Network of Topics


Bolter argues that hypertext supports writing because it allows writers to create and maintain a network of topics.

Keep in mind: We don't only write in words, but write in statements within topics.

As a work progresses, the writer creates topics, connects them, arranges them, rearranges them into a network of topics. The writer creates, links, trims, establishes a structure.

In short form, Writers write (so we're told) associatively: one word leads to another, one idea leads to another - and "even if he or she begins with and remains faithful to an outline, the result is always a network of verbal elements" (277).

In the world of print, the writer might seek to create a single, strict hierarchy: every word | point | topic in exactly the right place. The printed page is a good medium for writing this way because it holds the structure in place.

But associative elements within the text define alternative possible orders - and alternative possible orders is what the computer - hypertext - supports.

(At one level, handling multiple orders isn't particularly new -

- but this is a rarity and was formulated carefully as part of the composing. Hypertext offers MalleabilityOfHypertext.)

And so, Bolter writes
the outline and tree... can become [a] network.... If all texts are ultimately networks of verbal elements, the computer is the first medium that can record and present these networks to writers and readers (277).

This means that there can be multiple paths through a hypertext, none of which is necessarily canonical. Bolter:
Every path defines an equally convincing and appropriate reading, and in that simple fact the reader's relationship to the text changes radically. The text as a network has no univocal sense; it is a multiplicity without the imposition of a principle of domination. (280)

Which certainly changes the role of the author, too. The writer becomes an AuthorAsPathMaker.

But now we can define WhatIsAHypertext.
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