E642 – Writing Hypertext
Description: This graduate writing workshop focuses on the possibilities, potentials, and constraints faced by writers willing to take on the challenges of writing hypertext. Hypertext, Ted Nelson’s accepted term for linked electronic texts, encompasses a wide range of electronic texts, ranging from simple World Wide Web sites to online help systems to Hypercard stacks to interactive novels such as Michael Joyce’s Afternoon. In this course, students will propose and develop hypertext documents for presentation on the Web.
The course will begin with an overview of hypertext theory (e.g., Bush, Charey, DeWitt, Johnson-Eilola, Joyce, Kaplan, Landow, Moulthrop, Nielsen) and practice (e.g., Ayers, Gossling, Joyce, and Kaplan). As is the case in other graduate writing workshops offered by the English Department, the majority of the course will be devoted to workshops in which students read and critique works created by their classmates. To support discussion of works beyond the classroom, the course will make extensive use of electronic communication tools, including threaded discussion groups, interactive chat, and a course Web site.
In E642, in addition to issues related to the production of hypertexts, students will explore the multiple rhetorical constraints unique to writing hypertext, including, but not limited to:
- the inability of a writer to fully anticipate the links a reader might follow in a hypertext, which has a profound impact on use of traditional rhetorical devices such as transitions and references to text in other parts of a document, to name only two issues;
- the difficulty of establishing and effectively varying an author’s voice in a document that can be read via multiple paths;
- the continuing flux in the development of rhetorical conventions comparable to those of print media (e.g., although readers can anticipate the purpose and function of an endnote or footnote in a print document, they cannot always accurately anticipate the purpose and function of an underlined word in an online document — among a range of possibilities, it might be a link to another document, a link to a pop-up window, a link to a passage in the current document, a link to a related program, or it might serve simply as a device for emphasizing the word);
- the growing use of nontextual elements in documents (e.g., images, audio, and video) — and the growing expectation by writers that these elements should be used;
- the impact of ergonomic factors on the presentation and reception of texts, among them the computer monitor’s size and resolution, the settings on a Web browser, and the processing speed of a computer.