June 28, 2003
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We need a new word.

When we talk about hypertexts, we have two different things we call "closure". First, hypertexts often lack a single, defined terminus; they have no single ending. In afternoon, famously, Michael Joyce defends this, writing that we never wanted the single, solitary ending that the physics of song and book imposed on our stories. This is the closure we mean when we say, "She had to see him one more time. She wanted closure."

"Closure is a suspect quality."

Then, there's Scott McCloud's closure, the accumulation of meaning between moments. We see two pictures in a sequence, and we understand the action that moves from one to the next without seeing that action.

McCloud closure is the basis of sequential art and the root of cinema: film tells a story not by following the hero around but by showing a series of shots, edited together so the sequence creates sense and meaning in the viewer's mind.

McCloud closure is very important to sculptural hypertexts. Indeed, it's the writer's key to letting go, to living without the familiar guarantee of enforced sequence. We're in a bar, a franchise tourist joint. The MANAGER is sitting at a table in back with KELLEY, a specialist who has just flown in from corporate headquarters. We could say:

Kelley: I'm hear to help you, and I have to say that this place is not doing as well as we, at headquarters, expect.

Manager: You don't understand the factors. There's a war on. Times are terrible. People need jobs, they need a place to make them feel a part of things. Things will improve, they always do, and money isn't everything. Except to Headquarters.

But this is all exposition, and exposition wants sequence. Instead, we might let the attitude arise from the interstices:

Kelley: It's almost six.

Manager: It's early. Things will get better. People will come.

At first, this seems a non sequitur, but we fill in the gap. Kelley doesn't state the real subject, which emerges between the lines. This is useful because Kelley's line might serve another purpose in another context -- it can mean several things, where the first dialog is only itself:

Kelley: It's almost six.

Manager: Sure, why not? (to the bartender) Joe, bring us the Lagavulin.

We need new name for McCloud's closure. Suggestions? Email me.