Hypertext '08: Session 4: Hypertext, Culture, and Communication

Chair: Mark Bernstein (Eastgate Systems, USA)

Information Flows and
Social Capital in Weblogs: A Case Study in the Brazilian Blogosphere
(Long Paper)


Qualitative study. Perception is that bloggers are just wasting time, but people have strong personal reasons for blogging. Went quickly through the obligatory background slide… I wonder that this audience might include so many quantitative researchers that she might have spent a bit of time explaining more about ethnography. Again, I’m used to scholarship with a long discursive introduction, so I always feel out of place when presenters rush through their introduction. I’m generally far more intersted in the related research and the motiations for study than in the mechanics of the model, but that’s a feature of my disciplinary training.

Ethnographic study of very personal connections in a small web network of Brazillian bloggers.  Motives for blogging include creating personal identity, social interaction.  Popularity is a strong draw; getting more comments, being the center of a network; a blog is a “publicity strategy”

Age range 15-50 years. Some 32 of [did she say 40 some?] bloggers in the community responded.  Tracked “interaction memes” (everyone does it; publish the meme to belong) and “informational memes” (an opportunity to create authority and popularity by being the first to post a meme).

Interaction memes — send a questionnaire or the equivalent of a chain letter, bond with your gorup by answering these questions creatively.

This is different from publishing information that there’s a new online journal or YouTube link — these kinds of links aren’t repeated.

Interactional memes are connected to creating a personal space. Informational memes are connecting to creating authority and knowledge. What social capital does the blogger want?

Interactional memes — visibility, interaction, social spupprt. (Relatively more emphais on maintaining new ties.) [This is about modding and mutating the meme, so that it maintains its novelty, not passing it along.]

Informational memes —  visibility, reputation, popularity, authority. Bridging (creating new ties) rather than maintaining and strengthening existing ones. [It’s likely that bloggers who regularly come up with new ideas probably have at least some “long” connections with people who aren’t tightly connected within their groups.]

Making Revisions Hyper-Visible (Short Paper)
David Kolb

14 years ago, published “Socrates in the Labyrinth.”  How do you revise a hypertext?  Mentioned some philosophers who published retractions and revisions; scholars publish both versions.  Notes that Auden and other poets revised their works when collecting them for many reasons, both internal and external.

Revising literary works and revising expository or argumentative works. Consider that Joyce revised “afternoon, a story” — if you mark them they seem like part of the text. There are very few reasons to emphasize revisions in a literary hypertext. In an argumentative work, you might make those revisions and the reasons for them explicit.

Not just the revised text, but also the meta-comments about the work.

Print — you have two volumes, with the later one footnoting the earlier one. The new version generally replaces the old version, since print operates on an economy of scarcity. Hypertext has an economy of abundance.  Wikipedia and Word hide the revisions. In hypertext, you will link the old and new versions. You could leave the old structure and add notes. But a significant update would include new links; the revision will embrace the original (or large parts thereof) but add complexity.

Revision of an argumentative hypertext will lead to a new hypertext with an more elaborate link pattern. [I’m following this closely because I’m working on the development of the map to Colossal Cave Adventure, and all this talk about nodes and paths is sparking lots of ideas.]

Why revise hyper-visibly? Helps scholars clarify what was meant; helps readers identify the changes; helps readers judge whether the changes are useful; provides more chance for the author and reader to think together about the issues.

Audience comment: This is a subset of a more general problem — we don’t have rich enough object models in which the objects were all accessible in versions, this problem would go away. [I can’t help but think again of the variable implementations of Douglas Adams’ H2G2 — TV show, radio play, IF game, movie…]

Audience comment: When we change words we often intend to change the whole work [but the example was poetry, rather than David’s example of expository.]

We’re All Stars Now:
Reality Television, Web 2.0, and Mediated Identities
(Short Paper)
Michael A. Stefanone and Derek Lackaff

Derek began by echoing Raquel’s paper. Why would someone post the cursed rabbit confessioal meme? What happens to identity when it gets mediated. Invoked the post-coporality promised by Turkle and others. [I’m reminded of My Tiny Life, where Dibbell notes that the best writers got the most virtual “action” — while people were no longer limited by their bodies, the were, in a textual environment, defined by their ability to write. I think it was insightful for a writer like DIbbell to percive that a world that doles out rewards according to writing talent is really no more fair than a world that rewards looks or riches.]

Reality TV recently voted 2nd worst invention of all time, but it’s very popuar. Rise of Web 2.0 represents ability of people to participate. [I note that “youtubing” has entered the lexicon… ]

Observational learning — requires a model, a learnable behavior, and a context that conduces people to model behavior. [Reminds me of the Frontline video, “Merchants of Cool,” that tracks trends through the various forces that combine to manage what the “mooks” and “midriffs” of the world think are cool.]

