The Web is not a cyborg author just in the sense that it provides a forum for publication and a means by which creators can interact with consumers. It is an author of community, since one of the Web's best features is its ability to foster exchanges among groups of people so small they are ignored by the publishing establishment of the present day. The Web does not passively provide a forum for these groups, though. It serves as a cultural author for them by steering community members toward certain texts and away from others.

The Web is able to function as a cultural author because it, by means of humans who review of creative postings and code-driven algorithms that describe the behavior of the community of Web users, is able to guide members of a particular Web community to read certain on-line documents, and in doing so encourages them to experience Web texts of a certain variety. Web surfers are free to ignore the advice of the cyborg Web, but to do so would be counterintuitive, since community members are interested in what other community members have done, and want to experience the same things on order to remain informed members of the community, capable of interaction with others.

New modes of literary criticism have been proposed as a replacement for postmodernism, but these theories, notably Avant-Pop, fall short of breaking new ground. Instead, they are modifications of the postmodern mode of criticism that allow for the stripped-down relationship between producers and consumers that the Web facilitates. Avant-Pop is not so much a new sort of criticism as it is an existing form of criticism applied to a new set of circumstances.

The Web is a new application for postmodern theory for the same reason supersonic flight was a new application of aerodynamics. In both cases, the same things are happening, but the rules change at very high speeds. Just as shock waves are generated when air cannot move out of the way of a wing moving faster than sound, the rules of an author's relationship to his or her audience change when the cyborg Web provides a forum that is much faster than the traditional, labor-intensive path of a work of art from concept to consumer. Just as the nature of water changes when it crosses the threshold from merely hot to boiling, the rules of criticism change under the influence of new technology.

The Web is a cyborg that very closely fits the mold for the author established by the postmodern school of literary criticism. It is an intelligent entity, part human and part machine, that both fosters new communities and speeds the exchange of ideas and criticism within them. It also creates texts by limiting the ways in which Web surfers can move from one text to another, and, to an extent, dictating where Web texts will begin. The cyborg Web also acts as an author of community by directing Web users to certain resources instead of others. The Web is a human-machine entity that fits the postmodern definition of the author very well.

Works Cited and Consulted

Iowa State Artificial Intelligence Research Group. On-line.

Amerika, Mark. Avant-Pop Manifesto. Alternative-X, September 1994. On-line.

The Arachnet Electronic Journal on Virtual Culture. On-line.

Cybernetics. On-line.

DeLanda, Manuel. War in the Age of Intelligent Machines. New York: Zone Books, 1991.

Haraway, Donna J. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women. New York: Routledge, 1991.

KZSU Recommends, September 1994. On-line.

Singh, Pushpinder. Intelligences. On-line.

Virtual Chimps and Cyborg Gorillas. On-line.

Wahl, Wendy. Bodies and Technologies: Dora, Neuromancer, and Strategies of Resistance. Postmodern Culture, January 1993. On-line.