EDUCATION \ WEB OUTREACH \ 263
1: G. Buccellati, June 2009
Concept and formalizationHyperlinks are perhaps the most distinctive single feature that is clearly and uniquely linked to a digital text. Properly integrated within the main flow of an argument, hyperlinks develop parallel narratives that can be invoked and followed in synergy with the main argument itself. This procedure is the same that is at the core of traditional critical thinking, where parallel avenues are pursued that probe proposed facts and interpretations by matching them against other correlative and pertinent facts and interpretations. In a digital text, parallel lines of inquiry are provided within the text itself. It is the notion of multi-linearity, as one should more properly understand what is normally called non-linearity.
In the presentation of hyperlinks in some sections of our website, particularly in this section on EDUCATION, a slight formal variation is occasionally used in the display of hyperlinks, in an attempt to emphasize the parallelism between the main line of thought and the matching lines of inquiry that intersect the running argument. This formal mechanism is meant to facilitate and encourage the habit of adhering to the centrality of the core argument, which should be seen as the main referent of the hyperlinked material. This may help to reduce the danger of the hyperlinks serving as little more than stepping stones for an aimless hopping.
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In practiceThere is little doubt but that the approach I am proposing is not an easy one. In many ways, it runs counter the prevailing trend which is, in any interactive enterprise, to minimize the expected input and to glamorize instead the interface, so as to more easily captivate the audience. Giving up on the full panoply of seductions that such interfaces can offer means, unquestionably, to reduce the appeal of the medium, and therefore the number of students and other individuals who will make use of the proposed approach. Therein lies, after all, the same risk that is intrinsic to proper digital scholarship. But the goal seems worth pursuing nevertheless.
The difficulty in building a proper inquiry path will be felt especially by outsiders. If I nevertheless propose such an approach, it is with a view to at least test its potentialities. Time will tell whether there is sufficient interest in the project. What I hope may happen is to see an interaction especially between students at the primary and secondary level on the one hand, and members of our staff on the other, in some cases with personal presentations at schools, and otherwise through contacts via the Internet. Feedback from some experiments has been most interesting, in showing the level of retention of material presented in lectures to the most junior among the students. I trust that we may be able to go beyond this anecdotal type of feedback (for which we will maintain the current rubric), and encourage the development of a more sustained and critical use of the digital potential.