June 30, 2010
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Golovchinsky on Criticism

Gene Golovchinsky writes a terrific response to my Hypertext 2010 paper, “Criticism.”

Golovchinsky and I are in fairly close agreement here. He reads that paper as being more concerned with “good writing” than I do.

The sharing of the Hypertext term (and the conference) by these two different camps is a good thing, in my opinion, but it is also useful to remind ourselves periodically that sometimes we are talking about completely different things.  When Mark starts his paper with a question “How do we know that a hypertext is a good hypertext?” he is already referring to a form of writing. To talk about interaction, he would also have had to answer (or at least ask) the utilitarian question “Good for what?”

That utilitarian question is key. If we are realistic in our view of reading, it is hard to answer; only if we imagine that we’re studying hypothetical low-level “knowledge workers” whose work is to look stuff up does it become straightforward. If we’re studying a hypertextual biology book, we need to think about whether the students learn biology – whether they learn to think as biologists do – and not simply whether they remember ten minutes later which one is the impala and which the ocelot.