The Electronic Labyrinth

Readers of Hypertext

One of the features of hypertext is that the usual sharp distinction between the author and the reader of a text is eroded. Readers have a choice of reading paths and thus shape their reading experience. In addition, they may be granted certain authorial functions: the ability to add nodes, add links, use filters, etc.

Readers may be categorized as either browsers or searchers. Their use of the hypertext will depend on many factors: their familiarity with the system, the structure of the hypertext, the information they are looking for, the amount of time they have.

Marchionini & Schneiderman have noted that novice readers tend to use "low cognitive load browsing strategies" (76). They define browsing as "an exploratory, information-seeking strategy that depends on serendipity. It is especially appropriate for ill-defined problems and for exploring new task domains" (71).

In contrast, searchers use strategies which "include much preplanning, application of Boolean connectives, and systemic iterations of the querying and refinement process."

How much of this may be applied in a fictional setting depends very much on the available navigational tools.

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