Adlt 641-6: “The new punctuation mark-the “hyperlink”

I was always the kind of kid who loved projects.  Three dimensional objects, posters and models that accompanied a traditional report made my academic heart sing.  Reports were almost always just one or two pages in length.  Our preferred method of research in the 1970’s consisted of The World Book Encyclopedia. Every child wished for a complete set of these books as ownership was the pinnacle of academic success for each home.  Imagine my surprise to find that for just $699 I could order the 2013 set of books for my middle school child!   Which choice should I could make? Invest the money in a laptop, which leads to unlimited knowledge with the click of a link, or purchase a set of books with limited connections?  Hum…hum…what is a concerned parent to do?

If I purchase the books, I will follow a time honored tradition of placing this colorful set at my son’s disposal.  A set of encyclopedias from 1974 occupy a shelf in the home of a family friend.  On several occasions my son has been welcome to use them for homework.  They were good enough for those of my generation, but are now far from adequate for those of my son’s generation. I decline the offer without offense. I ponder how to explain that the concept of knowledge, as proposed by David Weinberger, does not reside in the paper medium.

Traditional research has consisted of endless hours of study using traditional peer reviewed journals and books.  The idea that when a theory was reiterated in numerous publications by many well-known scholars that the idea must indeed be a truth worthy of use in my research. These endless loops of sameness made it challenging for me to determine how and when to interject theories that looked different from what I had read.  Each scholar’s work reverberated producing a chamber that initially fit the pattern of research taught.  If I read widely on one topic, I would begin to wonder if each of the scholars organized a retreat prior to publication. I imagine that the sole purpose of meeting would be to agree upon a similar way in which to state the same ideas over and over.

One of the most exciting and intellectually liberating aspects of reading on-line is the power of the hyperlink!  Traditional punctuation directs my reading and thinking.  I know when to begin, where to pause and when an idea concludes or changes. Weinberger contends that links are the opposite of stopping points.  They invite me to continue the idea, to explore more fully or to consider how a network of ideas could be in contention with one another.

In the “World According to Wallace”, the idea of connectedness is explored first mathematically and then relationally.  If an algorithm can explain how individuals could be linked in six steps, then perhaps these networks of people could lead to networks of ideas.  While ideas may at times be in contention, as is explored through one blogger’s dissonance with technology, it can also be a bond that fuses nodes together! Hyperlinks lend authenticity to both my writing and that of my peers.  An individual point-of-view, how a classmates evaluates information from readings and what he cares about is evidenced through writing. Blog reflections and hyperlinks support the ideas of the writer and arouse the curiosity of the reader.   The time that I engage in reading blogs provides a echo chamber of sorts through which ideas reverberate.  While reading blogs, I question how the writer’s ideas fit both the readings and research with my own ideas.  Each time I hyperlink to a new resource, I recognize that in order to understand the unfamiliar, I must first absorb it into the familiar.


18 thoughts on “Adlt 641-6: “The new punctuation mark-the “hyperlink”

  1. SWOON. I must confess…I love encyclopedias. There’s just something about that heavy, multi-textured volume in my hands that does my heart good. 🙂 Before we interacted with technology and the internet, we had a very close, physical relationship with books. I think people sometimes forget how interactive books really are! But I totally understand your point– why spend $700 on a set of “bound” encyclopedias (pun fully intended) when a laptop with internet access offers an infinite sea of information and resources for learning? As you point out, the power of the hyperlink is profound when it comes to education. And I love the idea of hyperlink as the “new punctuation mark”- so true! Great post!!


    1. I couldn’t agree with you more, Jess. Books are my constant companions…they are piled in nearly every corner of my home. I just wonder what becomes of reference books, like encyclopedias, them when they are considered out-of-date? I struggle with the concept of links for works of fiction. I know that I read a book with a laptop so that I can have a visual of the setting for the novel. I find it interesting when an author provides the reader with details that surround the creation of the book-location, setting for writing, music that inspired the author, localities where characters ate or interacted with the community. The next book club for the art docents is void of illustrations so the individual who is leading the talk has photocopied illustrations, which indicates that hyperlinks are useful for some readers. (I’ll need to provide an in-service regarding how we can post them to our art blog!) This is a topic that I am sure is discussed regularly at ALA conferences!


