Definition of Hypertext
A part of Hypertext Materials
The Oxford English Dictionary Additions Series* includes this definition of hypertext:
Text which does not form a single sequence and which may be read in various orders; specially text and graphics ... which are interconnected in such a way that a reader of the material (as displayed at a computer terminal, etc.) can discontinue reading one document at certain points in order to consult other related matter.
Theodor Holm (
Ted) Nelson coined the terms
hypermedia. Nelson Hilton has a brilliant hypertext based on Ted Nelson's definition of hypertext (from Literary Machines†). Among other things that definition demonstrates some of the pitfalls of hypertext: readers are more prone to becoming confused and overwhelmed when using it than other forms of writing.
Espen Aarseth defines hypertext as but one category of
cybertext. An overly simple definition of cybertext is that
the effort and energy demanded by the cybertext of its reader raise the stakes of interpretation to those of intervention.A more expansive definition of cybertext is in the first chapter of the book Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature ‡.
[After Noah Wardrip-Fruin's short article What hypertext is, at the 2004 ACM HT Conference, I know that I need to give a better definition of hypertext. Doug Engelbart, for example, seems to think that what defines hypertext is more what it enables than what it is (or was, in the case of Noah's historical definitions). Some of the definitions Noah arranged are more inclusive than the one I have above. For a more detailed (and possibly more revealing) look at the issues in the article see also the discussion about hypertext definition at grandTEXTauto.]
[In a chapter about digital libraries in Human-Computer Interaction in the New Millennium¶ Andrew Dillon paraphrases from a book he co-authored in 1991 treating hypertext as an information medium:
… McKnight et al.¶ argued that we can see Bush, Nelson, and Engelbart are representing three different views of information technology that continue to attract adherents today. Bush advocates information storage and presentation through associative mechanisms that reflect in some sense the underlying structure of the human mind. Nelson most directly seems to have envisaged the Web, with users able to access any document from their own workstations. Engelbart seeks an augmentation environment; users of information technologies should be able to achieve more through using information technology, even if they required some learning or training.]
There is a rather dense explanation why
hypertext is not the same as
non-linear text in
another webpage (at this site).
A definition of the hypertext community is in the main webpage
If you think it is just a way to bring visions of the potential literature movement (OULIPO) into the contemporary age then you are only partly right. Consider wikis, blogs, this list, digital libraries, on-line journals (such as JIME), and purely discursive works too.
For more information ...
- For more about blogs
- see the blog theorising part of Jill Walker's blog archive and the Weblog Issues part of the WebLogKitchen wiki.
- For more about wikis
- see What is Wiki? (at wiki.org).
- For more about OULIPO
- see Danny Calegari's an OuLiPo page in the Math Dept. at CalTech or an older version at the redoubtable archive.org website.
- For information about the hypertext community
- see the definition of the hypertext community in the main hypertext webpage
- For more about hypertext
- see the hypertext resources and exemplary hypertext websites sections.