Hypertextuality lies at the very core of the World Wide Web, and it is by which it becomes possible to navigate through the a vast web of nodes, which are text-segments. Information is linked from a pointer (what we click) via a link to a node. The links are invisible, and you click on pointers to access different nodes which can be web pages and such.
Brickley’s (2010) photo illustrates, analogously and brilliantly, how texts are connected to one another. If you click the photo you will be directed to his Flickr page, since I changed the URL of the link in an attempt to credit his work of art in an even thorougher fashion than a textual reference can aspire to accomplish. Clicks will boost his statistics.
Non-digital vs digital hypertext
Non-digital texts could have some hypertext qualities. When we read a newspaper we might find a page number of an article we are interested in on the front page, and then go ahead and open the respective page. On the web, however, everything is connected through hypertext at some level. The web might sometimes appear as a labyrinth, but without a specific beginning or end, considering how everything is interconnected.
Internal vs external links
The links that are created from this page to the two respective Flickr pages are called external links, since they lead to different websites. The links that are created under the topic “Collaborative writing” are by contrast internal links, seeing as they lead to the same WordPress site (in this case).
Hypertexts and digital texts in the classroom
Students of the 21st century are familiar in handling masses of information, and have perhaps developed strategies that are unfamiliar to older users, since the time of exposure is often at an earlier age. Students may be familiar with sharing posts and content through social media. Not all, however, are used to write texts where they deliberately and consciously link to pages by marking text, image or icon.
Hypertext and critical digital competence
I have earlier written posts about Wikipedia in the classroom where I focussed on the importance of critical digital competence. I had a hands-on experience in the classroom where students systematically altered Wikipedia articles and proved my point. I believe that collaborative writing where students engage in joint text production using hypertext could increase their critical digital competence. This could be done by using for instance Wikispaces. Encouraging students to link to one another’s wiki-pages as well as external links to useful information could deepen their understanding of how the web works.
Hypertext and multimodality:
Kulbrandstad (2001) discusses the importance of an awareness of hypertext at the Lower Secondary level. He writes about the project HYPTUNG (“Hypertekst i ungdomstrinnet” / “Hypertext at the Lower Secondary level”) in his report that has the title “From woolen threads to hyper links”. The analogy is in line with Brickley’s (2010) photo. He argues for a creative approach to working with hypertexts in the classroom: “Work with hypertext in the classroom, thus, has to give students the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills in what is called web design or screen aesthetics” (p. 14; my translation).
In keeping with Kulbrandstad’s ideas about combining hypertext and multimodality, I think it could be a very useful idea to initiate group project work on wikipages. Students create their own wikis and work with a specific topic, where there is a focus on making hypertexts, and linking, in particular to their fellow students’ pages. When their project is finished, a cross-curricular activity is carried out where for instance Arts and Crafts is combined with English. Students make representations of their wikipages in keeping with Brickley’s illustrative photo, and Kulbrandstad’s ideas about woolen threads. Students will be given feedback along the way, and are assessed at the end of the project. At this point, a focus on hypertext will be emphasised.