Sixteen students completed my Spring 2003 section of Web Authoring. The final projects for the course ranged from transparent essays produced as hypertexts to experimental sites that challenged readers' expectations of the essay through hybridity (Hocks, 2003). Many students opted for conventional linear presentations, while others attempted to push nonlinearity as far as they could by building multilinear hypertexts (Kolb, 1994; Landow, 1997). No matter the approach on these dimensions, each author sought to develop a content-driven design. The four different models of academic hypertexts discussed in this section provide some sense of the range of hypertext projects.
James' hypertext on the U.S. Government's Total Information Awareness (TIA) office is an academic essay with the appearance of a web resource with comprehensive information on the TIA program. At the other end of the "transparency" spectrum, Karin's hypertext on pop art genuinely disrupts readers' expectations for both an academic essay and a website.
Both Chris and Christine represent authors whose hypertexts exemplify how closely one might bring together essay content and web design. Chris' hypertext on operating systems and open source (particularly Linux) includes layout and navigation that reproduce the look and feel of operating system interfaces. Christine's essay on The Beatles builds navigation into both a mock playlist of Beatles album covers and an audio player "skin" that permits the reader to opt for a more linear experience of the essay.
The clean, professional-looking execution of Chris' and James' designs was really only possible because both authors entered the course with significant experience in HTML, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Macromedia Flash, and Adobe Photoshop. While their web development work was among the cleanest in the course, it is interesting that these authors' hypertexts lean heavily in the direction of either a linear (Chris) or a nonlinear (James) structure.
In contrast, both Christine and Karin came into the course with little or no experience in HTML or web development. Both authors pushed themselves to (and beyond) their limits in terms of technical ability. This work resulted in two academic hypertexts that bring content and design, image and text, and a multilinear essay together into a complete package. The edges are rough in places, particularly in the area of image editing. But these visible imperfections in execution are more than overcome by the overall power of the projects as examples of the possibilities for academic hypertext. These authors might have settled for cleaner and more straightforward designs, as Shauf (2001) counsels. But a safer approach would not have yielded models of academic hypertext as rich as these.
& #808080: Hypertext Theory and WebDev in the Composition Classroom
Michael J. Cripps, York College, City University of New York