Re: Is hypertext more productive?

Subject: Re: Is hypertext more productive?
From: Sean O'Donnell-Brown <o'donnes -at- CCMAIL -dot- WIU -dot- BGU -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 1994 07:19:40 CST

One response I expected to see about the hypertext v. paper debate but haven't

At this relatively early stage in the development of the hypertext concept, any
analysis/research would be biased in favor of paper since only a very small
percentage of readers have had experience with hypertext. It's a world of print-
based systems. We use print everyday; we're very used to print; we SHOULD be
more productive with it by default. (Reminds me of the debate about why serif
typefaces, especially Times Roman, are easier to read: could in part have to do
with the fact that, by and large, we've been reading Times [and similar serif
typefaces] since we started reading as children.) Interestingly, though,
despite the fact that we PROBABLY should find working with print more
productive, SOME of us find hypertext more productive in many ways.

And continuing, ignoring the intertextual possibilities of hypertext for the
time being and sticking with single documents....

It seems to me--and please feel free to disagree--that you can do anything with
an electronic document that you can do with a print-based document. You CAN put
a manual, for example, "on-line" and it appears (for all practical purposes)
identical to the print document--the only real difference being in the actual
"material" on which the words appear. The nice thing is, of course, that once
the document is "electronified," you can do things with it you COULDN'T do with
it in print form--like having a program search for very specific strings of
characters in a matter of seconds or minutes, something it may take hours or
days to do were the document on paper (even with an index).

Of course, putting a document in electronic form does not make it hypertext,
and poorly done hypertext has the ability to "corrupt" the usability of the
originally linear text rather than improving it. Well-written hypertext--in its
most BASIC forms--simply "adds to" a linear document: original + new stuff =
enhanced doc. Mere additions, good or bad, are benign.

More "advanced" forms of hypertext actually transform the original, producing
something very, very different from the original: original ---(reformat)--->
new doc. Transformations, good or bad (as they often will be as we explore the
possibilities of hypertext and only begin to set [or not set] universal
standards), are malignant.

Curriculm Publications Clearinghouse
o'donnes -at- ccmail -dot- wiu -dot- bgu -dot- edu

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