Hayles interrogates the relationship between the digital modalities and the texts they perform to explore the ways in which these modalities are unique from their traditional printed counterparts. She suggests that while technology may have some agency in the production and reception of new texts (as more of an intermediary than as a simple medium), that this distinction isn’t very important since computation permeates every level of writing, publishing, distributing, and reading.

Dynamic Heterarchies and Fluid Analogies
Hayles discusses the notion of “dynamic heterarchies;” that is, systems comprised of actors that engage each other in the constant operation of feedback loops and mutually determined evolution (think mother and fetus). She proposes that humans and machines may have a similar relationship.

Hofstadter supplements this discussion by explaining the way that computational devices, like humans, are cognitive insofar as they have the ability to recognize recurring patterns in provided data streams and connect them with analogies. In this way, we should be careful of where we draw the line when it comes to “intelligence.”


In Afternoon: A Story, Michael Joyce uses this heterarchical relationship to create a new system of receiving the narrative in which the story not only relies on the reader’s inputs to progress, but even to be written. That is, the story may operate and conclude differently depending on the choices made by the reader during the experience. In this way, the computational device becomes more than a lifeless medium; it becomes an intermediary of and participant in the storytelling process.


In Twelve Blue, Joyce moves away from the urgency of driving the plot forward to present a different narrative experience that encourages the reader to play and experiment without the burden of having to solve a central mystery. Despite the differences here, however, the computational device still plays an active role as intermediary, venturing alongside the reader in discovery.

In both of these works, the computational device uses a certain sentience not unlike cognition to engage the reader in feedback systems that shape the story to come.