Hyphotheses — Reality TV consumption related to time spent on social networking sites, breadth of networks including online only friends, and photos shared online. Asked participants to self-report.

People who watch TV news, fiction, documentaries has little effect on network size, connectness, or photo sharing; rate of watching Reality TV is significant.

Takeaway – we have empirical links between traditional media consumption (watching TV) and the “really cool things that are going on online.”  Definite change in the understanding of social space. People talking about the social networks that they’re part of in new ways. Having an identity online is increasingly banal.

Look at specific media genres — not TV as a whole, but what kind of TV being watched. [The reality TV genre really got its start during a writers strike in 1989. COPS, Americas Funniest Vidoes… also a resurgence of sitcoms based on figures who could provide their own content, such as Roseanne Barr, Tim Allen… probably building on the success of The Cosby Show.]

Future directions — attention as power, validity of articulate network structures.

Audience comment: Note that professionals and academics put up lots of information about themselves; we do a different kind of self-promotion, but is it really different from youth social networking?

Response: The scale of social networking sites is greater… novel in the scope.

Mark noted that it could be social networking that gets people interested in reality TV.

The Revenge of the
(Long Paper)
David Kolb

The little paper on revision you heard a little while ago was the paper he had intended to write… the issue of complexity began as a footnote, then became an appendix.  The dream was complexly linked hypertexts with long, complicated hyperlinks; patterns of links that demand rereading and demanding contemplation beyond the boundaries of the next link.

Quote from Mark B invoking the concept of complex linking… Moulthrop’s Victory Garden. Complex literary effects to be achieved from this idea.

14 years later, “Let’s face it, there aren’t very many complex hypertexts like that.”

Wikipedia’s links are all single-step links, going from one self-contained mini-essay to another; links are “you want more information? Here’s some more.”

Reality: Google Analytics looks at Kolb’s own example of a complex hypertext: Kolb’s Sprawling Places. [I have got to follow up on this for my work on Colossal Cave.]

Kolb notes that Google Images is sending most of his visitors attracted by words in photo captions. Almost nobody visited a large number of pages. Most people navigate through the site by clicking the menu bars rather than the inline links.

Trivial number of people encountered his text in the way he hoped reading would develop. Does it make sense to continue to support the idea of expository and argumentative texts with complex linking patterns.

There are some assertions that can’t be made well in a single page; understanding of some concepts requires complexity. [I would add that complex sites can also meet the needs of multiple users, giving newbies a way to explore unfamiliar terms, and advanced users more depth, generalists more breadth, etc.]

The page metaphor — we expect a page to contain a little mini self-contained essay. We browse things we expect to be relatively self-sufficient. Web-writing tools are optimized for the creation of pages. The link becomes the link between pages rather than part of a chain of links.

But there’s a deeper reason. Node and link hypertext itself is one node at a time. We expect one node to replace the other. Maybe we need to do more than we’ve done if we want complexity. Maybe hypertext is more than nodes and links.

Collage/montage? Make the individual pages more complex. You could use the collage effect of a page to create complexity within the page.  Pages are becoming more than pages — embedded rich media.

You might also make more than one node visible. You can have a web page spawn another window, but that’s seldom done.

Replace complexity of linkage with complexity of spatial juxtaposition. [That’s a return to the model of the highly annotated illuminated medieval manuscript.]

More sophistication in the relationship between tet and graphics. Images aren’t simple illustration. [That’s an interesting connection to the idea about links..  an image that merely illustrates is like a Wikipedia link that simply offers more information. A link can also offer an alternative opinion, provide context, refute opposition, etc.]

layertennis.com — color commentary on two graphic artists competing with each other to generate images in the same file on different layers. The play of images and text is a way to bring complexity into web habits of reading.

Audience comment: Shocked that the invention of the web browser is a done deal and there’s not much else to do with hypertext.  The web browser chains hypertexts in the same way that the book when it was first invented was chained to the wall. [But hold on… the illuminated medieval manuscript was chained to the wall because the value of the labor and materials that went into the production of that book was probably higher than the value of the building to which the book was chained. How does the “browser as chained book” metaphor map to the present information economy? The pen that’s chained to the desk in the bank isn’t there to prevent people from writing, it’s there so that people who are in the bank can count on having a pen there for them to use.   I don’t see the chianed book reference hanigng together beyond a surface analogy that the medum of the browser is like a chain, but the chained public book was chained so that more people could consult the book and not hide it in their private collection.]