RhetNetFebruary 1995

Readable hypertext: navigating the labrynth

Nick Carbone

Richard's references to mazes reminded me of the scene in The Name of the Rose where Connery's Monk praises his young aide for remembering his classics. In the library the boy unraveled string as they searched about so that when they had to leave, they were able to find their way out. The library itself was a tortuous array of stairs, hallways and rooms and was known for folks wandering in and getting lost. There, as I recall, it was so maze like as part of an effort for the Monks to protect what was in their from outsiders.

We of course want people in. And we're in luck in so far as most browsers have an Ariadne feature. In lynx if I hit the delete key, I can see the history of where I've been (though there's no clue as to where and how far I may go).

Bob Jansen's suggested that directional clues would be a good idea. And that context helps people to orient themselves in a hypertext. Since we're still in amphibious state (as Charlie Moran put it somewhere)* I'd like to see this be reader friendly.

If we consider the library image from Name of the Rose it echos back to Geoff Sirc's notion of the Cyberjournal being like an apartment building--different things in different units, all interconnected, but each within its own confines discernable.

We're actually following that path now pretty much. The Rhetnet page in the web has four essays linked to it. Now as readers comment on those essays, they'll become more complex, but each essay stands and offers a starting point (although eventually they'll be other ways to reach them).

One of the things that can be done is to create template pages. So for example, if a web of discussion spins off one of the essays, each page in the discussion could have a link that leads it back to the essay in question. If comments center on someone else's comment, there could be a link to the essay and to the other comment. This would help contextualize that segment of what may be a larger web, much the way a particluar area in the library may have had manuscripts on a particular topic.

I think it's possible to create a hypertexted cyberjournal that's readable in every sense of the word but which also offers the chance to explore space. Occasional disorientation might ensue, but having someone get lost can be avoided. And at the same time, the exploring can be fun and invigorating. Sort of like climbing with a rope.

* Moran, C. (1992) Computers and the writing classroom: A look to the future. Hawisher, G.E. and LeBlanc, P. (Eds.) Re-imagining computers and composition: Teaching and research in the virtual age. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook. pp. 7-23.

Return to top

Date:         Mon, 6 Feb 1995 10:45:41 -0500
Sender: CyberJournal for Rhetoric and Writing 
From: Nick Carbone 
Subject:      Re: Cowrite: Validity

Do you have something to say?

bobj's note bobj's note mikeb's note david's note