Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Intertextuality (1)

Hyper. A word that carries associations of both enhancement...and of excess.

Links certainly put the hyper into hypertext: "A link may be though of as a jump opportunity" says Ted. "Our Western cultural tradition is a great procession of writings, all with links implicit and explicit between them".

While traditional HTML handles those explicit links well enough, Frode's hyperwords demo shows how we can start to address the implicit connections. Compared to Ted Nelson and Paul Otlet before him, Frode's approach is more of a bottom-up one, apparently less obsessed with the formal architecture and internal classification of a greater docuverse.

But the potential for digressive jump-iness remains. Consciously we process our thoughts serially, sub-consciously however, we're thoroughly parallel. Frode's model allows us to think of all the ways we might want to consciously interact with text. Trouble is, that choosing to perform an action inevitably breaks the flow / interrupts the planned sequence.

In some cases not a bad thing. Yet one of the criticism's levelled at Tristram Shandy, (Sterne's unconventional novel now seen as a precursor of hypertext) is that "it is both everywhere and nowhere at the same time". Generally, we'd rather our experiences of the Web weren't open to the charge of simultaneous omni-presence and omni-absence.

Bottom-up or top down, hypertext systems are essentially about mapping correlations between passages of text. Until we have computers that can interpret semantically, hyperlinks will probably remain a compromise concept that in general operates at the level of low-level associations even though there is some aspiration to imitate more complex correlations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Trouble is, that choosing to perform an action "...inevitably breaks the flow / interrupts the planned sequence..." Yes, so it's important to lessen this break

"... is that "it is both everywhere and nowhere at the same time"..." Hmm...

Yes, with great choice comes restraint, wisdom and so on. Tell a dancer that it's all better and easier if she just moves, say, 12 of her joints.

Freedeom and effort = linked. :-)