paper topic ideas

 Manovich says “If there is a new rhetoric or aesthetic possibile here, it may have less to do with the ordering of time by a writer or an orator, and more with spatial wandering. The hypertex reader is like Robinson Crusoe, walking across the sand, picking up a navigation journal, a rotten fruit, an instrument whose purpose he does not know; leaving imprints that, like computer hyperlinks, follow from one object to another.”

The web is made up of content pieced together. We create meaning out of it by moving through and between sites and synthesizing content. Hyperlinks and search are our main tools for this spatial meandering.  One idea I was considering for a paper topic would be to explore the use of interfaces such as webrowsers, blogging software and social bookmarking sites and how they related to how we navigate and author hypermedia.  I would  use structuralist analysis of the interfaces and the content produced by them (e.g. sequences and groups of tabs in firefox, the sequence and forms of hyperlinks within a blog entry, the tag names and groups formed on flickr and delicious) to understand how these interfaces constrain and encourage “spatial wandering.”  I’d also draw “actionable design insights” that suggest how we could improve the design of such interfaces.

[more thoughts]

Tabbed browsing is an improvement over window browsing in that it seems to recognize the reading of interactive hypermedia as a form of non-linear meandering rather than the following of a strict linear narrative. A typical blog entry will link to multiple sites for various reasons. Tabbed browsing allows you to, for instance, more easily open all the links and proceed to look at them in any order.

Websites are still separated by tabs and it’s typically possible to only view one tab at a time.  Is this appropriate for how we browse the web? Could web tools allow you to merge content from sites?  Allow you to more easily group and order webcontent?  Visualize and record the paths you take as you meander? Help you backtrack and reorder the sequences of steps?

Tagging and social bookmarking is another set of tools that allows us to create and describe meaning from webcontent. Tagging allows us to group webpages together in multiple locations.  However, tagging doesn’t allow you to easily describe a path or sequence of meaningfully related webpages, e.g. a sequence of youtube videos.  And recalling websites based simply on textual descriptions and tags can be difficult.  What other types of links could be constructed to  help signify meaningful relations constructed with or among webcontent? Visual tags? Historical links of browsing history?

Manovich also briefly discusses the possibility “…to invent a new rhetoric of hypermedia that will use hyperlinking not to distract the reader from the argument (as is often the case today), but rather to further convince her of an argument’s validity…” So maybe spatial meandering isn’t the only way to read hypermedia…What would a new rhetoric of hypermedia? In what sense does it already exists?  (makes me think of persuasive games)


  1. Tyler Pace

    This isn’t going to be very helpful, but yes, I have seen a Firefox plugin that lets you do the following.

    “Allow you to more easily group and order webcontent? Visualize and record the paths you take as you meander? Help you backtrack and reorder the sequences of steps?”

    I can’t remember it’s name, but I’m sure I’ve seen something out there that works along those lines. It wasn’t pretty and maybe not even terribly functional, but it might be worth tracking down and evaluating.


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