Isabella notes that Ted Nelson coined the term ‘hypertext’ (he’s coined a few others too, many of them McLuhanesque neologisms such as ‘thinkertoy’, ‘intertwingled’, and ‘transclusion’) and that Nelson’s vision was for hypertext to become a general form of writing. It sort of has, sort of, via the Web. Lauren gets into Xanadu (Nelson is a film buff by the way) and Nelson’s operating system and Charles Foster Kane’s ‘home’. Lauren picks up how when Nelson was writing we didn’t have CD, DVD, the internet, to make the point stronger, we didn’t have personal computers either. Lucy thinks about hypertext and choose your own adventure. We won’t get into much hypertext, but hypertext is multilinear, whereas choose your own adventure is linear, with different linear options. The difference might seem small but is enormous. Ella likes that Nelson got so much of it right (the serious hypertext people amongst us think that the recent rise of the Web as a platform for doing things, and not just publishing, is getting closer to Nelson’s vision, but the most idealistic parts are still missing). Hannah thinks that Nelson’s vision for education has missed the boat. While absolutely not a fan, google MOOC and wonder. 65,000 students, one subject, all at once. Universities are falling over themselves to get on board. For me, it is not the accuracy of Nelson’s predictions that matter, he worked towards (is still working towards, at 76, or 77) making this happen, and it is this effort that has directly influenced the sort of web we have today. That’s impressive, and lucky.
Samuel very much enjoys Nelson’s vision and its depth and simplicity, and how the concept of the hyperlink (which is Nelson’s which is the basis of the link on any and every webpage, keep that in mind, how would you conceive of such a thing before they existed?) has changed the structure of writing and knowledge. Tamrin thinks about choose your own adventure stories, I think this has turned up a couple of times now so is probably a good example to think about how hypertext isn’t one of these. Good hypertext is multiyear, looping and turning in on itself, much more musical in form. Choose your own adventures are branching trees. These two drawings are from Ryan, Marie-Laure. Avatars of Story. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. The first is what you get in choose your own adventure, the second is the more common one in hypertextual structures.