“The Garden of Forking Paths is a 1941 short story by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. The concept Borges described in ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ is that of a novel that can be read in multiple ways, a hypertext novel that predates the invention (or at least the public disclosure) of the electromagnetic digital computer. Not only did he arguably invent the hypertext novel—Borges went on to describe a theory of the universe based upon the structure of such a novel. Borges’s vision of “forking paths” has been cited as inspiration by numerous new media scholars, in particular within the field of hypertext fiction.
The concept of the hypertext novel was popularised in the 1970’s and 80’s with the Choose Your Own Adventure books, which allowed the reader to make decisions that affect the outcome of the story.
One such work was Patchwork Girl (hypertext) by Shelley Jackson, an early hypertext fiction where a story is told through the use of text and images that link together in a narrative fashion. The user has to piece together the structure of the Patchwork Girl.
Hypertext was an intrinsic affordance of the Internet so with the development of the WWW, the Jodi and Superbad websites appeared, both reflecting on Borges’ idea of complexity linking the novel to the labyrinth.
More recently, Soft Cinema by Lev Manovich, presents a form of non-linear media that demonstrates flexibility within narrative forms, whereby movies are created through algorithm software that determines the ordering of film fragments, and for which there is no final, intended product.