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Marino, Arthur J., Jr. Hypertext allays 'Chairman's Letter' panic.
     (use of hypertext in  composing chairman's message for annual
     report). In Public Relations Quarterly Spring 1994, v39, n1,

You say your communications department has been downsized -- or make  
that "right-sized"? Worse, you've been assigned, besides your normal  
duties of dismantling trade show exhibits, to write the chairman's    
letter for your company's annual report? Hey -- don't sweat it. You   
don't have to be another Ernest Hemingway. This is the easiest        
writing job you'll ever be handed.                                    
Every possible statement that's appropriate for a chairman's letter   
has been written many times. All you have to do is access the right   
statements, personalize them with the name of your company and a few  
financial figures, and string them together. Hypertext -- a           
computerized "book" that allows you to travel electronically through  
fiction or fact by numerous routes, and to skim various parts or      
dwell in depth -- soon will allow all of these possible statements to 
be contained on one CD-ROM disk.                                      
As a prelude to that happy day, what follows is a low-tech version of 
hypertext. It's a pick-a-paragraph approach, using passages from a    
number of 1992 reports -- and the same approach will work for a       
speech, letter to employees or other "personal communication" from    
the chairman. It is flat-out guaranteed to make you come up smelling  
like a rose, and, by the way, get used to writing in cliches. For     
annual reports, they're your crutch to see you through with flying    
So, let's get a move on. First, in the letter, tell the shareholders  
what kind of year your company had. If it was a good year, state your 
chief executive officer's delight, as in this example from an actual  
It is a pleasure to report that M-1 Corporation achieved record sales 
and significantly increased earnings in 1992, with broad-based        
product line participation.                                           
Whoops. You say it was a bad year. Well, then, make some inane or     
obscure excuses:                                                      
We stayed right on course in developing our long term growth          
prospects during fiscal 1992 despite the effect of the recessionary   
economy on our first half performance. Or:                            
While A-1 made significant progress on many fronts in 1992, none of   
the year's accomplishments is immediately obvious in our financial    
results, due to the overriding influence of unusual items.            
If your company lost money and the timing is right, or if the board   
of directors is hostile, possibly the chairman can pack it in:        
We did not achieve the results you and I had hoped for, but we        
cleared the decks for the next CEO.                                   
If the CEO doesn't want to retire, it can't hurt to massage the       
My thanks go to the Board of Directors, whose members have never      
failed to ask the hard questions, to criticize and suggest, and to be 
a source of support and knowledge.                                    
Now it's time to talk strategy. What would be good strategic          
elements? How about being a low-cost producer, satisfying customers   
and adapting to changing conditions? Wow] And here it is:             
Our strategy for success in this competitive environment is to        
maintain our position as a low-cost producer, to provide total        
customer satisfaction and to remain flexible. We have developed a new 
vision that builds on our tradition of reliable, competitively priced 
That contrasts, one supposes, with the old vision that built on       
unreliability and price gouging. Note, too, that "strategy" in the    
first sentence evolves into the highfalutin "vision" in the second.   
As any psychic knows, "vision" sounds much more impressive than a     
mundane "strategy," even if what follows is mundane:                  
The key elements of our vision are people, service, quality and       
This is the point in the letter to give a big hand to our employees,  
or associates.                                                        
We could not have recorded such a performance last year without the   
unflappable loyalty and dedication of our associates around the       
And what do these associates or employees do? Why, they help us meet  
This year's Annual Report is dedicated to our employees. They made    
K-1 the strong company it is today. With their leadership and         
initiative, we have and will continue to successfully meet our        
The progress we have made in challenging times is a testament to the  
dedication and professionalism of D-1 employees worldwide.            
This leads us into Total Quality Management, or TQM, and surely your  
company has such a process. Expounding on its benefits in your letter 
is especially useful when business conditions are terrible:           
Market conditions are not expected to improve in the near future, but 
a number of Total Quality initiatives begun over the past year will   
enable this business to grow, even in such a tough environment.       
