The Electronic Labyrinth


A node is an integrated and self-sufficient unit of information, small relative to the complete document. In electronic instances, nodes are often thought of as being small enough to fit on one computer screen. Janet Fiderio states that they "consist of a single concept or idea" (238). Other, grander schemes (such as Xanadu) make allowances for nodes the size of books.

Contrasting these definitions highlights the question of scale. In an essay, a node might be the size of a paragraph or two; in a library, each book might be a node. Fiderio's assertion that "the information contained in a node can usually be displayed on one computer screen" is true only at a certain scale (238). As Conklin has said, "[p]eople don't think in terms of 'screenfulls;' they think in terms of ideas, facts, and evidence" (36).

This issue of granularity is less important in a hypertext fiction. Authors should be free to make nodes of any size--from individual words to chapters--depending on how they wish to use these nodes to structure their text.

Some hypertext software allows the author to assign nodes a class or pre-defined type. In addition, nodes may have other characteristics such as a title, author, creation date, and access rights.

Other synonyms for node include frame (KMS), work space (StorySpace), card (HyperCard), and lexia (Barthes by way of Landow). On the World Wide Web, a node is simply termed a Web Page.

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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