Is Hyperlinking a Trap?

It was not until I had the class that I realized how hyperlinking has affected our routine of reading or interpretation of a text.

From the book chapter three, the author mentioned that:

“When we use links in this way they create associations, often implicitly suggesting a relationship between linked texts. If you think about it, the same thing happens when you put two sentences next to each other in print (for example. “He’s been behaving very oddly lately. He’s in love.” Here the second sentence implicitly stands in a relation that could be implied by a link. “And he gave some examples of the relationship between the hyperlink and the content.

What the author wrote here has given me a blink: How should we interpret the meaning of hypertext in different content?  During the class, there was a discussion about the following diagram of association between a few terms:

In this association cycle, I inferred that Lady Gaga was put into the prison because of taking drugs, while she might join a Rockn’ roll Wedding party in the vocation. Different stories came out from other classmates. I think this is a good example which can tells us the power of hyperlinking and the relation between the text and the external source can be inferred by the readers.

A subtle bias is often introduced by the writer through the choice of links, like the example of “Second Life Bans Gambling Following FBI Investigation”. Hypertext is not a thing we can get rid of, what we can do is learning to read critically. According to the educational theorist Nicholas Burbuls (1998), he suggested that we should always ask ourselves these questions:

What associations does the writer make?

What association does the writer not make?

What assumptions do these (non-)association reveal?

The lesson is inspiring, because I am (not only me of course) so used to read hypertext that I seldom think about how the links have shaped our mind. This lesson has reminded me of Marshell Mcluhan saying “Media is the extension of man”. While a new technology extend certain parts of us, they amputate other parts. All tools bring with them different kinds of affordances and constraints. Hyperlink ling is a cool thing that whenever we met something like “Opps, I don’t know what it is!” we can check it out immediately. That’s mean we don’t need to find every single unknowns from the dictionary, newspaper, encyclopedia, textbooks. Take Mathew’s blog as an example:

In Matthew’s blog, he claimed that hyperlink had something to do with plagiarism and he made use of the news which is about the column writer was suspected to copy the other’s work. The phrases or short sentences that are in blue colour are linked to for plagiarism / escaped from a hefty defamation lawsuit /discovered that a large chunk written by Jill Lepore/said they found no evidence he had duplicated information from a number of sources these are all linked to the websites which are relevant to the news. Readers who are not familiar with this topic can click the links for references. They can even compare the two column posts to decide whether plagiarism existed. And they can read about the review from New York Times and CNN to get more information about the writers.

In this part, Matthew pointed out that without citing the original source properly will bring out the problem of stealing ideas from the creator. To support his argument, firstly, he hyperlinked a twit: he said plagiarism. Secondly, he quoted the definition of plagiarism: Plagiarism is defined . Thirdly, he made reference to his previous blog about social media: has exploded thanks to social tools.In the later part of his post, he mentioned about the differences between the traditional media and new media, such as blogs, he also included a few links.

Despite of making use of his blog as an example for the affordances of hyperlink, his thought about the great defense provided by hyperlink is worth to be mentioned here. He wrote “David Weinberger, co-author of the seminal book The Cluetrain Manifesto and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, argued in a post about the journalistic principle of objectivity that “Objectivity is a trust mechanism you rely on when your medium can’t do links.” In other words, when you have the ability to link to the information that supports your conclusions, it’s easier to get away with being subjective, because readers are able to follow the links and decide for themselves whether you are credible.”

While Nicolas Carr argued that reading hypertext may be compromising our ability to read conventional texts and follow arguments, I partly agree with what Matthew said about the links, as the more we read, the more we know about the truth. At the same time, we should be careful of the link choice, as they may reflect the bias from the writer. We need to learn more about how digital media work and how to organize data, so that the most useful data will become information and turn into knowledge. I think it’s the same thing with hyperlinks, we can’t avoid it but we can read and think critically so as to be an objective media user.

Matthew’s blog :


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