For a double whammy, combine your praise of employees and TQM.        
Throughout the company, I sensed a level of teamwork and community of 
interest unmatched by anything I have seen before at Q-1...It is the  
result of so many hundreds of Q-1ers becoming active participants in  
the scores of Total Quality Management teams that have been organized 
throughout the company to seek measurably better ways to do their     
We may define the future, but only World Class Quality will take us   
there. Saying that another way, only a dedicated workforce can take   
us there -- which is exactly what we have at C-1. Less than a decade  
after we introduced a Total Quality management system, C-1 people now 
speak the vocabulary of World Class Quality.                          
Of course, if things are real bad, the company might have had to let  
some of its associates go, or to disassociate them:                   
Cost control and efficiency are two keys that we believe will help us 
weather the current business climate. Accordingly, in 1992, we        
offered a voluntary early retirement program to 438 eligible          
employees in an effort to reduce staffing levels.                     
You also can try a little tightrope walking and make it sound like    
the employees are letting themselves go:                              
We are grateful to all who continue to work long and hard in our      
mines and coal company offices where many are still, in effect,       
managing the efficient elimination of their jobs. That's tough duty.  
Next, talk about your remaining employees' safety record, of course,  
and -- a new wrinkle -- the diversity of your work force:             
A-2's professional, technical and production ranks have a rich talent 
mix exemplifying diversity in gender, race, ethnic and national       
origins, and educational backgrounds.                                 
Despite the diversity of your people in general, are all your top     
executives middle-aged white males? No problem:                       
If you look at the photo of our Business Unit leaders on pages 18 and 
19, you can see that we have not yet achieved important elements of   
diversity in our top management ranks. Our commitment is to do so.    
At this point in the letter, if you can manage it, try an             
off-the-wall statement or bizarre metaphor to juice up interest:      
We have never been a company that thumped its own chest and made      
aggressive forecasts.                                                 
We aim for D-1 to be an exceptional "business athlete" --             
well-conditioned, flexible and capable of performing superbly under   
You can bet, too, that the "business athlete" in the latter passage   
wouldn't shy away from some mighty corporate chest thumping.          
If your company frowns upon creativity in its shareholder's letter -- 
as it seems most do -- how about working in a truism? You can sound   
profound and not say a doggone thing:                                 
As global economies recover and industry fundamentals improve, prices 
will increase.                                                        
Now, tell the shareholders how your company is protecting the         
environment, and make it sound as if you're doing it without          
government nudging:                                                   
We also continue to uphold our commitment to protection of the        
environment and the well-being of our employees and the public...     
Continuous improvement remains the only acceptable standard in these  
Did your company fall short of its environmental goals? Again, no     
We have not yet reached the level of environmental performance that   
society expects of us and we expect of ourselves. But there is no     
mistaking our progress, our seriousness and our commitment to         
The future. Isn't that what shareholders want to know about most?     
Only trouble is, we don't know what the future will bring. What are   
we, fortune tellers? So, let's try a sweeping generality or two and   
leave it at that:                                                     
Despite the uncertainty that characterizes the defense industry, we   
are excited about the future for A-3. The industry consolidation that 
lies ahead will bring challenges, but we believe it also will bring   
tremendous opportunities and rewards for defense industry companies   
that are well positioned in their core businesses and remain focused  
on those businesses. Our mission clarifies our focus. Our strategy    
will enable us to take advantage of the opportunities and share the   
rewards with our shareholders, customers, employees, and communities. 
It is important to understand that our strategic plans have always    
had at their core the commitment not only to rebuild A-4, but also to 
build value for our shareholders. We continue to believe strongly     
that as the economy recovers and the investments we've made into      
A-4's infrastructure are realized, shareholder value will be          
restored. Our marketing and sales plans are focused on taking         
advantage of A-4's very unique market niche. As these plans are       
implemented, we believe sales growth will be renewed. Be assured that 
we are committed to make it happen.                                   
