Hypertext and Stuff

Mia on the Landow with a nice observation that blogs aren’t really like blogs, for instance blogs are ‘backwards’, and unlike diaries are public. Tilly pauses on just one thing in there and realises that it inverts 400 years of print. Rebecca writes a post that plays off links (though HTML is a very diluted form of hypertext), and Evan realises hypertext is the name for what has been there all along. Evan realising that perhaps we aren’t readers anymore, a nice realisation, and Gemma wondering if Ted would like choose your own adventure (as hypertext definitely not). Louis realising that linking and joining, deeply, and everything, is a pretty intriguing concept (one that it is still not realised).

The Internet’s Original Sin – The Atlantic

The Internet's Original Sin – The Atlantic.

This is an article about advertising and the web. From it you will learn a lot about how advertising works online, but it is much more interesting for seeing how the original vision of people like Nelson and the early Internet is present. When I first started, which was at the beginning of the web, there were no .com sites, and advertising didn’t exist online, and it prospered perfectly well. Indeed, *all* the protocols and tools we used then were made and shared for free, as was our content.

Nelson and Prescience

Seonaid on Ted Nelson’s speculative and critical arguments for what computers could and should do. George on choose your own adventure and hypertext. Rachel likes linear (many of us do) and its rules. Unfortunately we won’t be getting very far into hypertext (I used to teach an entire semester of only hypertext), but it too has its rules, they’re just different rules. Caitlin is surprised by Nelson’s ideas, and surprised that her mum was taught typewriting at high school (yep, still remember the room full of typewriters and the sound of a class, it was a subject nearly only girls did back in them olden days)

More on Ted Nelson

Callum with some good observations about Nelson, though I hope as we will find out soon the idea that search engines have realised what hypertext is will be seen to be fairly wide of the mark. Amy has some good musings too, and finds print literacy easier. yes, that’s one of the subject’s points, we’re actually up to our necks in print literacy yet think we’re all digital natives because we know our way round Facebook and mum doesn’t.

Right now the most important people in the world are the coders, they are the renaissance geniuses of this time, for example they gave us WordPress, a free complex thing that lets non coders play, write, share, design online. And they decided to give it to us because they could, and thought they should.


Ted Nelson is a prodigious computing talent, we’ll probably talk more about him when the time comes, but Stefan’s connection to Burroughs is very relevant. Not sure they knew each other, but Nelson would certainly know of Burrough’s writing and both are very strong connections to San Fran counter culture politics. Mia is impressed by Nelson’s prescience. You should be. He’s still arguing that the Web is broken and the wrong idea. Kiralee is less sure, though in relation to libraries, they’re no longer book centred (that happened about 15 years ago), I don’t think the degree is even called librarianship or similar anymore, (found one, but has to be done with ‘corporate information management’), and while books on paper remain a declining delivery format, no one, and I mean no one (aside from artists) uses anything but electronic media to write, edit, design and print a book. The only time it isn’t digital is at the end. Xanadu and yes, not so very long ago the Internet was only science fiction. Carli makes a nice connection between Ted Nelson and Doug Englebart (they were friends, and Nelson’s eulogy for Englebart is justly famous), and yes, there is a deep passion to make things better here. Ellen on Clouds, Olivia Newton John (yes there’s a connection), and what could have been. Louisa is also impressed, and yes, the idea of neural nets was present to Nelson in his conception of hypertext (a term he invented – along with thinkertoy, intertwingled, transclusion). Cassandra meanwhile discovers the joy of intertwingle (as I said in the symposium on network literacy, things don’t live in boxes, it’s all just soupy stuff that some temporary patterns are made in), and the possibilities and strange difference that hypertext could really offer (if only we stopped trying to make it like books).


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.