Barthes on the Network

"The code is a perspective of quotations. . .the units which have resulted from it are themselves, always, ventures out of the text, the mark, the sign of a virtual digression toward the remainder of a catalogue; they are so many fragments of something that has always been already read, seen, done, experienced; the code is the wake of that already (S/Z 20)."

Barthes asserts that any single text is not a self-enclosed composition, created in some aesthetic Never-Never land far from its social milieu. Rather, texts are constituted by a range of preexisting codes containing references to other texts, or allusions to certain myths, icons, and belief systems specific to the culture from which it originated. Here, Barthes makes clear that a text's primary role should not be to manufacture a fixed, centered interpretation by drawing emphasis on only one code, but to revitalize a wealth of familiar material that can be gleaned by readers like fruit from a boundless literary vineyard. By taking advantage of linking and ever-expansive digital space, Hypertext works can obviate their position in the cultural network, going so far as to precisely mark all appearances of referential material. The process of literary interpretation therefore extends beyond the text into the reaches of the culture (and the historical moment) that prompted its creation.

Cyberspace Web Main screen critical theory