If you have a pessimistic outlook for 1995, make it sound optimistic  
by linking it to the indefinite future:                               
I continue to be extremely bullish when I look to our company's       
future and am cautiously optimistic for 1995.                         
What's that? You still have a quarter-page to fill before the         
concluding paragraph? It's time to show your business savvy and haul  
out the corporate cliches and buzzwords:                              
We will continue to foster a corporate culture that promotes          
continuous improvement and cost-effective client solutions. We have   
work to do to improve financial performance and enhance shareholder   
value. The process of laying the groundwork to achieve these goals    
has begun.                                                            
Since it's just filler, don't worry too much if the statement is      
virtually unintelligible:                                             
We believe that successfully combining our business units' brands and 
market share leadership with channel-focused, key customer            
partnership programs will result in M-2 establishing sustainable      
competitive advantage.                                                
Finally comes the conclusion -- a grand summarizing statement:        
Its dedicated employees, financial strength, product diversity,       
commitment to research and quality-improvement efforts provide        
stability for our company and growth opportunities for the future.    
These characteristics generate consumer confidence and enable our     
company to continue to grow, even in difficult times. In addition,    
our company's attributes and the capable efforts of our dedicated     
employees provide assurance that the confidence of our customers and  
shareholders will continue to be rewarded as we move close to the     
third century in which our company has operated.                      
As the saying goes, "It don't get much better than that."             
Congratulations. You've completed the chairman's letter. Briefly,     
now, let's examine what the future holds for annual report letters    
themselves. With growth in the use of hypertext, as well as the       
spread of electronic annual reports, there someday may be one grand,  
definitive chairman's letter that applies to all corporations. Having 
entered the name of a particular company, the shareholder will be     
given a specific paragraph path to follow to compose the letter for   
that company.                                                         
In effect, letter writers, you may be on your way to the same         
oblivion as the coal mine workers cited in Q-l's annual report. On    
the other hand, there are more cliches being written each year than   
can be held even on a CD-ROM disk.                                    
Here's just one example from the 1992 batch:                          
This kind of cultural mix is part of the energy of this company, of   
the spirit of impatience with the status quo, one that gives us the   
opportunity to leverage the power of newly gathered minds.            
Arthur J. Marino Jr. is manager of corporate public relations of PPG  
Industries Inc., a post he has held since 1977. He is responsible for 
financial communications, crisis communications and media relations.  
In addition, he has been involved in annual report preparation for    
the past 24 years. He joined PPG in 1959 as a technical writer for    
the firm's glass research laboratories, near Pittsburgh. In 1969, he  
moved to PPG's Pittsburgh headquarters as a public relations writer.  
He became manager of news and photo services for PPG in 1975 and      
manager of public relations two years later. A native of Pittsburgh,  
he is a chemical engineering graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.  
He also has completed the executive program of the University of      
Michigan's Graduate School of Business Administration.                
COPYRIGHT Public Relations Quarterly 1994                             
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 17:39:39 -0700
Subject: Bibliographic records

Bukatman, Scott. Virtual textuality. (hypertext). In Artforum Jan
     1994, v32, n5, p13(2). 

