hypertext

Theodor Holm Nelson (1965) first introduced the term “hypertext” in his paper “A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate.” Nelson described hypertext “to mean a body of written or pictorial material interconnected in such a complex way that it could not conveniently be presented or represented on paper” (p. 96). In Computer Lib/Dream Machines (1974), Nelson provided a more expansive definition of “hyper-media” as “branching or performing presentations which respond to user actions, systems of prearranged words and pictures (for example) which may be explored freely or queried in stylized ways” (Nelson, 2003, p. 313) Among the types of hypertexts he discusses in that essay, which focused on the potential uses of hypermedia in new systems that could potentially revolutionize education are “discrete hypertexts” which “consist of separate pieces of text connected by links” (p. 314) The majority of hypertext fictions published during the 1980s and 1990s would fit within this rubric though, as Noah Wardrip-Fruin (2004) argued, this conception of hypertext as “chunk-style” linked nodes is somewhat narrower than hypermedia as Nelson originally envisioned it. Nelson for example imagined “stretchtexts” that would expand or contract to provide the reader with more detail about a given part of the text, and interactive diagrams that would perform as the reader interacted with particular parts of them or zoomed in for detail.

(Source: Electronic Literature, Scott Rettberg, Polity 2019)

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