April 2005 Archives

In the process of writing that last entry, I found a site that exemplifies several principles of good hypertext. Marla's site on the Structure of the Five Paragraph Essay takes a fairly simple topic and shows it from a variety of angles. With the same text as examples, you can see an outline of the essay, the marked up full text of the essay, or detailed explanations of each element of the essay. This multifaceted, prismatic view of a text, where the reader can switch between the raw text or a structural view, with multiple depths of engagement in the form of linked definitions and contextual expansions, is exactly what hypertext can and should do.


DeSoto, Marla. "Structure of the Five-Paragraph Essay." 2001. Glendale Community College. 31 Jan. 2002 <http://www.gc.maricopa.edu/English/essay/>

I've been reading through the "Reconfiguring Literary Education" chapter in Hypertext 2.0 and the wonderfully expansive margins of my copy are accumulating ideas for teaching with hypertext today.

Landow presents experiences from actual classrooms, but even this revised edition came out in 1997. The web was only beginning to explode. IM was unheard-of. Wikis didn't exist. Blackboard was founded as the book went to press. Some of what he suggests is eminently possible now. Some of it is as remote as Intermedia.

I've come up with some exercises inspired by Landow's writing which might teach students the skills that Landow discusses, critical thinking and rhetorical skills which hypertext work particularly develops. By and large these are skill-building exercises which could be used in any discipline at the high school or collegiate level.

Beyond the cut: classroom exercises

I spent today in a conference at the lovely Rocky Hill School in East Greenwich, RI which was quite interesting in ways which, sadly, have very little to do with my job.

The conference was aptly named "Technology and the Harkness Table" because it was exactly that. We got to see a building that was literally designed around technology and the Harkness Table mode of teaching and saw how wonderful it is when engaged teachers, supportive administration, sensible architecture, and funding all come together. In most schools you might get two of those in any one place at any one time, especially if you're in the public schools. An independent school might get you three. In either setting it's rare to have all of those, and Rocky Hill was doing some impressive things with that setup.

Beyond the cut: Notes on sessions

Aha! Hypertext Systems

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Finally, I found a good quick reference page for a bunch of the early hypertext systems. Eventually I hope that my own "Tools" index will cover those systems and more.

When I left The Math Forum, among the parting gifts Gene Klotz gave me was a copy of the special "hypertext issue" of Communications of the ACM. I've held onto it and occasionally browsed it; last week it came of the shelf for idle reading. But of course I could not stay idle about it. The last few pages of the Hypertext '87 Keynote Address by Andries van Dam spurred me to take some notes.

Beyond the cut: limitations of metaphors, outreach, constraints

Created by Andries van Dam and Ted Nelson and undergraduate programmers at Brown University in ... 1967?

Apparently, though the authors didn't know it, IBM sold it to the Apollo mission team to produce documentation that went up with the Apollo flights.


  • arbitrary-length strings (rather than fixed-length lines)
  • edits with arbitrary-length scope
  • unidirectional branches automatically arranged in menus
  • splices that were branches inviible to online users but traversible by the printer
  • text instances (references rather than inclusion)
  • edits performed through pointer rather than character manipulation

According to van Dam, it quickly presented the "lost in hyperspace" problem.

reference, text

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A 'pointer' for text. A reference is dynamic-- if the target of a reference is changed, all instances of the reference change.

I haven't been posting much here on t.org because my "hypertext time" has been spent on tasks other than readings... and t.org is supposed to be a log of my readings. However, Tinderbox has been making those distinctions --between reading and working, between working and hypertext study-- a bit fuzzier. This has happened in several ways.

Beyond the cut: Tinderbox everywhere in everyday life

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