The Web and New Media Literacy
Hypertext is Dead and There is Nothing New About
New Media Anymore

Michelle Kendrick (bio)

The volume of academic writing about “hypertext” has dwindled recently.  The hype of early hypertext – the ecstatic visions of Joyce, Landow and others regarding the “freedom” that hypertext would grant -- has shifted to a low-key grumble regarding commercialism on the World Wide Web.  No longer are essays published, in hard copy or digital, which euphorically celebrate hypertext’s potential.  Revolutionary and utopian claims about hypertext are no longer in vogue in part because nothing particularly revolutionary or utopian happened.  The reality of 2003 is that hypertext is most often synonymous with the Web.  And as anyone with a passing knowledge of the medium will acknowledge, most Web sites are not created with free-form associative structures, most are not artistically or aesthetically inspiring, in fact, most Web sites are exceedingly linear and hierarchical.

It has become de rigueur in new media scholarship to point out the failure of the Web to instantiate earlier utopian prophecies. In my own work, I recently reviewed the discourse of hypertext over the last decade and I argued that the prevailing notions of writing and subjectivity were deeply troubled and that theorists usually substituted a simplistic and mechanistic sense of interactivity in place of a more complex view of “networks,” in the Latourian sense. [2]   While I stand by my critique, and believe that the hype needed to be debunked, I’ve come to think that we have moved too far in that direction. 

Certainly, some nuanced and critical scholarship has emerged to supplement the discourse of radical change.  Theorists-- Hayles,  Gurak, Lessig, Manovich, Tabbi, among them -- have contributed to a more historically grounded scholarship on New Media.  More such scholarship is needed.  For in our zeal to correct the excesses of early scholars on hypertext, many new media scholars and teachers now are in danger of eliding the “new” in new media.

In order to keep our theories relevant, new media theorists need rethink their relationship to literary theory and their relationship with literacy. And in order to do that new media theory must account for the Web as it actually exists, not as hypertext theorists desired it to be.  “New” new media theory needs to account for multiple semiotic registers, theorizing and analyzing new ones.  It is no longer sufficient, if indeed it ever were, to simply add a layer of “visual literacy” to our existing practices of textual analysis.  Towards these ends, in this essay, I argue  these claims:

-The Web is not about hypertext as we first conceived it.  Perhaps due to corporate control, perhaps due to lack of imagination, the Web is still exceedingly linear. Nonetheless, reading and writing are in fact completely different because of the Web, but again not in the way early scholars in literature and hypertext thought. The difference lies in the fact that hypertext is not just a text. It’s a combination of text and visuals, sound, color, movement, links action, line.  It requires rhetorics of the visual, textual, tactile and spatial. Also, importantly, every encounter with a Web site is a different encounter. As new technologies emerge to tailor pages for their audience and as “skins” become available and blogs take over the Web, this becomes even more apparent.

Web site creators are not just writers. They are designers, architects, and programmers.  And they are thieves -- of content, form and code. In addition reading is not reading anymore. It too requires very different skills, including the ability to “read” behind the screen.  Computer code contains many powerful and definitional features that are rarely seen by the user/reader directly. A true evaluation of Web sites requires a “reading” of the underlying computational structure.  

I will demonstrate my claims through an anecdote about teaching and grading a class Web site and through a detailed analysis of artifacts from white supremacist Web sites.  Using white supremacist sites as the most egregious example of the ways in which linked texts are manipulated and presented, I argue for the urgency of a more comprehensive vision of new media literacy – one that understands that literacies are inextricably linked to the older media (as argued powerfully in Bolter’s and Grusin’s Remediation) but also assembled into something that is “new,” something that requires a different and multilevel literacy strategy to expose, comprehend and critique.

My conclusion is that hypertext theory as we knew it was a dead-end; we must move to a new understanding of what we call new media.

