Screens, Research and Hypertext

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Texts and Hypertexts

If ideas are found in the empty spaces between text, the hyperlink is the means of reifying those spaces.

As Mandy Brown has written in a brilliant post (emphasis added):

The hyperlink, with its super simple structure—a direction and some characters of description, which could be as straightforward or as subversive as you wanted—did get off the ground, and it is indeed marvelous. The ability to follow links down and around and through an idea, landing hours later on some random Wikipedia page about fungi you cannot recall how you discovered, is one of the great modes of the web. It is, I’ll go so far to propose, one of the great modes of human thinking.

Tracing the invisible links between texts is difficult work. It’s why scholars and researchers spend months poring over texts, sweating through drafts of papers, trying on and discarding avenues of research.

Not everyone has the time, the patience, the aptitude for such things. The long research output—the book or article or report—painstakingly reconstructs those arduous journeys through the spaces between texts.

The hyperlink is a shortcut. A wrinkle in text, taking readers directly from one text to another by way of a realized idea. In making the invisible visible, hypertext democratizes a kind of thinking that was once available only to the few.

For more context

I've made a pretty decent living talking about texts I haven't read.

What to read next

Books change the world. A book is just a thing.

Other items of interest

I'd like to read more about Mandy Brown's essay.

Reading rarely goes in a straight line.