April 25, 2022
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On The Origins Of Hypertext In The Disasters Of The Short 20th Century

My paper for the special History track of the 2o22 Web Conference, “On The Origins Of Hypertext In The Disasters Of The Short 20th Century”, is available in the ACM Digital Library, and here (pdf).

The development of hypertext and the World Wide Web is most frequently explained by reference to changes in underlying technologies — Moore’s Law giving rise to faster computers, more ample memory, increased bandwidth, inexpensive color displays. That story is true, but it is not complete: hypertext and the Web are also built on a foundation of ideas. Specifically, I believe the Web we know arose from ideas rooted in the disasters of the short twentieth century, 1914–1989. The experience of these disasters differed in the Americas and in Eurasia, and this distinction helps explain many long-standing tensions in research and practice alike.