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Lesson 9  Navigation – Hypertext Structure                       

Exercise for Week 9

Write a hypertext essay on hypertext navigation and illustrate it with hypertext examples of the problems and benefits of the various possibilities of hypertext navigation.

A good hypertext writer (or web site designer) thinks about the structure of the text, the linking and the navigation of the site as part of the writing process (remember procedural authorhship).

With the Hypertext jump, you can’t see where you are going, whereas in collage, the pieces are in contact and provide a perceivable environment in which the fragments feedback and work off each other.

Remember to keep in mind two kinds of structure: the Labyrinth (unicursal, a single path winding towards a centre; and the Maze (multicursal, a series of critical choices (bivia). There are varieties of linearity and choice that allow visitors to participate in the writing.

Do you want a maze to get lost in or a labyrinth?
. "A reader who can freeze the text, a reader who is aware of a Home button, a reader who can gain an instant, transcendent perspective of the reading experience, domesticates contingencies" Rosenberg, Martin E. "Physics and Hypertext: Liberation and Complicity in Art and Pedagogy." Hyper/Text/Theory. Ed. George Landow. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1994, p275.

Handout – Links advice

Texts: J. Yellowlees Douglas ‘How Do I stop this thing’ in Landow ed Hyper/Text/Theory, Johns Hopkins U, 1994.- Examines reader's need for closure which requires a facility with hypertext navigation.

Check: Landow's notes on ideas of the network. The Nonlinear Model of the Network in Current Critical Theory

Jorn Barger
For Jorn Barger, the advantage of hypertext is not what it allows you to include, but what it allows you to leave out. Jorn Barger, "Hypertext and Navigability." (no longer available on line).

In his view, a minimum of information should be included in each page for maximum scanability. Information the reader needs should be buried behind links. While this method works well for material written directly for the net, it causes problems when adopting printed material. Recall that his annotation of one paragraph of Finnegans Wake was over 70K. Nevertheless, Barger identifies many structural considerations in the creating of hypertexts.

For navigation, Barger stresses the necessity of providing a means of moving from section to section without having to return to a higher level or to the main page or to the table of contents each time. He also notes the importance of providing full navigation information on each page, to assist users who might reach a particular page on a site through a back door.

For decreasing waiting time, Barger suggests providing some means for the user to distinguish between on- and off-site links, and to identify links that lead to large JPEGs or GIFs. He also notes that care should be taken in establishing separate pages for links. Those pieces of information that can be handled in-line should be, to avoid unnecessary waiting for files to load.

The term ‘hypertext’ is often used to refer not to the language underpinning the html page but simply the ability to link from one portion of text to another. Images can, of course, also be hot-linked. Linking is but one option in an array of possible web conventions we'll soon discuss. Linking can give one a sense of inclusiveness, an opening up of a subject into a multifaceted perspective. On the other hand, linking can also dissipate internal energy and diminish drama. It is important to weigh these considerations when creating your work.

Some theorists have suggested analogies to describe what happens with hypertext. Tree fiction, branching and rhizome are terms often used. I prefer to think of the page as more spatially dynamic. Trees grow but they are fairly static! For me, something wave-like and oceanic would be a better metaphor.

The web is a readerly medium but also highly visual. Text and image work together (as we explored last week).