Unlecture #8

This week’s symposium focused on the actual process of writing a hypertext narrative, the problems of a Long Tail-style free market model with recommendations, and the centrality or lack thereof, of networks.

I liked the discussion about how when writing a hypertext narrative, the structure naturally emerges from the process of creating it, as opposed to an essay, where you will inevitably have a plan or structure before beginning to write it.

Before writing something, you may not know what is the most important piece of information, or what will be most relevant to the reader, so writing in a hypertext form allows this to happen naturally, with the most importance/relevant piece of information becoming the one with the most links to other bits of the writing, or to things outside of this narrative.

I also that it was useful that with a hypertext narrative, the process of research and planning becomes much more transparent and easy to navigate, with the ability to provide direct links to full quotes, articles that were cited, or notes that were used to write the actual piece.

The biggest thing I took out of this lecture was how Adrian described hypertext, and I think this was the point that I fully ‘got’ this new concept. Adrian compared hypertext to cinema, saying that the nodes are like each shot used in a film, and the links are the edits used to join the shots. As opposed to film, hypertext as multiple, near-unlimited ways to edit this piece together, and there is always the very real potential for meaning to be altered when something is edited differently.

As has been discovered with film, the meaning lies in the relationship between one shot and another, and Adrian labelled this as “hypertextual logic”, because the meaning in a hypertextual narrative is also primarily derived from the way in which the nodes are linked together.

The lecture also included a discussion on the idea of the Long Tail, and whether it was problematic if recommendations hierarchies emerged. This would involve one opinion dominating others,, and lead to others being hidden.

Many internet sites, such as Amazing, Spotify, and iTunes, utilise this recommendations system to ‘help’ users find other things they may be interested in, but many argue that this means that some will have more influence than others.

This hierarchy can be seen on Triple J Unearthed, where certain users with some sort of influence or a large amount of reviews, are labelled ‘power users’, with their reviews appearing at the top and inevitably having more of an affect on a possible downloader.

I don’t necessarily see this as a problem, because nowadays much of this content is tailored reasonably well for our interests, and a hierarchy is usually a good way to ensure the content is consistently good. I think this only becomes a problem when it is manipulated or hijacked by advertisers, and the recommendations are no longer ‘real’.

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