Fun da mentals : Rhetorical Devices for Electronic Literature

The Ghost in the Machine:  Secret nodes and hidden text


Experiment: On Your Own
Exchange: Share Your Creations

Student works {None yet} Share your work


Some nodes in electronic literature works are hidden--they are not accessible by any non-hidden link in the work and you can find them only if you know where they are or stumble across some invisible link. These are also known as easter eggs or Jane spaces (Jane Yellowlease Douglas found one of these spaces in afternoon, and the space was then named after her). Secret nodes tantalize the reader, providing more interest in the piece. Readers "in the know" are like players in an online game who have reached a certain level and attained enlightenment. Of course, if you put too much of a piece in the secret node, then most people will miss the point of the piece. Deena Larsen's Intruders does not work as an electronic piece because the majority of the work is hidden.

Note that "proper" linking rules frown on these secret nodes. Good linking and path organization dictate that every node be available to the reader. Every rule in grammar and good writing can be broken--but only if you break it deliberately, know the rule, and know why you are breaking it. Teachers, if students create a secret node, ask them to let you in on the secret and to explain why the node exists and its role in the piece.



First, create the electronic literature piece as directed in the Node Path exercise. Then hide these two nodes within the piece. Make sure that readers can access them in some way (through a hidden button in Flash, through a hidden link on a web page (to do a hidden link in HTML, create a blank graphic, then link that graphic, or use an existing graphic and add another hidden clickable area to it).

Secret node 1

The fields filled with sand. Not grain by grain, but wind by wind. Our herd of cattle had been 50 strong, muscled beasts whose hair glistened in the morning sun. We watched their flesh wither and die. Now we have two, and we carry our small load of belongings--all that is left to us--on our heads as we walk away from the sand. We do not know where we can go.

Secret node 2

Excerpt from AlcaTras SaFrisco's keynote address to the 28th biennual conference on PreApocalyptic Studies, day 254 of 12th Year of the Reign of BrokenGlass (September 11, 2439 PreApocalpytic Date)

We can, with our comfortable hindsight after our long centuries of struggle, say that these societies were held in a tight grip of cultural insanity. Their religions all exhorted against killing, yet they plunged into war after war, suicide bomber after suicide bomber. They knew they were living on limited resources, yet they continued to use oil and gas on displays of ultra-luxurious living while they saw others starving in the streets, dying in the growing deserts. They continued to produce untold amounts of pollution, choking off their water, their air, their land, and yet they knew they had no other resources once these were gone. They knew the devestation that they were producing. And yet they continued their wanton lifestyles until there was nothing left.

Experiment: On Your Own


  1. Create a posterboard, following the directions in the Links node.
  2. Write three secret nodes that would change the meaning of your posterboard or add a new dimension to it.
  3. Tape the spaces on the back of your posterboard or under images or other text on the posterboard.
  4. Have others read it and talk about it.
  5. Display the secret nodes.

Team sports

Secret node poker
The goal of this game is to keep the best card hidden--you want to end up with a card that will completely change the meaning of all of the cards that are on the table already.
  1. Create a random deck of cards, following the directions in the Random node.
  2. Deal six cards to every player.
  3. Lay one card from the deck on the table.
  4. Take turns laying one card down. Each card should either help create a story, respond to, or augment a card already on the table. (You can arrange the placement of these cards--perhaps have cards stacked on each other or create branching arms.)
  5. Do this for four rounds. Players now have two cards left in their hands.
  6. Each player selects one of the two cards remaining and puts it face down on the table, so no one else can read it. This card becomes the secret node.
  7. After each player has put down their card, take turns turning it up and explaining how their secret node changes the meaning of the cards on the table.

Treasure hunt

  1. Create a group posterboard, following the directions in the Links node.
  2. Each player writes a secret node.
  3. Hide the secret node.
  4. Provide directions to the hidden secret node.
  5. Exchange directions with another player (or give directions to a reader).
  6. Find the hidden node according to the directions and read it.

Exchange: Share Your Creations

Share your work in person

Share your work online



We'd love to show your work--either send it or send a URL for your work here to be a part of this site.

Fun da mentals: Links / Images / Sounds / Multiple voices / Node paths / Spatial placement/ Collage and layering / Fonts / Secrets / Random / Glossary / Tools / Teacher's Guide