Neither a Lender, nor a Borrower Be: Production as the New Writing

Recently, while teaching a Web-authoring course, I developed a grading sheet for evaluating student’s final Web sites.  While I argued in class that Web design was a “holistic” process, pointing out that few users stop to examine an element of a site in isolation and our experience of sites is an integrated phenomenon, I wanted a grading rubric which would highlight the production process and the stages—separate but interconnected-- necessary to the careful construction of a site.  My rubric included, therefore, these elements reflective of a common industry practice, the DADM process (definition, architecture, design and maintenance):

Architecture/Navigation:  The structure of the site – how information is connected, organized and crafted and how navigation works within the site to guide   users/readers and to aid them in finding content relevant to their purposes.

Design: This is the “look and feel” of the site -- how colors, layout, images, icons, work within the site to create an emotional, affective experience.  Does the design work with or against the written content and purpose of the site?

Content: Usually the text of the site but can include, or consist solely of, images or diagrams or animations.  Whatever information is needed to convey the purpose of the site and to enable users/readers to experience the site and emerge with knowledge relevant to their needs.

Code:  The HTML (hypertext markup language) and other relevant coding (JAVA, Flash) needed to structure and enable the site to function in an efficient manner and hold each of the other three elements (architecture, design, content).

I should add that there are many different ways to evaluate a site and many different processes and terms that would be just as apt as the ones I’ve chosen here.  What is important is highlighting the process and indicating the multiple semiotic registers.  Each section of the student’s site was evaluated separately but final comments and an “overall effectiveness” grade was given for the project.

As I graded the student’s final sites, several issues emerged which made me realize, not for the first time, how different this process was from the grading of composition 101 students’ essays during my years of teaching in graduate school.  One Web-authoring student, in particular, vexed me.  She had clearly plagiarized the written content on her site.  The level of writing was not reflective of her previous work and a quick “Google” search revealed the source of the materials.  I wrote my “gottcha” note under content on the grading sheet, but I faltered when I moved onto the other categories in the rubric.  In evaluating the rest of the site, I was forced to confront the fact that I openly teach Web development as a process of borrowing, imitating and copying.  Looking at sites with excellent organization and navigation and adopting elements relevant to your information is the best way to learn architecture.  Similarly, for beginning Web developers, elements of design (the ways colors combine, the placement of visual and textual objects on the screen, the typography) can best be gleaned from other well-designed sites.  Perhaps most importantly, the “reveal source” command on browsers is a necessity for those learning hand coding of HTML (hypertext markup language).

Even if some new media scholars want to insist that there are clear differences  (locally and historically) in the borrowing of layout, structural features and even of code and the borrowing of intellectual textual and/or design property, the differences are not clearly articulated in most scholarship about the Web. Jan Sweringen reminds us, “western notions of intellectual property, and the related ideas of copyright and plagiarism, are less than three hundred years old.” [3]   But most publications dealing with intellectual property and plagiarism (such as the one containing Sweringen’s excellent essay) default to modern “western notions” and do not account for the complex multi-layered, spatial, visual, and textual “property” on the Web.  

I do not pretend that I know exactly where the parsing of original and “borrowed” needs to occur. But what this example, and others like it, illustrates is that new media theorists need to take the terms “developer” more seriously.  We do not ”write” Web sites. The reality is that Web site production is more akin to the early days of the printing press, where a printer might be metal-smith, author, distributor, and designer, than it is like modern print writing and publishing. It does not make sense anymore to talk about author/reader as if this dichotomy is still (on the Web) a functional one.  The development of sites includes information architecture, design, navigation development and content provision. Providing the written content has become one of several skill sets needed in Web site production.  Much of the time these differing skills are performed by different people.  Other times an “author” will have to perform as architect, writer, designer, and programmer. It is a multi-faceted experience mixing semiotic registers that have very different histories and may well be shifting our notions of how to define a creative or intellectual act. 

