Regime Change, by Noah Wardrip-Fruin, David Durand, Brion Moss and Elaine Froehlich, is an interesting example of, for lack of a better term, two-way hypertext. Unlike other hypertexts, Regime Change gives the reader the opportunity to delve into a branching path of journalistic articles, taking snippets from them and returning to the original article with clarifications and additions. The express goal of the piece is to offer a way in which to interrogate political and journalistic rhetoric by filling in the blanks, assumptions and highlighted places lacking information.
Mechanically, Regime Change highlights phrases of ambiguity and weasel words such as “may be,” using those words as the launching point into the collection of lexia which the program pulls. In doing so, it highlights an often overlooked vagueness which permeates political reporting. The subject matter of the piece begins with an article regarding Saddam Hussein purported death in 2003, roughly at the outset of the Iraq War. Interestingly, the strength of Regime Change increases with time and retrospect, as we’re all well aware now that Saddam Hussein was not killed in 2003 but was executed in 2006. This hindsight reinforces the sense of ambiguity and false report on which the piece comments. The reader’s “job” (though without direction) is to use the secondary, tertiary and so-on articles to form a more comprehensively truthful representation of events.
Contrariwise, the reader may (and perhaps most likely) be completely unable to construct an article making any degree of sense. Once the reader chooses to replace a highlighted phrase with further text, the addition is solidified and can be changed no further. In order to construct an article which makes sense, the reader must examine each lexia carefully–forcing the reader to actively engage and interrogate the text should they discern meaning in the text beyond their own influence over it.
Obviously, there is a highly political element to Regime Change–more direct in its approach than its cohort–but it would seem to concern itself much more with how we communicate in general. Granted its interesting use of hypertext, putting the onus of modifying the original text on the reader, its message is wholly indeterminate and contingent upon how the reader plays its game. It may well be that all the information needed to “fix” the article in question is readily available, but I was personally unable to find it and was left quite concerned with just how many assumptions are actually being made in what is otherwise presented as determinate fact.