Mixed Company: Literacy in Print and Hypertext Together
Conference presentation at the Open Univesity in the UK, July 1998
Our time has been called “the late age of print” (Jay David Bolter), but the age of print seems in no hurry to end. Computer text and hypertext will coexist with printed books, and so our reading and writing skills need to become more complex as texts mutate and crossbreed. While more critical attention has been paid to hypertext experiments with narrative and poetry, hypertext can also change argumentative and expository prose, as these coexist differently with their print brethren. Hypertext can be used to make argument structures evident. For instance, maps and outlines can clarify argumentative lines, stretches of argument can be separated yet linked, spaces can be provided for backing and sub-arguments, typed links can indicate rhetorical “moves,” annotation tools can offer directed questioning, and so on. There are problems to be worked out in software design, but, presuming good tools were developed for presenting argument structures, the question would remain: what would we want to do with those tools? This talk outlined a project that was later reported on in “Twin Media: Hypertext Structure Under Pressure” at the 2004 ACM Hypertext Conference.
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