Interaction: Hyperlink

How does the use of hyperlinks influence the narrative path of your story? Do hyperlinks invite your audience to learn? To explore? To play?

Hyperlinks create meaning and knowledge by serving as narrative representations of how we think, explore, and play. The hyperlink and QR code— a physical form of the link— reinforce these characteristics through what Lev Manovich (2001) calls an aesthetic of "spatial wandering." Manovich writes, "The hypertext reader is like Robinson Crusoe, walking across the sand, picking up a navigation journal, a rotten fruit, an instrument whose purpose he does now know; leaving imprints, like computer hyperlinks, follow from one found object to another" (p. 78). Hyperlinks move and inform us— they create meaning beyond an initial reading or observation, allowing for immersive texts and experiences that rapidly disseminate information. We learn. We explore. We play.

Wikipedia serves as an excellent example of the possibility of hyperlink technology. The free-content encyclopedia uses links in its entries that connect topics and terms to more specific entries within the sites database, creating layers of knowledge. This technique can be used anywhere on the Web, such as in blog posts to share more information, an article, or a photograph.

The public radio documentary “Back of the Bus: Mass transit, race and inequality” by Andrea Bernstein and Nancy Solomon, with Laura Yuen and Casey Miner employs hyperlinks to connect the audience to a variety of media artifacts pertaining to the main story including photograph slideshows, transit maps, infographics, and legal documents.

Screenshot from WYNC: Back of the Bus: Mass transit, race and inequality, December 15, 2014.

When designing digital stories, Whitney.org suggests that “adding hyperlinks allows you to tell your story in a non-linear way. Using hyperlinks you can web your story into a spiral or start a story that has multiple endings. You may want to sketch out the directionality of your story before you begin to add hyperlinks. You may also wish to hyperlink other objects such as pictures.”

↪ Frank Rose suggests the possibility of hyperlinks as narrative representations of the way we think in The Art of Immersion.