Can you Read Code? : Under the Surface for a New Reading 

Despite the potential of the technology of linking – the fundamental technology of hypertext -- most Web sites are exceedingly linear. Good architecture (the spatial, organizational, and navigational structure) is taught as a process of creating logical hierarchies and Web developers are encouraged to whittle down complexity of thought to facilitate the accessing of “information.”  Usability texts urge developers to avoid lengthy writing and to instead create pages with only small tidbits of information, isolated from each other, and able to stand alone for the scanning eye of the “user,” now defined as an information processor. Jakob Neilson’s famous study begins with the headline, “How Users Read on the Web” and continues:

They don’t. People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences. In a recent study John Morkes and I found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word. (Emphasis his) [4]

The idea of rich textual sources linked in a Web turns out to be less important than the Web reality of a surface structure of images, design, and some text. When dense textual information is sought and found, usability experts tell us it is usually printed off to aid in reading.  Sites that are information heavy  (say, as opposed to interactive sites, or sites with a function, like polling or registering) must be developed with this in mind. “Printable” versions of texts online, strip text of the color, the images, the layout and deliver to the user a linear hard copy.  Thus, while “ideal” hypertext as promoted by electronic media and literature scholars no doubt exists, it’s clear that the vast majority of the sites on the Web are processed, if not created, with a utilitarian focus.

It would be easy to dismiss hypertext altogether if this were the end of the discussion. But if we reconsider our text-centric focus and consider other aspects of the Web, we can see fundamental shifts in the ways in which information is realized and assembled necessitating a very different praxis of reading.

Some scholars (Bolter, Michael Joyce, Landow, Eioloa) have argued that texts have always been hypertextual, pointing to recursive, layered and associative texts throughout history (Fielding, Joyce, Elliot, etc).  They have suggested hypertext is more of the same -- faster, pixilated, and onscreen -- but not reflecting something inherently new or revolutionary. [5] These kinds of texts, they point out, have existed since the development of writing.  One way, however, to consider the Web that will take the term “developer” and processor more seriously is to abandon the notion of text (at least on a material level and at least initially) and instead view hypertext as a revolutionary praxis.   A critical component of this view would be to view the Web first as the praxis of reading and not a product of writing.  Reading, however, needs to be redefined in a more holistic sense, as a term that can account for the multiple levels and differences in kind amongst the “information” presented in a Web site.

Now, I do not mean to suggest that the reader as subject, a.k.a. information processor, therefore becomes the center of the process. It has been argued by Myron Tuman and subsequent scholars that “reading” is the new focus in hypertextual learning. [6]   Their argument goes something like this: The reader creates the “text” in her own mind as she chooses among links, and establishes her trail through information space. The author function (as define by Foucault) is therefore dead.  I mean something different. As the Web includes a wide variety of media combined as never before, we need a theory of reading that is reflective of this new multi-skill and multi-layered process.

As new media scholars we must move from two-dimensional notions of narrative -- however linked and interconnected, whether generated by a controlling author or an associating reader -- to visual, pictorial and archaeological concepts of hypertext,  In order to fully comprehend the development and the praxis of Webbed texts, it is crucial to examine what is different about the Web and I would argue that what is fundamentally different about the Web is that meaning is made in layers of code, writing, and visuals – in a manner not necessarily controlled by either the author or the reader.  Meaning is generated from an environmental interaction – a specific moment of code, content and visualization -- this interaction is local and situated -- but nonetheless not arbitrary or relative.

Donna Haraway, of course, is the source of the term “situated knowledges.” [7]   She uses the term to define a feminist doctrine of objectivity.  Feminist objectivity for Haraway privileges deconstruction, involved construction, contestation and transformations of systems of knowing and ways of seeing.

Rather than meaning being limited to one particular interpretation or scattered through the discourse of relativism, it is “partial, locatable, critical…sustaining the possibility of Webs of connections.” (191)

I want to add to Haraway’s notion of situated knowledges a slightly different inflection. Meaning is made, in Web sites, through a particular configuration of medias, at a particular moment, in a localized viewing.  

Knowledge, on the Web, is situated.  Every reading is therefore a contingent one -- but not a relative one.  This sense of interaction, levels, and contingency is critical to develop further in our theorizing. In the remaining sections of this essay, I gesture towards some of the complexity of configurations of medias while I concentrate my examples on the “underside” of Web sites.  

I examine several white supremacists sites on the World Wide Web.  As sites that are aimed at convincing young people to join the “pro-white cause” and that employ multiple layers of “meaning,” and where civil liberties and people’s humanity are at stake, these sites are critical to look at closely.  The “readings” here are certainly not meant to be exhaustive but instead indicative of 1) the awareness and manipulation by these groups of the power of new media and of 2) the effectiveness of certain reading practices for evaluating online information.  I examine these sites holistically – that is, as first a moment of combinatory media practice and then looking deeper at the images, structure and code.

