Hypertext:
A route to sophisticated thinking and appreciation for complexity
or a recipe for confusion and indecision?

Hypertext can provide flexible interaction with the data and encourage a nonlinear reading of the data. The active reader becomes the author by re-ordering data thereby producing a personal interpretation from the hypertext resources. The reader becomes a navigator choosing his/her own route. Distinctions between 'data', 'analysis', 'interpretation' are blurred. Nonlinearity and the endless possibilities of links can be its greatest strength. Or it can deteriorate into a labyrinth of hotwords, images and buttons that bring you face to face with the Minotaur of cyberconfusion.

Meaningful interpretations using hypermedia: blurring of the roles of author/reader. What happens when neither author and/or reader has any 'background" to understand, explain or defend data?

Lee and Fielding question the reliability of the interpretations drawn from such an 'untutored use" of hypertext resources. They question the necessity of a 'background" to prepare the reader for making meaningful interpretations. An uninitiated reader may also believe that this hypertext application is all inclusive in regards to information about the topic. Instead of appreciating the complexity of the topic and the contingency of social knowledge, the reader may feel that the hypermedia application is the authoritative, definitive statement on the issue. In other words an appreciation for a level of sophisticated thinking and the complexity sought by the author may be ironically lost because of the seductive medium. (Lee and Fielding 1996)

Amateur author: It looks like ethnographic research but...

They feel that anyone able to use hypertext could create something that appears to be an ethnographic text. The hypertext author may be able to link nodes of data but be unable to explain or defend the data. (Lee and Fielding 1996)

When is the author not the author?

The hypertext author chooses the links and is therefore present. Lee and Fielding question how polyvocal a hypertext application can be if one author is making these initial choices. (Lee and Fielding 1996)




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Maureen Flynn-Burhoe 2000. Last updated web design (not content) February 2002.
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