Dickensian links_ Passage from Interface culture

‘As the word suggests a link is a way of drawing connections between things, a way of forging semantic relationships. In the terminology of linguistics, the link plays a conjunctive role, binding together disparate ideas in digital prose. This seems self-evident enough, and yet for some reason the critical response to hypertext prose has always fixated on the dissociative powers of the link. In the world of hypertext fiction, the emphasis on fragmentation has its merits. But as a general interface convention, the link should be usually understood as a synthetic device, a tool that brings multifarious elements together into some kind or orderly unit. In this respect, the most compelling cultural analogy for the hypertext webs of today’s interfaces turns out to be not the splintered universe of channel surfing, but rather the damp fog-shrouded streets of Victorian London, and the mysterious resemblances of Charles Dickens. “Links of association” was actually a favourite phrase of Dickens. It plays a major role in the narrative of ‘Great Expectations – arguably his most intricately plotted work, and the most widely read of his ‘mature’ novels. For Dickens the link usually takes the form of a passing resemblance, half glimpsed and then forgotten. Throughout his oeuvre, the characters stumble across the faces of strangers and perceive some stray likeness, something felt but impossible to place. These moments are scattered through the novels like hauntings, like half memories, and it’s the ethereal quality that brings them very close to the subjective haze of modernism and the stream of consciousness.’ Interface Culture, Steven Johnson _ pg 111-112