The Pleasure of Hypertext
Hypertext is magic.
Linked, every word is an opportunity to explore meaning from as much perspectives as our ability to follow threads would allows us to.
A radiant node or cluster … from which, and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing,
writes Ezra Pound, yet for another time showing how it is all connected and even the idea of a space of linked objects has been there, in the minds of those enquiring within upon everything, waiting to become an inseparable part of text and thought.
Hypertext as a Literary Tool
It is through the fascinating concept of hypertext that we transverse domains boldly, travel across connected ideas unbounded and taste the pleasure of interconnectedness in its full grandeur.
Straddling between the formal and the fabulous, the hypertextual fabrics of digital text underpins beautiful transformations in the ways we record, communicate and enjoy things and thinking on the Web.
To cite Ted Nelson,
Generalizing this even further, we hope to provide new kinds of hypertext the world has never seen (flying and floating), doing and showing far more than can be done in today’s documents.
The Pleasure of Next
Adoring hypertext, my premise is simple: we live and work in times when text, on the wings of links (data links included) and desire builds bridges with an astounding ease.
The interplay of code and culture and communication protocols, at place in any given textual content on the Web, change the quality of the connections we make. They all enrich our understanding of interaction and interactivity and push us forward, taking the giant library we build, called the Web, to a next level- a level where information retrieval and knowledge transfer serve us better and help us collaborate more. A level, allowing for resources to be catalogued, woven in an ever expanding web of digital artefacts (see also: From Cataloguing to Catalinking in Linked Data for Libraries by Richard Wallis)
Hypertextual Spaces of Shared Understanding
On the Web, stringing electronic words we create digital spaces of shared understanding. Spaces built of data and dialogues (see Knowledge Soup for the Soul), spaces where we enjoy the never-ending “Read more”, the mysterious dance of thoughts and links, always leading us to the next big think (sic!) on our path to knowing more.
Spaces envisioned and built, on the go. By all of us who weave the Web.
It is this kind of spaces, built of hypertext, that opens doors to viewing digital objects clustered in any order we might need to assemble them. With so many linked resources we are gifted with access to “collections of discrete materials composed in different media (text, image, sound) […] to link them usefully and powerfully together in a variety of ways, without destroying the integrity of the individual components, the nodes of the system.” (This quote, together with the Ezra Pound’s quote above, I owe to John M. Slatin and his wonderful essay Hypertext and the Teaching of Writing, available in the book Text, Context and Hypertext, p. 127)
The Machine-readable Pleasure of Text
Machines moving by themselves were long ago part of humanity’s poetic imagination. In Homer’s Illiad, there are a number of examples where machines are “living beings”. That said, the need and the desire for helping machine-hand when it comes to reading and writing looks absolutely natural.
Today, systems are already helping us with research, composition and making sense of text. Of course, it is us, the sense makers, whose creative powers will lead us to our next best text. And it us on us, to take pleasure and be able to use at its best the non-linear interactive nature of the Web as a space, tool and container.
But it will be on our algorithmic audiences (see Writing for Algorithmic Audiences ), or to use Homer’s automata term – on our writing and reading automata to connect us to words, thoughts, people and things in a deeper and broader ways and senses.
Nothing illustrates this more clearly than a movie, created back in 1990s to describe and predict an approximation of the current state of the World Wide Web.
My name is Tom, and I am your agent […], your software agent, working tirelessly for you … I can provide acess to any piece of information stored digitally anywhere in the world … for your interactive pleasure …
These are the words, Douglas Adams hears, having thrown his TV (what a waste of technology!) in the opening minutes of the curious movie Hyperland – a documentary film about hypertext and surrounding technologies, written by Douglas Adams.
Illuminating a Cornucopia of Perspectives
It is the capacity and the captivating charm of hypertext that allows us, through digital texts, to play with meaning, to be able to illuminate a cornucopia of perspectives and show different ways of finding and interacting with information.
A meaningful network of linked resources, digital text is now ready to present itself to the reader woven in all kinds of environments and media: personal assistants, networked things (thin IoT), cognitive systems, and other smart technoogies. Whatever the medium a text reaches us though, it will always be part of a greater whole thanks to the strands that are constantly rushing through and into it.
And here, on a less abstract note, what immediately comes to mind, is the Framework for Findability, Prioritization and Value (see: A Design Framework for Findability, Prioritization and Value).
Whatever the structure or the lack of structure of our texts on the Web, it is up to us to seek (and link) as much perspectives and ways of knowing and add to the pleasure of hypertext in our digital texts, thoughts and dialogues.