The Underside of the Web: Code, Credibility and Hate Sites

“We have lost the battle for the hearts and minds of America with large, emblematic icons and hokey outdated HTML, pegging us as Aryan rubes…Racialist Websites seldom have Macromedia Flash, stylesheets or javascript…” [8]

The lament above, from a white supremacist Web-designer, suggests his opinion that Web design can play a large part in winning the hearts and minds of the American public over to the pro-white cause.  In his view, unwieldy visuals and bad code – not anti-racists attitudes—are at the heart of the failed attempt, thus far, to win recruits in large numbers over the Web. 

Hate sites are abundant on the Web – though it’s hard to estimate with any accuracy, figures are usually put above 5,000. Mark Potok from the Southern Poverty Law Center calls Internet hate sites "the main culprit" in the rise of hate-groups and hate-crimes in America. [9]   One element which gives evidence of their effectiveness: the increase of available MP3s for download on the Web has led to a burgeoning  “white power” rock and roll movement aimed at recruiting young people to the white supremacist movement.  "In the last decade, white power music has grown from a cottage industry to a multimillion-dollar, worldwide enterprise," Devin Burghart, a member of the Center for new Community, told [10] Three 24-hour radio sites play hate rock over the Web. The power of the Web has led to unprecedented ability on the part of hate groups to advertise, recruit and promote their message – whether it be straight “hate” of minorities, homosexuals or Jews – or more specialized” hate targeting immigrants, politicians, or historical figures and used to recruit lone-wolves for violent action against a variety of peoples.

Like the white supremacist above, many people would like to dismiss such sites as ugly, awkwardly designed, and rhetorically unsophisticated.  And certainly there are sites devoted to white power and white supremacy where those terms would be over-generous.  But in the hate movement, there is growing sophistication in both rhetorical approach and technical capabilities. Well organized hate groups, like Stormfront, World Church of the Creator, and the The National Alliance, are consciously upgrading their Web presence and their “look and feel” in order to recruit future strategists and leaders – to use their words, “winners” and not “Aryan rubes.”

William Pierce, founder of the National Alliance, and author of the Turner Diaries, the novel that inspired Timothy McVeigh, speaks directly to the focus of upgrading communications capabilities and the key role that “multimedia” plays in the National Alliance master plan. Available at the National Alliance Website are multiple versions (depending on a users connectivity) of a nearly one-hour long recruitment video, America is a Changing Country: A Documentary on the National Alliance and its Program, in which Turner, a physics Ph.D. who once taught at Oregon State University, speaks directly to the white supremacist desire to use the Web and its multiple semiotic registers as a tool in their recruitment. (– cue up at about 16:30 to hear Pierce in his own words).  Turner laments the lack of awareness of “Americans” and recounts the history of National Alliance marketing attempts, across a variety of media:

Many white Americans really aren’t aware of what is happening.  … They don’t see the trends. … They don’t ask questions.  We must be able to communicate with all of these people. That is one of our goals, we are striving to speak with a louder and louder voice, a more and more authoritative voice. We are building a multimedia communications capability. We began with leaflets and tabloids back in the 1970s.  We sold our tabloids in news-racks in Washington and distributed our leaflets on the street corner.   

Pierce goes on to describe the use of books, magazines and radio broadcasts as recruitment tools. [11] The Web, he reminds us, is now the crucial component of the white supremacist’s “communication infrastructure”:

Then we began using the internet and made a large amount of information available on the World Wide Web, including the text and the audio recordings of our weekly radio broadcasts,,, if our video messages still have rough edges, it’s because we are still learning but it won’t be long before we are able to use the media as professionally as anyone. 

The National Alliance site demonstrates Pierce’s claim to use multimedia “professionally.”  Exceptionally well designed, this site features streaming video, audio (weekly radio broadcasts), print media (subscriptions for their monthly magazine, with full color pages available for preview), as well as the more familiar Web resources.  

