ENSP 481: Theory and Practice of Hypertext


John Unsworth
F 12 - 2:30
Wil 308

Office Hours:
9-11 a.m. Friday (304B Bryan Hall)

ENSP 481 is an honors undergraduate seminar in English, taught in the fall of 1996 at the University of Virginia. This seminar will examine the theory and practice of hypertext, from its beginnings in the book through its contemporary software incarnation s, including Macintosh-, Windows-, and Unix-based systems.

Members of the seminar will work in small groups over the course of the semester to construct hypertext sites in cooperation with local non-profits, arts organizations, schools, or neighborhood associations. The World-Wide Web will be the medium for e xchanging information related to the seminar, and all required readings and projects will be presented through the Web.

Project groups will be divided by role, with each member choosing to play the part of a systems engineer/project manager, a graphic designer, or a markup specialist. Students with programming skills may be assigned to work on an as-needed basis with m ore than one project group, and each group will also enlist a partner/trainee from the organization whose site is being designed. Project groups will hold several meetings during the semester with members of the community organization, and sites will be constructed on Monticello Ave. Organizations may be chosen from Monticello Avenue Information Providers, the Monticello Ave list of Community Organizations, or the United Way list of Agencies.

Some classes will be held in the IATH MOO, a text-based virtual reality facility.

8/30: Introduction

Goals and Structure of the Seminar
Concepts of Hypertext
Basics of the Web (Demonstration)


9/6: Tools

Hands-on introduction to the World-Wide Web and MOO; demonstrations of Storyspace, Shockwave, Director, Java



9/13: History

Historical backgrounds of hypertext



9/20: Theory 1

Re-thinking the Book (MOO)



9/27: Hypertext Design

Technics of hypertext, techniques of writing



10/4: Creative Hypertext 1

Non-linear narratives, hypertext poetry, hyperdrama.



10/11 Class Projects

Each group will present functional specifications for the final project, including participants' roles, theoretical basis, outline of contents and user interface, sample html pages.

10/18: Midterm Exam

In-class written exam on the reading

10/25: Theory 2

Hypertext Editions (MOO)


11/1: Critical Hypertext

The Hypertext Essay.


11/8: Theory 3

Hyperculture (MOO)


11/15: Creative Hypertext 2

Web-based fiction

11/22: Class Projects

Final Draft Critiques: Each student is responsible for putting up a page of substantive critique of each group project other than his/her own.

11/29: Thanksgiving Recess

12/6: Class Projects

Final Presentations: Each group will present final projects, compare final product to midterm specifications, and respond to final draft critiques.

Image (the Eusebian Canon tables) from James O'Donnell, "Some manuscript images of the technology of the word in the Middle Ages"
Last Modified: Monday, 20-Oct-2008 16:21:02 EDT