Eastgate Systems     Serious Hypertext

The Problem with the "Navigation Problem"

Today, concern with navigational clarity and efficiency often dominates discussion of Web design. The same concerns once dominated hypertext research, and many systems builders once feared that readers would find hypertexts unwieldy and unmanageable.

In time, the research consensus shifted. As designers and writers gained experience, their hypertexts gained fluidity and fluency. My own early work concentrated on new tools for orienting readers: bookmarks, compasses, and bread crumbs (the ancestor of links that change color when you visit their destinations) all helped readers stay oriented. In time, however, I observed that fiction writers often adopted very elaborate gambits in order to disorient readers; if hypertext disorientation was an ever-present hazard, I asked, why was it so difficult to achieve? At the same time, George Landow began to argue that scholars and teachers often need to induce a measure of disorientation in order to make readers receptive to new arguments and difficult ideas.

Navigation is not a problem. All writers need to hone transitions, to craft arguments, and to discover fresh ways to present difficult ideas. Links need not be treated as dangerous hazards; links are new opportunities for expression.

Garden: Beyond Navigation

The Navigation Problem ...and Beyond

Bernstein, Mark. "The Bookmark and the Compass: Orientation Tools for Hypertext Users." SIGOIS Journal 9.1988 (1988): 34-45.

Bernstein, Mark. "The Navigation Problem Reconsidered." Hypertext/Hypermedia Handbook. Ed. E. Berk and J. Devlin. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991. 285-297.

Landow, George P. Relationally Encoded Links and the Rhetoric of Hypertext. Hypertext 87. Chapel Hill: Association for Computing Machinery, 1987. 331-344.

Landow, George P. "Popular Fallacies about Hypertext." Designing Hypertext/Hypermedia for Learning. Ed. David J. Jonassen and Heinz Mandl. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 1990.

Glushko, R.J. Design Issues for Multi-Document Hypertexts. Hypertext'89. Pittsburgh: 1989. 51-60.

Lanham, Richard A. The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Utting, K., and Nicole Yankelovich. "Context and orientation in hypermedia networks." ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems 7.1 (1989): 58-84.

Moulthrop, Stuart. "Beyond the Electronic Book: A Critique of Hypertext Rhetoric". Hypertext'91. San Antonio: 1991. 291-298

Brown, Peter J. "Do we need maps to navigate round hypertext documents?" Electronic Publishing -- Organization, Dissemination and Design 2.2 (1989): 91-100.

Kolb, David. Socrates in the Labyrinth: Hypertext, Argument, Philosophy. Watertown, Massachusetts: Eastgate Systems, Inc., 1994.

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