White supremacist’s awareness of the Web as their greatest tool is evident everywhere online. Other white supremacist sites include sections entitled “e-activism” and “recruiting online.”  Hate sites (which eschew the world hate, by and large) have Web-rings and dedicated searches. They employ streaming audio and streaming video, use flash animations and have elaborate “games” for children to play online.  Violent video games are available for purchase including Ethnic Cleansing which bills itself as the “most politically incorrect game every made.”


The Race War has begun. Your skin is your uniform in this battle for the survival of your kind. The White Race depends on you to secure its existence. Your peoples enemies surround you in a sea of decay and filth that they have brought to your once clean and White nation.

Not one of their numbers shall be spared........

For more information, please visit this products Webpage.


This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 08 May, 2003.

Racist Web sites have downloadable software programs, including Hoozajew2.0 which describes itself as a “program for determining the proportion of a list of names that is Jewish.”  Even a quick search of the Web makes it clear that their “multimedia communications capability” is growing dramatically with new media technologies. 

Warning: Flash and Hate ahead

Another example that shows how far the hate movement has come from “hokey html” is from the site See:

Entitled “A Woman’s Page,” this Web site presents “pro-white” issues from one woman’s perspective.  Near the top of the screen a skull and crossbone image appears in prime screen real estate, where most Web sites would have their navigation.  Clicking on this image launches a video file, with the file name of “warning.html.”  

Strom’s  “warning” uses slick flash technology to “warn” white women of the dangers of “race-mixing. ” This video has a cinematic and dramatic appeal.  On a starkly white screen black letters twirl from out nowhere to read “Are you willing to die for” fading to a screen that reads, “this?”  Several colorful MTV logos swirl up on the screen.  The question is posed again against the white screen as “How about this” and is followed by a screen full of Nike’s swooshes. At this point, the “warning” could be the production for any number of causes across the political spectrum.  But the next time the question is posed “Would you die for” the screen fills with a series of pictures of young black men.  Red letters fill the screen – “You Might” and then a professional looking message is typed across the screen. Ironically this “warning” composed in Flash, uses the familiar filmic convention of typing the words across the screen in courier type to signify the authority of the computer and hence the bogus statistics it “types” out next: “Heterosexual black males are 14 times as whites to be HIV carriers.”  Then the screen fills with angry red letters, combining from all directions across the surface, to give the final message: “Race Mixing can kill you.” 

Bolter and Grusin in their work Remediation suggest, like McCluhen and others before them, that each new media incorporates structures, messages, and techniques from prior medias.  Such remediation is used both to confer transparency on new medias – as newer medias borrow against the “naturalness” of prior media to establish themselves as credible delivery sources – and to demonstrate the “hypermediacy” – the technological improvements of new media. [12]  

This flash animation, then, remediates on a number of levels to both suggest itself as a credible source and to gesture at the technological sophistication of the hate site. First and foremost, it uses the latest of animation technologies that visually suggest a movement in three-dimensional space, remediating televisual advertisements. The rhetoric employed is the dramatic voice of anti-drug or health awareness notices. It furthers its appeal through the use of familiar media icons – ones especially familiar and of interest to young people -- the MTV logo, and the Nike name and swoosh.  Unattributed statistics in the computer-ticker type across the screen borrow earlier filmic conventions of computer authority.

This site and the many others like it demonstrate the necessity to consider Web media literacy as a “pictorial gestalt” that, like hieroglyphics and other visual writing systems, confers meaning on multiple levels simultaneously. In this example images, icons from consumer culture, color, movement, placement, and the remediation of older media are all elements that must be interrogated.  But, I argue, it is not enough to stop there. The real empowering moment in “reading” this site with a critical literacy comes from looking, literally, beneath the screen, to the code and to the technologies that craft the code.  For under the language and images of this page is a key, embedded in the code, that compromises its sleek appearance. 

A reveal source command on a browser will open the HTML code of most sites for viewing.  To do so on this site reveals one line under the header that reads:

<!-- Created by SWiSH - Flash made easy - only $49.95 - -->

In this case, the HTML (hypertext markup language) source code from the “warning” above includes a software inserted message (a comment) establishing the fact that it was created in Swish a software program for “Flash made easy,” available for purchase online and costing only $49.95.  Such a piece of knowledge, buried one layer beneath the video itself, instantly recasts the images into a different context and suggest a very different materiality of creation. 

