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McGann, 1995, “The Rationale of Hypertext”

Posted in Readings (02-02).

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  1. aas6h says

    One major “rationale of hypertext” that McGann cites is affordability. However, if the Internet becomes subsidized this point may no longer be true. Does this weaken the pro-Hypertext argument overall? Why or why not?

  2. akt4q says

    Hypertext links different sources together to make navigation more clear and easy. With text linking to other text, how much does copyright come into effect?

  3. kmw9p says

    McGann asserts that “computerization allows us to read “hardcopy” documents in a nonreal, or as we now say a “virtual”, space-time environment”. The idea that we read these documents in a “nonreal” environment caught my attention- is there a difference in the degree of comprehension for an article read online than in a hard book? What is exactly is this “nonreal” environment and how does it contribute to our interpretation of the text?

  4. rdl5u says

    McGann claims that the symmetry in form (i.e. book form) of literary criticism and literature leads to works which are “infamously difficult to read and use.” Does this same problem arise when critiquing projects like the Valley of the Shadow, or are those projects already complete critical works?

  5. mjp4y says

    Are the options provided to researchers through hypertext platforms overwhelming, to the point of distraction? Is the fact that hypertext “disperses attention as broadly as possible” an indication of our new, distracted (scholarly) nature or is this simply another, more efficient way of gathering packets of knowledge?

  6. smp2as says

    McGann uses the internet as an example of a non-hierarchical structure that has flourished despite being having no centralized organization. I would argue that search engines like google or yahoo serve as a centralized organization, which are both two means of navigating through the internet that are popularly used. Google does have an underlying algorithm, a hierarchy, of navigation, and therefore is not like the LC system of a library. Does ‘Google’ refute the idea that the internet is organized in “arbitrary and stochastic patterns”?

    • cdf8e says

      Yes, but only to the extent that users trust it as the definitive guide to “the Internet.” My knowledge of the Internet, whatever that phrase could possibly mean, is not determined wholly by google any more than my knowledge of the liberal arts is determined wholly by the best-seller list, or by the syllabi for my classes. One chooses the extent to which inherently non-hierarchical fields become limited by hierarchizing forces.

  7. cdf8e says

    “So, for example, if one were to create a HyperText of (say) King Lear, the “edition” as it is a hypertext can pass forward in time indefinitely. Someone will have to manage it..”

    Is the assumption valid? Would a wikipedia model collaborative effort based on some sort of meritocracy be possible for such a large scale project? Does insistence on the need for authority stem only from economic necessity (i.e. keeping a job?)

    • cdf8e says

      Please apply my critique to the general assumption about the need for authority in the humanities and not to that quote. Took the thing horribly out of context. mea culpa. Also, the question is not tantamount to a criticism. If the answer is “yes – we just need to get paid for the work we do, and so we try as much as is reasonably possible to control access to information (not to give away our intellectual property for free)” then so be it. I just suspect that there are suppressed premises in the debate about new media and its consequences for research and publication. When power, money or prestige are at stake, subtle (self)deception is likely to ensue.

      • rca2t says

        You touch on a crucial question, where the form of hypertext has social consequences. The logical answer to the management problem is crowd-sourcing, but few academics are willing to cut of the branch on which they stand.

  8. ecp3f says

    With the rise of electronic databases, could libraries become extinct? If we can access everything online, is there need for “special collections” libraries down the road? And if so, what does this do to our idea of privacy in the library? Without public libraries, do we run the risk of electronic databases being bought by corporations, datamining companies, etc? Will databases use our searches online and sell them to corporations in order to pay for “maintenance” of the website database? Do we run the risk of corporate/private convergence, or with the Internet do we have a democratic system where it will remain free from corporation censorship/regulation?

  9. chs8w says

    In what ways could the archive open up the floor for literary criticism to the wider public? If this were to happen, would academic hierarchies emerge intact? In addition, in hypertext, can there ever again be a “definitive version” of the text besides the one that exists in the present moment or that version as constructed by the user? Should there be definitive dates of “publishing”?

  10. zmr5r says

    Discussion of creating critical editions and things like the TEI (and accompanying complexity and challenges involved with both) makes me wonder to what extent the process of manual curation and digitization is really here to stay. I think it is to a large extent, since it is hard to imagine some of the finer preservation details for a text getting proper attention from anything but a knowledge human specialist. That said, given its complexity and cost of these things, I wonder if it is not at least reasonable to imagine what a more minimalist, automated approach to digitizing and analyzing texts/literature might involve. For example, how far can we imagine handing over the process of creating a critical edition to a series of algorithms? Can we replace the functions and utility afforded through manually encoding a text in XML using the TEI with an analogous set of instructions allow the system to distinguish the parts, metadata, etc of text by itself? How significant are the tradeoffs involved in putting more and more of the digitization process in the hands of the computer?

  11. jta9nk says

    Does dispersing information take away its depth or still allow that depth while increasing the accessibility? In other words, what does hypertext add or take away from the information?

  12. pm9k says

    This essay, in some ways, answers two questions I had, and also doesn’t – there is a good description of what McGann thinks is hypertext; and my question of starting from scratch in 2010 on this project – well, here McGann is starting from scratch in 1995. What would he discuss, and try to convince scholars about in 2010, instead of hypertext in 1995?
    The R Project is now ‘closed’ even though McGann states “hypertextual order contains an inertia that moves against such a shutdown.” (can’t be ‘complete’)

  13. wwk3j says

    Though (hard copy) of text is highly decentralized, how are the criteria chosen for other hypermedia? Is hypertext the best archiving algorithmic sorting program for codex from literary works? Why is it only in two forms of markup language XML and SGML? Shouldn’t there be more?

  14. Kevin Eady says

    The reading lists a lot of advantages of hypertext, such as executing ‘critical operations’ (eg. searches and comparisons) and the ability to organize things in a non-central manner designed for easy navigation. What are some disadvantages to having textual work in a computerized format?

  15. pmc4ua says

    McGann says that there are library guides for people who do not know how to find their way in a library. I know my grandparents really resent computers and do not use them to their full capacity because they don’t believe themselves capable to do so. Will a significant switch from print to digital lose a generation simply because it is difficult or unknown to them, or will it be gradual enough to encompass all generations? Will hypertext ever play this critical of a role?

  16. laa2v says

    McGann talks about hyperText and media not being definitive (like a book), since it always has the ability to change and be edited. Is this concept on non-definitive knowledge a major change from how we consider the concept of knowledge? Is this good, bad, or just different?

  17. lpr8cc says

    What is the future of libraries? With the age of hypertext, will there even be a need? I know personally I have not been in the library to look for a book in a long time; I’ve just gone online.

  18. Stevie Chancellor says

    McGann talks about examples of hypermedia connecting other forms of media together. How does the computer and its own inherent structure limit organization of data?

  19. csl4s says

    McGann greatly touts the many advantages of hypertextuality as compared to the purportedly antiquated ways of organizing information that have been used for centuries now. I certainly do not deny these advantages; however, he seems to be a little too optimistic in my opinion. He does not really go into the potentially damaging consequences of this move to hypertextuality. Since special expertise and resources are ostensibly required, I wonder if this shift could possibly lead to an even greater divide between those with knowledge and those without knowledge than that of the divide between the scribe and the illiterate back in the middle ages.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Week 3 – Q and Comments Rossetti readings – MDST 3703: Introduction to the Digital Liberal Arts linked to this post on February 4, 2010

    […] from scratch today rather than 5 or 10 or 15 years ago, how would they approach it differently?3. McGann, 1995, “The Rationale of Hypertext”  ** This essay, in some ways, answers […]

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