A reflection on the works of a professor of Computational Media

Nelson Wardrip-Fruin was interested in the documents of the future. Giving credit to Douglas Carl Engelbart, his questions of the early years of hyper texting were centered around: what you can do on the screen that you can also do on paper.

As a writer, the transposition of the original magazine layout on the screen was important to him. His ambition was to investigate the breaking of the restrictions of paper. The two basic concepts of hypertext were connectivity between words and relevant paragraphs, and the connectivity between words and related words. (Director’s Cut: Ted Nelson on Hypertext, Douglas Englebart, Xanadu and More, 2018).

A brief History

Hypertext, used in the wake of the computing era, can be defined as new media. Wardrip-Fruin aligns his arguments to those of the early 1960’s software engineers like Nelson and Englebert, where separate pieces of text or pictures can be connected by links. New media hypertext, however, differs from Nelson’s original vision of hypertext in that we do not read hypertext the same way we read a novel, and browsing the Web is a different experience from reading a book or newspaper (Vandendorpe, 2009)

Looking at hypertext in the era of social media, we can propose questions about the technology being an extension of socio-cultural practices. The ability to click on a link, tweet and retweet. Then click on the retweet and use it as a meme caption. Hypertext is not just as an idea but a matter of social practice (Barnet, 2013).

Flexibility.

While hypertext provides greater flexibility and convenience than conventional documents, its power and appeal increase dramatically when it is implemented in computing environments that include networked microcomputers and workstations, high-resolution displays, and large on-line storage. While following a cross-reference in an 88-volume encyclopedia can take several minutes, many hypertext systems can deliver the next node in less than a second and from a much larger body of information that might take thousands of volumes in print. While conventional publications are limited to text and graphics, hypertext nodes offer sound navigation.

 

A hypertext system may have only one type of link or many types. In the web medium, the active, and the visited links are visible. When a user selects a link, the display of the new node replaces the original node, or it may share the display via an overlapping window.

In some systems, the user can partition the screen in separate windows where different nodes are displayed. Links can be unidirectional or bidirectional. A bidirectional link allows you to traverse the link from either end. Links are usually given names that may or may not be shown to the user.

Conclusion

Proper usage of the Hypertext Mark Up Language should inform both the user and the browser what these links mean. The link name must indicate the nodes it connects and its type.

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