The Electronic Labyrinth


The text in a hyperbook is decentred relative to its paper counterpart through the breaking of hierarchies and privilege. This occurs in several ways, including:

Readers have a degree of navigational control unknown in linear texts. As Landow and Delany have argued in "Hypertext, Hypermedia And Literary Studies: The State of the Art," this means that "anyone who uses hypertext makes his or her own interests the de facto organizing principle (or centre) for the investigation at the moment" (18).

However, two major objections to this optimistic position may be raised. First, while it is true that electronic texts have different hierarchies, the imposition of structural features such as link classes and node types results in new privileges and centres. For example, an expansion link is not perceived in the same way as a reference or note link. The author's choice of one class over the others impacts on the hierarchical information communicated to the reader.

Second, most hyperbooks utilize global structures such as the "hub and spoke," if only because research and pedagogy, as those practices are currently understood and carried out within their disciplines, require organizing principles.

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