Although the term "hypertext" has yet to acquire the mass-cultural    
(and instantly cliched) cachet of "virtual reality," a growing corps  
is treating it with a similar utopianism. Yet the two modes have      
interesting points of divergence: where VR eliminates language,       
hypertext is based entirely on the sign; where VR emphasizes a        
dizzying phenomenology of direct experience (or the elaborate         
illusion thereof), hypertext emphasizes symbolic representation;      
where VR is sexy and mainstream (Wild Palms, Lawnmower Man),          
hypertext remains the province of Brown University's English          
department (just kidding). A "virtual reality," as anyone not living  
in one knows by now, is a real-time computer-generated environment    
that single or multiple users can inhabit with the aid of such        
devices as Datagloves, electronic bodysuits, 3D Eyephones, and the    
simulation of 360 !degrees^ sound. These instruments immerse the user 
in an environment of data, which might one day represent anything     
from a cockpit or a surgical operating room to spreadsheet figures or 
a Westworld-style vacation paradise. "Hypertext" designates texts     
composed and displayed on computer terminals. The structures of these 
texts are nonlinear (or multilinear): on-screen, the text is          
separated from its physical existence on the computer's hard disk,    
and becomes a malleable, "virtual" text. Through a click of the mouse 
or a touch of a key, one unit of text may be "linked" to another, or  
to a different text altogether: a glossary or annotation, or another  
work by, or influenced by, that author, or even written in the same   
period. Further, these texts can incorporate illustration, video, and 
sound, as well as music or movie samples.                             
In 1945, in the Atlantic Monthly, Vannevar Bush posed the developing  
problem of the information explosion, and the need for a means of     
threading through it all. Since the human mind "snaps instantly" by   
association from one idea to the next, Bush proposed a device called  
a "memex" (for "memory extender")--a kind of giant desk packed with   
oodles of microform texts that would allow a reader to annotate and   
quickly rearrange the retrieved information. Bush, George Landow      
writes, was proposing "what are essentially poetic machines--machines 
that work according to analogy and association, machines that capture 
the anarchic brilliance of human imagination. Bush . . . assumed that 
science and poetry work in essentially the same way."!1^              
Virtual reality and hypertext might be seen as similarly both         
scientific and poetic, and both are similarly concerned with          
negotiating what would otherwise be an overwhelming proliferation of  
data. Each depends upon spatial metaphors. Much of VR's appeal in the 
popular imagination derives from the primacy it grants bodily         
experience--it heightens one's sensorial experience of data--and from 
its promise of fully realized, hyperreal alternate realities (a       
promise that continues to lurk behind most nonspecialist discussions  
of VR). The mapping of a familiar physicality onto unfamiliar systems 
of information transforms the digital into the tactile, reversing a   
process described by Jean Baudrillard over a decade ago. Hypertextual 
systems constitute a different kind of electronic experience,         
remaining largely rooted in the culture of the words. Still, a        
rhetoric of spatiality continues to define the structures of          
hypertext ("readers move through a web or network of texts"), not to  
mention the general proliferation of texts fostered by the computer   
("a vast sea of database"!2^). Jay Bolter maintains that every        
writing technology produces its own "writing space," which is also a  
reading space.!3^ The literature on hypertext repeatedly defines its  
flexible, unit-oriented writing space as a network that challenges    
the linearity of the book, questioning such elements as fixed         
sequence, definite beginning and end, and the ensuing perception of   
unity and wholeness. I'd argue that the reader continues to start,    
stop, and otherwise organize hypertext to produce a sense of unity or 
wholeness, but certainly textual authority has been displaced, if not 
obliterated.!4^ For novelist Robert Coover, an ardent hypertext       
enthusiast, this is a medium in which "narrative bytes no longer      
follow one another in an ineluctable page-turning chain. Hypertextual 
story space is not multidimensional and theoretically infinite."!5^   
The phrase "theoretically infinite" raises another question: the lack 
of closure may be a theoretical strength but a practical weakness.    
