Exploring (the poetics of) strange (and fractal) hypertexts

Authors: Hargood, C., Davies, R., Millard, D., Taylor, M. and Brooker, S.

Start date: June 2012

The ACM Hypertext conference has a rich history of challenging the node-link hegemony of the web. At Hypertext 2011 Pisarski [12] suggested that to refocus on nodes in hypertext might unlock a new poetics, and at Hypertext 2001 Bernstein [3] lamented the lack of strange hypertexts: playful tools that experiment with hypertext structure and form. As part of the emerging Strange Hypertexts community project we have been exploring a number of exotic hypertext tools, and in this paper we set out an early experiment with media and creative writing undergraduates to see what effect one particular form -- Fractal Narratives, a hypertext where readers drill down into text in a reoccurring pattern -- would have on their writing. In this particular trial, we found that most students did not engage in the structure from a storytelling point of view, although they did find value from a planning point of view. Participants conceptually saw the value in non-linear storytelling but few exploited the fractal structure to actually do this. Participant feedback leads us to conclude that while new poetics do emerge from strange hypertexts, this should be viewed as an ongoing process that can be reinforced and encouraged by designing tools that highlight and support those emerging poetics in a series of feedback loops, and by providing writing contexts where they can be highlighted and collaboratively explored.

This source preferred by Charlie Hargood

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Authors: Hargood, C., Millard, D.E., Taylor, M.R., Davies, R. and Brooker, S.

Journal: HT'12 - Proceedings of 23rd ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media

Pages: 181-185

ISBN: 9781450313353

DOI: 10.1145/2309996.2310027

The ACM Hypertext conference has a rich history of challenging the node-link hegemony of the web. At Hypertext 2011 Pisarski [12] suggested that to refocus on nodes in hypertext might unlock a new poetics, and at Hypertext 2001 Bernstein [3] lamented the lack of strange hypertexts: playful tools that experiment with hypertext structure and form. As part of the emerging Strange Hypertexts community project we have been exploring a number of exotic hypertext tools, and in this paper we set out an early experiment with media and creative writing undergraduates to see what effect one particular form - Fractal Narratives, a hypertext where readers drill down into text in a reoccurring pattern - would have on their writing. In this particular trial, we found that most students did not engage in the structure from a storytelling point of view, although they did find value from a planning point of view. Participants conceptually saw the value in non-linear storytelling but few exploited the fractal structure to actually do this. Participant feedback leads us to conclude that while new poetics do emerge from strange hypertexts, this should be viewed as an ongoing process that can be reinforced and encouraged by designing tools that highlight and support those emerging poetics in a series of feedback loops, and by providing writing contexts where they can be highlighted and collaboratively explored. Copyright 2012 ACM.

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