If you have just looked ahead to the table on this page and wondered
what the names mean, return to the previous section for
Having categorized the hypertexts, I next set out to do a year-by-year
count of each type of hypertext that had been published in the CoverWeb and Feature sections of Kairos.()
It was a truly exhausting task. Many webtexts combined a number of different
organizing schemes. For example, a linear hypertext may use anchors to
link to different spots on a single page, and a matrix hypertext might
use sequential navigation between nodes within that topic. Complex websites
usually combined multiple forms of hypertextual organization. Having
come this far, however, I refused to quit and decided that I could identity
a primary form of navigation for each text. This form was either the
first encountered, the biggest, or it linked the primary threads of the
argument. I only sorted by these primary forms of navigation and did
not attempt to tally the other navigational forms that supported a webtext. Here are the numbers:
What Do these Numbers Suggest?
Keeping in mind that I am looking for large trends rather than statistical inferences, here is what I found:
- Although linear, one-page hypertexts were tied with menu hypertexts
as the most common form of webtext published in Kairos, 40
of the 47 linear hypertexts (85%) are from volumes 3, 6, and 7, and no doubt
reflect editorial decisions that were specific to those volumes.
- Although exploratory hypertexts are rare, they appear consistently
in every volume until 9, and will no doubt continue to appear as interactive
game-like elements appear more frequently in Kairos texts.
The idea of hypertext as exploration has a strong hold on our imagination
as a field.
- The five most popular forms of hypertextlinear, menu, sequential,
matrix, and loopingappear in relatively similar frequency (within
10 points of each other), which again speaks to the amazing diversity
and creativity of Kairos texts.
- While overall frequencies may be similar, there are some clear historical trends:
- Linear hypertexts have not appeared in the last three volumes
of Kairos and are unlikely to make a comeback.
- With the exception of volume 7, looping hypertexts appear largely
in Kairos' early years. In volume 1, looping was extremely
popular (31% of the webtexts), but the form has since fallen out of
favor, and that is a good thing. Forcing readers to constantly loop
back to a starting page in order to progress through a website is
just plain mean, and pages that embed links inside of an organizing
narrative are only slightly more effective than raw links lists.
It is very easy to lose one's way with either approach.
- Matrixed hypertexts were more popular in early issues of
Kairos while menued approaches now dominate.
- Multi-windowed hypertexts, first appearing in 1998, are fairly rare.
As a field, we have yet to come to an agreement about how to productively
use multiple changing windows of content in a webtext, although
Joyce Walker's recent
piece goes a long way in this direction.
- Timeline hypertexts built using Flash, Director, iMovie, and so on, are a
new phenomena in Kairos and are likely to continue to appear
though probably not in large numbers given the skills, the hardware,
and the software needed to produce timeline-based scholarship. Although
there are notable exceptions, Kairos authors tend to be pretty
conservative when it comes to incorporating media elements into their
webtexts. In the first six volumes of Kairos, only 14% of the
webtexts used graphic headers (that number, however, has increased sharply
in recent years). Similarly, video, Flash, and sound only started
to appear in any frequency in 2002 and beyond. So, while you would
expect continued use of sophisticated visual and aural elements in Kairos texts,
I doubt there will be a massive migration to the timeline as a central
What do these trends mean? The next section reflects on the significance of these numbers.