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About Hypertext and Nicholas Carr January 26, 2016

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture, Uncategorized.
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I seem to be on a Nicholas Carr kick this week. He believes that hypertext is responsible for the fragmentation of information.

I would argue just the opposite. Instead, hypertext lets the human mind make connections out of disparate information.

As a youth, I read voraciously. My working class parents purchased a couple of encyclopedias, and I read them front to back, several times.  I got a lot of information, serially and in alphabetical order.  Okay.  It worked, but it didn’t let me do much more than absorb information.

Let me go back, to perhaps 1993. I was doing a technical publication review of Microsoft Encarta.  It was a wonderful encyclopedia CD (yes, CD), it included hyperlinks for use within the application.  I wrote (probably have it on an old CD somewhere) that its hyperlinks enabled me to see connections that surprised and amazed me.  I looked at tides, for example, and though hyperlinks found connections to the beautiful reversing tide in Saint John, New Brunswick.

I hesitate to call out people who are wrong, but you are wrong here. The human mind doesn’t work serially.  Instead, we make connections, often obliquely.  We draw intellectual nourishment and power from disparate information.  That is what makes us intelligent.

If you don’t want intelligence, that is fine. It is good to question anything.  But I really think you are driving your skepticism much too far.  Hypertext may be badly used, or in some cases overused, but it is a model of how the human mind works.

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