In most Web code there is a set of “meta” tags which illustrate the designer/authors decisions on how to “list” the site for inclusion in search engines and how to describe the site to potential viewers once the search engine displays the Web address. Keywords for the video warning are especially revealing here:

<meta name="keywords" content="14, about, as, black, bmp, can, carriers, die, for, heterosexual, hiv, how, jpg, kill, likely, males, might, mtv1, mtv2, mtv3, nig1, nig2, nig3, nig4, nike1, nike2, nike3, nike4, racemixing, scene, this, times, warning, whites, willing">


This particular metatag includes such key words as “HIV, MTV and Nike.” While it is not likely that this site would return high on a search that used these key words, “reading” this bit of code is a powerful way to discern the purpose behind the site and to project its intended audiences.  Further evidence of the author’s intentions can be read in the file names themselves. The photographs of the young black men bear the file names “nig1,” “nig2” and so on.

My final example is the site This URL (Universal Resource Locator), or Web address, is particularly insidious and suggests another element of code that needs to be thoroughly understood. Domain names and addresses are trickier than a straightforward “real estate” metaphor would suggest. No enforceable rules underlie the labeling of many domain names.  Historical we are to understand that .com are sites that are related to commerce; .org are sites of non-profit organizations; .gov are government sites; edu are educational sites.  But the reality is, of course, that many domain names are available for purchase and resale.  This “real estate” metaphor of organizing by domain name, if not understood, can undercut ones ability to make decisions about the content of sites with seemingly self-evident domains. is a white supremacist site, developed by Vincent Breeding of Stormfront (who records his title as “Republican Public Relations and Marketing Consultant).  Familiar design conventions lure young people (students primarily) into believing the site a credible source for information on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Credibility is confirmed first by the domain name. “Org” is the extension that denotes a non-profit organization and comes with primarily charitable, social service and justice-seeking connotations.  The ability of a white supremacist group to “buy” the domain name of demonstrates forcefully the need to educate users on the true nature of domain names – they are suggestive only, not proscriptive.  They are open to purchase by the highest, and importantly the quickest, bidder. 

Design conventions – even in this early stage of a new information technology – are invisible “rules” by which we make decisions about information on the World Wide Web.  I use the word invisible to evoke the history of usability and interface design, which suggests always that the “mode” of technology that delivers information should be transparent.  A good book, for instance, transports you “into the story” and away from conscious attention to the materials of the book.  Bad interface, as suggested by Jakob Neilson, Steve Krug and others, is an interface that makes you “think” too hard about the apparatuses that deliver the information to you. [13]   As Nancy Kaplan explains, “Both Nielsen and Norman promote an ideal of the interface that is as seamless, as invisible, as possible.  Both believe that information technologies are simply tools… “a tool is an object and a set of practices that we use without any explicit or even any implicit understanding of its inner workings.” [14]

On the first viewing of a professional design job gives the appearance of credibility and acts as a kind of invisibility for the true message of the site.  Adopting King’s powerful civil rights rhetoric this site calls for students to “Bring the Dream to Your Town.”  Pre-designed flyers can be printed out, remediating the printing press for anyone with connectivity. The site makes rhetorical arguments by its presentation of alignment, contrast, and “fair” use of historical images of King, Nothing on the “first level” navigation suggests the real focus or bias of the site.  Main navigation bars use the rhetorics of civil rights:

Historical Writings

Truth About King

-who he fought and fought for

Death of the Dream

 - the day king was shot

The King Holiday

Bring the Dream to Life

Civil Rights Library

-  jews and civil rights

-  who led the civil rights movement

-  suggested books

Futhermore, A look at the source code shows these metatags:

