Eastgate Systems      Serious Hypertext

Missing Link

At times, a hypertext may suggest the presence of a link that does not, in fact, exist. For example, Stuart Moulthrop, reviewing Forward Anywhere [54], describes his hunt for a link that his reading of the hypertext led him to expect:

At this point I began to think the two "nightmare" passages must be connected by a hypertext link, so I launched the reading program and made my way to Malloy's screen about the freight trains of yesteryear.... there were many links to other screens, mainly screens written by Marshall (this alternation of narrators is prevalent throughout the work). None of the links I followed, however, brought me to Marshall's vignette about LBJ and the headless doll....
For those less in love with bindings, however, this case of the apparently missing link may tell a different story. As Forward Anywhere brilliantly demonstrates, hypertexts are structured in more dimensions than the line. If a link is not apparent it may be implicit. [60]

Allusion, iteration, and ellipsis can all suggest a Missing Link. Structural irregularity, introduced in a context where regular structure has been established, presents an especially powerful Missing Link, for a place to which we cannot navigate may seem, by its inaccessibility, uniquely attractive. Harpold and Joyce have argued separately that the Missing Link is a common if not universal hypertext motif, that navigational choice requires the reader to imagine not only what might appear on the chosen page but also what might have appeared had she followed a different link [36][39].

Navigational Feint

The Feint establishes the existence of a navigational opportunity that is not meant to be followed immediately; instead, the Feint informs the reader of possibilities that may be pursued in the future. By revealing navigational opportunities even where they may not be immediately pursued, a hypertext writer conveys valuable information about the scope of the hypertext or about the organization of the ideas that underlie it.

Feints often appear in the guise of navigational apparatus. For example, a hypertext may begin with a map or table of contents that provides an overview of the entire work and provides direct access to selected places within the hypertext. While the navigational function is not unimportant, the rhetorical importance of the overview itself should not be overlooked.

Feints may help establish what the hypertext omits.

Prominent and detailed navigational Feints are especially useful for establishing the scope and shape of a hypertext. Just as important, Feints may help establish what the hypertext omits. Notice that the feint need not always be strictly accurate; it is sometimes useful to deliver more than what was initially promised. For example, the classic HyperCard 1.0 Help [5] presented a thumbtab overview that suggested to new readers that instructions on programming were only a minor part of the hypertext; readers who might be deterred from using a complex product were reassured that programming appeared to be a minor feature. In fact, over half of the hypertext was devoted to a programming reference manual. The navigational feint on the cover concealed this from programming-averse users, while those who wanted to consult the programming section were pleasantly surprised by its unheralded scope.

Moulthrop's Victory Garden opens (in some readings) with garden maps that schematize the narrative [59]. The core narrative in Kathryn Cramer's "In Small & Large Pieces" [18] is epitomized in episode outlines, cryptic epigrammatic lists that begin each narrative section and that lend the central narrative an apparent order and regularity that contrasts sharply with the disorder of the story's Mirrorworld.

Navigation Feint, a common pattern for Web pages

Figure 3: a typical Web page in which a uniform navigational frame encloses topical content.

Stephanie Strickland's True North [73] and J. Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing" [22] use utilitarian Storyspace maps as unconventional Feints: the layout of lexia simultaneously describes a structure and illustrates a central motif.

A map from True North; more than navigation

Figure 4: True North's Storyspace map

In addition to their utility as introductory and framing devices, Feints may form a recurrent motif throughout the hypertext's structure. Spatial narratives like Myst [57] offer navigational feints in the form of doorways, structures, and other pathways that intersect the reader's route; here, Feints signal possible openings for new narratives, roads the reader-protagonist may later choose to travel.

Artful use of feints may also manage dramatic tension through foreshadowing

In narrative, navigational feints can establish spatial and temporal relationships without interrupting the narrative strand. By establishing a conventional link type -- for example, an icon denoting "link to a simultaneous event occurring elsewhere" -- a narrator can clarify and interconnect disparate events without interrupting the topic under discussion. Artful use of feints may also manage dramatic tension through foreshadowing: if we provide a link from Alice and Herschel's inauspicious first meeting in a Tulsa oncology clinic to the birth of their daughter in Stockholm, the knowledge gained from the existence of the link sets up undercurrents of expectation and inquiry off which the rest of the narrative may play. By disclosing some parts of the future we may refocus the reader's attention and shift tension from one dramatic thread to another, or may shift energy from wondering how events unfold to permit better concentration on why they unfold as they do [43][30][6].

The Feint is also important in the design of hypertextual catalogs. As department stores discovered long ago, it is important both to offer the shopper a comprehensive array of desirable goods and to arrange those goods to form a coherent and compelling trajectory as the customer moves through the store. At its best, this provides efficiencies for both the shopper and the store: shoppers discover items they want to buy but might otherwise have overlooked, and the store gains additional transactions without incurring additional marketing costs. Catalogs similarly benefit from appropriate interconnection and by providing useful Feints en route to the object of desire [68]. By indicating the presence of other relevant items, the hypertext catalog can increase its efficiency without inconveniencing or delaying the reader.

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