  2. I agree that the hyperink to websites, blogs, etc. opens up so many instant avenues to broader information. Sometimes it is brand new, sometimes counter to our line of thinking , and often supporting our prior knowledge base. The key to this “info playground” is source evaluation. As an educator, I think we can do a better job teaching applicable skills, and it is our charge to do so. Ending on that note, I just want to say that I held my breath reading your entry, hoping you were not going to spend $699 on the encyclopedia set. I love books; their weight, pages, covers, colors, textures, fonts, illustrations, and the rest of their physicality has always enamored me (its a love affair) But the set has boundaries; why impose limits? Breathe out…


    1. Aah…Terry, we have the same love affair with books! Remember how much fun it was to pick up a Scholastic Book Order from the office? You’d be accosted as you’d come down the hall. Scholastic book fair was even more exciting, yes? No worries..we purchased a lap top for Hunter several years ago. We most certainly can do a better job as teachers helping students to understand the power of the “hyperlink”, but that would mean that the evil powers that be need to relinquish the awful standards of learning! Ha! We won’t go there as we have already exploded over that topic numerous times!

      P.S. Where is your blog complete with your wonderful photographs? Hum….


  3. When reading online resources, I often find myself thinking “dated” is anything more than a year old. I have this notion that if something is pre-2011 then there is a more updated version elsewhere on the web. But I also grew up with encyclopedias and never minded if they were a few years old. Have you found this at all? Do you think the continuous flow of information has changed perception to either validate or discredit a resource? Do/can web “classics” exist?


    1. You’ve asked some interesting questions, Lindsey, that would be interesting to explore. I have begun to wonder about the idea of “dated” media as well. In some disciplines, the older the research the less valid it seems becomes. I ask this question each time I read something for class. I immediately look at the copyright date. I found myself at odds with research when conducting the independent project for Adlt 601. How old is ole? I’ve been in research situations where a reviewer frowned upon work that was not up-to-date. I wonder what the author of my book, David Weinberger might say about outdated links? Something to chew on for awhile….


      1. As a side note to this, I recently clicked on a link and was re-directed to the wayback machine for the Internet arhives. When we speak of web “classics”, I definitely think there are some web related content that will be remembered fondly even if their information is no longer valid. Remember the sounds that AOL used to make (“You’ve Got Mail!” and the modem noises as your 56K modem connected to the itnernet)? Those are certainly classics at this point… 😉


      2. Aah…yes…remember those awful noises? I used the Wayback machine when looking for Julie Powell’s Blog (i.e. Julia and Julie Movie) and was pleased to find it. It is exciting to see each new tool emerge on the web. I imagine that Web 3.0 will surface in the future.


  4. Thanks LSNiestrath for an intriguing and thought provoking post! The network of ideas certainly gives credance to the theory of connectivism, and the imagery of fusing nodes together brought that home for me. I wonder how long it will take for the 2D web 2.0 to become a 3D world that we can move through. Web 3.0 anyone?


  5. As always, thanks Laurie for a thought provoking blog. I too, love the look, smell and feel of books but am willing to trade them for the world I have discovered in “hyperlinks”. Like Katerine, I wonder what is to come with Web 3.0. Can we imagine?


  6. Very interesting blog. I too remember the sought-after “encyclopedias” and my parents and myself wanting a set of the coveted books to sit on my shelf. I wonder how much the paper versions are used today in the public libraries of America? Relatedly, it may be that bookstores too are not as vital today as of old for the same reason — some have even closed. They are being used more for their wifi access, coffee, and a place to socialize. Delivery of information — something to think about.


    1. The idea of the bookstore as a place for information to be delivered is an interesting one, Debbie. I have wondered about the future of the traditional bookstore, however, I live in a town where there are an abundance of small, independent bookstores. I use Barnes and Noble on-line for books that I need to order because of the discount that I receive. I use the public library with regularity because of the convenience of their on-line database. I love looking for books that I learn about through blogs or articles, I place a reserve and voila, I receive an electronic message and they arrive.


  7. First of all – you can really still buy a set of encyclopedias? Are they for decoration or actual education? Does the paper set come with some kind of membership to an online tool or resource? I love your proposal of a hyperlink being a form of punctuation and totally agree. I wonder how long before technology allows us to scan a hyperlink on a physical print out (like an QR code).


    1. Yes, Rhett, you can still purchase a set of World Book Encyclopedias! (Maybe this was rhetorical, Rhett?) You’ve asked several good questions that would require me to look at the link more carefully. A scan for each entry is an interesting idea, providing that the individual who purchases the set has a smart phone and understands how to use the app. However, this idea sounds like far too much work, but would show an effort on the part of the company to provide a larger network for the reader. Links tempt the reader/researcher to learn more, to become part of a much larger network of research. David Weinberger says that the last word is now never the last word. I wonder if this would be a threat to the writers and researchers of WB? More later…


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