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20
genre such as the eighteenth-century epis-
tolary novel, there is no clear-cut separa-
tion between fields of knowledge. In travel
narratives, whether it is a literary approach
that is favoured or a more historical one,
there is data for everyone to feed on. For
example, they might equally well be used
by tourists in order to prepare their jour-
ney or get an interesting idea of what the
town was like 250 years ago. As a matter of
fact, as they were reading the excerpt in its
paper format, those among the participants
who were more specialised in literature and
favoured stylistic and fiction analyses took
for granted that the data provided were
obviously distorted by Bramble's prejudiced
perception of things. Yet, by way of dig-
ital juxtaposition of testimonies, they real-
ised that there was some truth in Bramble's
sayings, albeit fiction, despite the fact that
some actual testimonies contradicted him,
notably that of the Englishman Joseph
Taylor.
22
DIGITAL METONYMY AND KNOWLEDGE
ACQUISITION
T
he fact that at first participants may
disapprove of blue hyperlinks and
thumbnails is also of major significance. It
stresses the difficulty encountered by users
when having to deal with three partially
discrepant stances: their own, that of the
designer and that of the author of the doc-
ument.
D
ue to our natural propensity to
immerse ourselves into what we read
or contemplate, blue hyperlinks are not
very welcome; they point to the design-
ers' annoying presence while reducing the
range of options available. Users feel as if
they are being intruded upon. Yet this feel-
ing of interference by a third party para-
doxically makes them more aware of the
document's own bias. In fact, thanks to the
overt intercession of the designer, we can
actually click on a hyperlinked word, once
indistinct among many others and now the
centre of all attention. All of a sudden the
sign turns into a signal, setting off a change
in perspective which unveils the mecha-
nisms of knowledge acquisition. Transposed
on a wider scale, the phenomenon reminds
us that texts are also pretexts and contexts.
Because we have to click to move on, we
cannot ignore the fact that a selection was
made. This can be referred to as the com-
plex of forking paths.
23
When paths fork,
one must take a decision in order to move
ahead. The notion of
complex relates back
to that of intricacy but not only this; it also
bears a psychological dimension hinting at
one`s own feeling of inadequacy or igno-
rance. Such choice makes us more sensi-
22 Cf. Joseph Taylor`s testimony, an excerpt taken from A Journey
to Edenborough in Scotland in 1705, in Liliane Gallet-Blanchard &
Marie-Madeleine Martinet, Georgian Cities (C.A.T.I. Paris: Presses de
l`Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2000). CD-ROM.
23 The metaphor of the forking paths is often evoked when discuss-
ing hyperlinks; originally it is borrowed from the title of a short story
by Jorge Luis Borges, "The Garden of Forking Paths", in the book
entitled Fictions (London: Penguin, 2000).