Hyperrhiz: an Introduction

Helen J. Burgess

Beginning in Fall 2005, Rhizomes will be joined by a sister site, Hyperrhiz. The mission of HR is to provide a specific forum within Rhizomes for the publication of innovative new media projects.

Hyperrhiz will maintain close affiliation with Rhizomes, while ensuring that new media projects are reviewed by members of an extended advisory board with specialties in digital media scholarship. Issues will be coordinated with the release of each Rhizomes issue.

We hope to attract a sampling of the best work being done in new media authoring and performance. In particular, we will be looking to host experimental web-based projects; but we also hope to provide a forum for the presentation of electronic installations, games and performances through the use of archival video, photo and text documentation.

In addition to providing an archival site with regular issues, we hope that Hyperrhiz will be able to participate in the explosion of scholarly activity in new media. HR will feature an integrated weblog, for ongoing news of interest to the HR community, and a wiki, for experimental writing. These features will be available year-round, to provide an ongoing forum for scholars and practitioners of new media culture.

As the technical editor for Hyperrhiz, my own interest lies in the genres of electronic discourse, and how these formats might affect the expression of complex discourses within new media. The multi-genre format of Hyperrhiz will itself play out some of the more interesting issues in the philosophy of narrative hypermedia by making use of three divergent genres within current (open source) web culture: content management systems (cms), weblogs and wikis.

Each of these tools expresses material in fundamentally different ways: cms, as a highly structured, hierarchical method of organizing, editing and displaying online content; the weblog, as a chronological genre inviting interaction through a more-or-less traditional narrative "commenting" forum; and the Wiki, as a nodal hypertext environment in which material is added (often free-form), revised and moderated by a community of visitors. These formats, in other words, offer their own comment on the potentially rhizomatic nature of electronic writing. My own hope is that, as William Gibson would say, "the street finds its own uses for things": that HR will evolve over time into a hybrid of narrative documentation, discussion, creation and dissemination.

A preliminary installation of Hyperrhiz can be previewed at http://www.hyperrhiz.net/