(in new window)
As discussed in lessons,
the mechanical or technical elements of web development and image editing
occupied a tremendous portion of this course's daily classroom practice.
With most students working hard just to produce hypertext documents that
functioned as readable HTML files, there was little room in the class
for hypertext theory. Still, several key selections guided our efforts
to make sense of our work.
We began the course with a selection from George
Landow's (1997) work on hypertext. While Landow was mostly incomprehensible
to students, I thought it important to begin our exploration of nonlinearity
with a seminal figure in hypertext theory. As with so much print work
on hypertext theory, Hypertext 2.0 seemed paradoxically outdated
and wildly futuristic. Landow might make more sense to students with either
a background in post-modernism or more experience with hypertext.
Next, we read a selection from Jay David Bolter's Writing Space
(1991). As with Landow, the technologies Bolter discusses seemed to students
to be outdated. As a class, we tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to abstract
from the details of the technologies (Storyspace, for example) to larger
principles of hypertext authorship. This conceptual difficulty was closely
tied to a series of practical problems involving the construction of hypertexts.
For example, many students were still struggling to successfully deploy
the <a href> tag in their pages.
The class then read Joseph Janangelo's (1998) essay on collage art and
academic hypertext. At this point in the term, students were still working
through their first academic hypertext assignment. It seemed to me that
Janangelo's metaphor of collage, together with the hypertext
evaluation assignment, could help them move beyond linear HTML reproductions
of their print essays. With the exception of a few students, my sense
was that the class was still unprepared to theorize what they were accomplishing
when they produced academic essays as hypertext. We spent most of our
time becoming comfortable with the Macromedia Dreamweaver interface, or
tweaking relatively minor problems in HTML.