<title>Martin Luther King Jr. - A True Historical Examination</title>

<META NAME="KEYWORDS" CONTENT="Martin Luther King, MLK, Martin Luther King Jr, Civil Rights, Black History, Slavery, Reparations, Kwanzaa, Anti-Defamation League, ADL, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry, hatred, prejudice, bias, Holocaust, Israel, democracy, terrorism, militia, Jews, Jewish, diversity, anti-Semitic incident, racist, discrimination, Holocaust denial, neo-Nazi, Nazi, Nazis, tolerance, civil rights, Black, extremism, extremist, hate crimes, skinheads, Middle East, Islamic Extremist, education, White supremacy, minority, bias, religious freedom, tolerance, religious right, Martin Luther King Jr., free speech, MLK, school prayer, religion, justice, MLK, Internet, MLK">

Examining these meta-tags can give a better indication of the true nature of the site and suggest some of the developer’s intended audiences.  Students researching “black history or slavery,” other racists searching for information about “holocaust denial,” neo-nazis, people looking for information on anti-semiticism.   The wide net thrown by the developers of this site and its deceptive practices become obvious with a glance at the HTML.

The meta-name code designates a description of the site that will be posted by search engines with the URL.  This site’s meta tags read:           

 <META NAME="DESCRIPTION"  CONTENT="Martin Luther King: A True Historical Examination. This site includes historical trivia, articles and pictures. A valuable resource for teachers and students alike.">


Understanding that three or four lines of simple HTML code enables such a deception to take place can demonstrate powerfully the importance of taking new media literacy “below” the message, the image, and the movement to aid users in realizing both the problems and the possibilities of new media technologies. 

I’ve used these examples to suggest some of the power of a revised reading paxis on the Web.  What these hate sites illustrate is one reality of the Web today.  It is not the utopia that early hypertext theorists desired but it is something powerful and new.  We must not be lulled into believing we have all the literacy tools we need (it has text and structure  -- it’s a book; it has moving pictures -- it’s a television; it has design - it’s a pamphlet or flyer.)  Or tempted to dismiss it as pragmatic, linear and commercial and go back to writing about the tiny percentage of Web texts that do instantiate the hypertext dream.  We must embrace the challenge that the real Web represents, which is a significant one; we must develop new literacy practices and new theories of “new media.”

[1] My thanks to Laura Gurak , friend and collaborator, for this summary of my argument.

[2] Kendrick, Michelle.  “Remediation and the Subject of Writing.” Configurations: A Journal of Science and Technology. Johns Hopkins UP.

[3] C. Jan Swearingen, “Originality, Authenticy, Imitation, and Plagerism: Augustine’s Chinese Cousins.” Perspectives on Plagiarism: And Intellectual Property in a Postmodern World.  Eds. Lise Buranen and Alice M. Roy. SUNY Press1999.  19 – 30.

[4] Jakob Neilson.  “How Users Read on the Web.”  Available at  Accessed 5/26/03. 

[5] I have argued that the French feminists’ notion of ecriture feminine includes many of the qualities claimed for hypertext, but has never been acknowledged in new media theory.  See Kendrick, “The Laugh of the Modem: Feminine Ecriture and Hypertext” in Rhizomes:

[6] Tuman, Myron.  Wordperfect: Literacy in the Computer Age. University of Pittsburgh.  1992.

[7] Haraway, Donna.  “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.”  Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature.  Routledge. New York. 1991.

[8] Fear of a Third World Planet.

[9]  Davidson, Ross.  “Web of Hate.” Media Awareness Network.  Accessed March 12, 2003.

[10] “White Power Bands.”  Accessed 6/22/03.

[11] He specifically points out his Internet radio station and “white rock-and-roll” as a potential lure for “young people” to the cause. Resistance Records, Pierce’s record label is the largest distributor of white power music in the United States and they expect to sell over 70,000 CDs this year, with over $1 million in revenues (European sales figures are over $3 million).

[12] Bolter, J. David, Grusin, Richard.  Remediation: Understanding New Media. Mit Press.  2000.

[13] See Don’t Make Me Think. Steve Krug  Que. 2000. And Designing Web Usability. Jakob Neilson. New Riders Publishing.  1999.

[14] Kaplan, Nancy. “Knowing Practice: A More Complex View of New Media Literacy.” Paper presented at SSGRR Conference 2001. Accessed on the Web at .  On March 10, 2003.

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