Living in hypertext without understanding what it is – the new era

Literary hypertext - by Hava Ritter Cohen“Living in hypertext” is the description of my site and is also my engagement in recent years. Everyone who asks me about my doctoral dissertation expresses astonishment when I explain it is about literary hypertext, immediately asking what it is. Literary hypertext has to do with literature and computers. To be more precise, it is writing/reading literature using computers. The wonder stems from the common concept that literature is a humanistic field, while computer science is an exact field; computers are engaged in precise calculations, hence their name. In contrast, literature deals with imaginary worlds, emotions, deeds, and especially with people and events. There’s stress between the two fields, as one comes from exact Sciences and the other stems from humanities.

Academic research has two research methods; thus, it is a prominent example of the relationship between the two. One research method is quantitative, statistically based, and the other is qualitative, from the word quality and is descriptive. Who picked these names is a question by itself. Without understanding which is which, I will choose quality over quantity, anytime! We encounter quantitative research in everyday life: in surveys and questionnaires. The quantitative analysis looks for regularities or irregularities in quantitative data and concludes with the help of statistical analyzes. For example, “Some people think that….” “Which flavor is more popular with children?” “Who is smarter, Group A or Group B?”

Quantitative research serves life sciences, medicine, social sciences, and other exact sciences. We should not extend the accuracy of statistics; suffice it to mention the statistician who drowned in a river whose average depth is 50 cm. Medicine is primarily based on quantitative research while ignoring its inaccuracy. There are many drugs whose effectiveness has been proven, at best, by 50%. If we interpret this figure in words, the drug only helps in half of the cases. What if I’m in the second half? Therefore, today medicine is moving towards personalized medicine, taking into account personal metrics that help to predict the suitability of various medications and treatments.

Qualitative research is a descriptive study that describes the phenomenon instead of measuring it. We will use the previous examples – what will be the appropriate research questions in the qualitative research method. We would not ask how many people think, but rather, who are the people that believe. . . Why do kids love the sweet taste? What makes Group A smarter? This type of research is more common in the humanities hence its name – qualitative. 🙂 The final study result is also different; there is very little text in quantitative research and many tables and graphs (30-page doctoral dissertation). Qualitative research applies detailed descriptions, using a great deal of text. (Doctoral dissertation of hundreds of pages).

Despite the clear distinction between the two research methods over the years, different fields have attempted to combine the two types of research. Social sciences started to use qualitative research and describe the cases and not just measure them, while the humanities began using statistical methods. In literature, for example, it has long been common for research to examine the number of occurrences of words in literary texts. The phenomenon of hypertext is also a combination of the two areas.

Hypertext is text (text, words) written and read with the help of a computer and includes links. The links are created by the author, the site owner, or someone on his behalf. Hypertext is how the entire Internet is written today, just like the text you read now. In the second line of this paragraph, two words are colored in blue, and when the mouse hovers over them, its shape changes to a hand shape, so readers know that there is a link coming out of these words to other places. The term “the author” will take the reader to another post on my site with more information about authors. It is the links that make the Internet a global network. They connect servers in different countries, time zones, languages, etc.

Hence, we understand how hypertext relates to computers, but how does it relate to literature? Literary scholars, who discovered hypertext early on, understood that it allows for the creation of a substantial change in literature. Literature relies exclusively on the linear sequence of closed words within the book in a linear order, which creates the tension and curiosity that brings us to read. Linking words from the literary text to other texts, sounds, videos, etc., breaks the linear sequence and “opens” literature. The subject ignited the imagination of academic scholars. There was a genuine interest in literary hypertext for about fifteen years, which faded as the writers did not lift the glove, and the amount of hypertext literature remained limited.

The last word: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy

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