October 17, 2008
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Coover Links

Though we’ve been writing for the Web for ages — and some of us were reading and writing hypertext before the Web existed — there’s still a lot we don’t know.

Coover Links

Consider Coover Links — links in which the start of a sentence lies in one side of the link while the end of the sentence lies at the other. Coover links are named for Robert Coover, the author of a short hypertext “Heart Suit” (McSweeney’s 16, 2005) written entirely in this fashion.

Coover himself uses Coover links in a shuffled-deck hypertext — see its name was Penelope and Forward Anywhere for other shuffled decks. In node/link hypertexts, they seem most natural when moving from the end of one page to the start of another. Stretchtext hypertexts can embed Coover links at any point.

Coover links present lots of interesting questions that have not been explored much (or at all), either in art or criticism or theory. Some that spring to mind include:

This is by no means exhaustive. And while I think all these problems are things that an undergraduate could easily tackle — yes, I’m talking to you — these are all at the frontier of knowledge. And they could have real impact: how many thousands of web pages, from Twitter digests to the New York Times, end with clumsy "next" links? Can Coover links replace “there’s more…” in weblogs?

A paper on any of these topics would be well received at Hypertext 2009, coming next June 29-July 1st in Torino, Italy.

The market is collapsing, we’re all staring at a new Depression, and I’m talking about going to Europe now? Am I crazy? But, yes, this is what you should be thinking about now. We may all end up with fruit carts. But it’s a lot better to have a good cart on a good corner; conference publications and contacts are good for you.

Coover Links
Berenice Abbott, Hot Dog Stand, West St. and North Moore, Manhattan,1936. NYPL 1219152