Landow concedes that "complete hypertextuality requires gigantic      
information networks" linked more tightly than existing networks.!6^  
A "complete" hypertext, like the perfect simulation promised by       
virtual reality, remains a kind of electronic grail. Descriptions of  
VR deemphasize language to evoke a kinetic, phenomenologically        
heightened field of bodily movement and metamorphosis. This           
depreciation of the linguistic is easily aligned with an              
all-too-prevalent discourse (I call it cyberdrool) that imagines      
cyberspace as a site of Dionysian antirationalist liberation. (For a  
brief but memorable period, cyberdrool was most easily locatable in   
the magazine Mondo 2000.) In this version of the future, VR actually  
poses itself against language, and ultimately, in its solipsistic     
focus on a solitary disembodied subject adrift in the cyberdelic      
fields, against culture and history as well. As VR-developer Jaron    
Lanier writes, "In virtual reality, there's no question that your     
reality is created by you"--a remark that is typical of the rhetoric  
of subjective empowerment surrounding VR. This rhetoric inevitably    
yields to an almost parodic evocation of sublime transcendence:       
"Virtual reality is the first medium to come along that doesn't       
narrow the human spirit."!7^ At the same time, however, many writers  
have stressed the potentially revelatory power of a medium that       
permits absolute control over the objective conditions of subject     
formation. Allucquere Stone and others have convincingly argued that  
VR encourages a new interrogation of Being, as once unalterable       
conditions, such as the relation between subject and bodily identity, 
are suddenly rendered malleable (at least in theory).!8^ If VR may    
become an ontological testing ground, hypertext permits an            
exploration of some of the tenets of poststructuralism, creating "an  
almost embarrassingly literal embodiment" of such issues as           
authorship, multiply centered texts, and the active power of the      
reader.!9^ The rhetoric may be more modest than that of Vr, but by    
emphasizing an active, creative, and free reader who not only follows 
but forges links between units of writing, hypertext, like VR,        
presents itself as a liberating "space" of empowerment. It also gives 
us a breakdown of barriers: between texts, between kinds of texts,    
between reading and writing, and between reader and writer. Yet even  
as it celebrates decentered discourses, multiple authorship, and      
multiple linearities, it still retains and extends the controlling    
power of the individual reading subject. Paradoxes abound. While both 
VR and hypertext designers privilege the individual subject, both     
also make the formation of community an anxiom, and both posit new    
public "spaces"--cyberspaces--to enhance or replace more traditional  
spaces and communities. VR communities will operate in a real-time,   
simulated environment. Users will coincide in time while their "real" 
bodies remain spatially distant. Hypertext communities, on the other  
hand, will "incorporate" (interesting word) temporarily "distant"     
(also interesting) users, each using and annotating the same text     
over an indefinite and perhaps infinite period of time. The most      
active existing cyberspace community, the Internet, combines aspects  
of both of these modes, as users both "chat" in real time (albeit     
without full sensory interface) and post messages and responses for   
other users to encounter at their own pace.                           
Inevitably, as on the Internet, virtual realities and hypertexts move 
together. As real-world limits reduce the scope of VR's ambitions,    
and increased power in desktop computing expands the capabilities of  
hypertext, the two forms will undoubtedly blur together. But right    
now (at least until next Tuesday) the separation between them         
remains. Their merger will generate a synesthesia of data experience, 
one that might finally establish the crucial relation between the     
phenomenological subject privileged by virtual reality and the        
acculturated, historical subject that grounds the hypertextual        
exploration. 1. Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think," The Atlantic        
Monthly 176, July 1945, pp. 101-108; and George P. Landow, Hypertext: 
The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology,       
Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992, p.    
2. Landow, pp. 11 and 22.                                             
3. Jay David Bolter, Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the  
History of Writing, Hove and London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,     
1991. See also writings by Friedrich Kittler on typewriter "space."   
4. Landow, p. 102. Landow grudgingly allows the possibility of this   
organizing activity on the reader's part.                             
5. Robert Coover, in a talk quoted by Landow, pp. 104-105.            
6. Landow, p. 187.                                                    
7. Jaron Lanier, quoted in "Virtual Reality," Mondo 2000: A User's    
Guide to the New Edge, eds. Rudy Rucker, R. U. Sirius, and Queen Mu,  
New York: Harper Collins, 1992, pp. 257-59.                           
8. See, for example, Allucquere Rosanne Stone, "Virtual Systems,"     
Zone 6, 1993, pp. 609-21.                                             
9. See Landow, p. 34.                                                 
COPYRIGHT Artforum International Magazine Inc. 1994