There is a different experience in ‘mind’ based upon the function it performs. In the most simplest manner, we ‘search and retrieve’ information. If someone asks you a question about pop culture, like which band sang the 90’s hit “Don’t look back in anger”? You will attempt to retrieve the answer, which is ‘Oasis’. This is the same process for any piece of knowledge – and you either know it, or your don’t. And even if you do know it, you may have it on the tip of your tongue, but not be able to deliver the answer at that time.

You can make the referencing process considerably more subtle, but operate on the same principle i.e. it is at the same level. If you have the information ‘stored’ it is triggerable. Let’s continue with using Oasis song titles to make a series of points on how the mind works.

Here is a line from the third verse, in which I’ve added bold to two sections:

“And so Sally can wait, she knows it’s too late as we’re walking on by

Her soul slides away, but don’t look back in anger I heard you say.”

If my phone rang and I could see it was my sister, Sally, I might say “Sally can wait” to which Elisa may sing “She knows it’s too late” or “Don’t look back in anger, I heard you say”…
(it is a laugh a minute in our household)

The point is, my wife gets the reference and displays to me she had done so by replying with a continuation of the same theme.

Now, the cool thing about this process is when we take it up a level.
Comedic mime artist, and genius, David Armand uses this song as part of his repertoire – acting out each section of that line, with ‘anger’ being displayed a ‘shouty fist’ and ‘say’ being a hand moved away from the mouth. I am not doing it justice, you’d need to watch it for yourself.

The point here though is that if you’ve seen the mime you will hold an additional overlay of information relating to that song. If that is the case, that overlay can also be used ‘stand alone’, where any word/phrase/aspect of the mime can then be transferred into another context. If you get the reference you will have a ‘flick’ (not a flip) of recognition in your mind when you do so.

Depending upon you audience (using this term broadly), for all such references a certain percentage of people will make the connection, even if it is not completely conscious (or at least you hope they will). There will have been some acknowledgement, the ‘flicker in mind’ that is indicative of the process completing.

Intertextual referencing

So what then is intertextual referencing?

Well, ‘Intertextual’ literary (yes, that was a pun) means referencing another text; in this way all referencing (as in the ‘Oasis’ example above) is intertextual. And once more, I should stress the reference exists on the same level – you get it, and your brain ‘clicks’ a link into that piece of information.
What is interesting though is what we add in the ‘meta’ element to intertextual – where the use of the reference doesn’t only create a connect at the same level, but that operates at a different level (as ‘meta’ does).

Let’s use the example of Oasis again, this time using a different song from the same album ‘(What’s the story) Morning Glory?’, ‘She’s Electric’.

A certain percentage of people will associate Oasis exclusively with the band, and probably know a selection of their songs; another percentage of people will associate it with a Virtual Reality world in the book by Ernst Cline, Ready Player One – and know the lead characters Parzival and Art3mis.

In people’s minds if they have two potential pre-existing associations (at least), then we can play as follows:

Art3mis: in VR, she’s electric


Did Parzival get a morning glory in the Oasis?

Both of these examples are taking references about two different sources of information that shared the same word i.e. ‘Oasis’, and linking them.
This is meta intertextual.

What happens in your mind when you get the reference between two levels of information, is to be observed directly and can be compared to intertextual referencing on its own. ‘Meta intertextual’ feels different in the mind; and it is that feeling that becomes important as a reference in its own right, to how the mind processes information.

It’s all in the percentages

Whether someone gets the reference from a single source can be a known percentage; whether they get both references is the intersection between two overlapping circles of likelihood, just like a Venn Diagram.
Whether the mind ‘gets it’ will be determined by whether a person pays attention, and yet remains open to broader contextual meaning behind what is said. This is (one reason) why jokes are important devices in delivering messages – people pay attention to them, and know to be ‘on the lookout’ for hidden or deeper meanings.

Take a very simple, old joke…

A man goes into the doctor’s and says “Doctor, I can’t stop singing ‘the green green grass of home’.
The Doctors says, “It’s nothing to worry about – it’s called Tom Jones syndrome”. The man asks “Is it common?” and the Doctor says…”It’s not unusual”.

Just in case you need it, ‘The green green grass of home’ and ‘It’s not unusual’ are songs by fellow Welshman, Tom Jones.

If you knew that already, you’ll just about be finished laughing in the aisles; it you didn’t, it will have fallen between the gaps of your knowledge, and onto stoney ground.

So, what is the point? Well, you need access to the the information to ‘get the joke’, and without that information the joke remains ‘locked away’ from your understanding. Which leads us seamlessly to…

Frankie Boyle: Encryption theory