Multilinearity is one of the defining characteristics
that distinguish a print-based text from a web-based text. An online text
that incorporates a multi-linear structure—a structure comprised
of multiple nodes with multiple pathways of access to those nodes—allows
readers to choose their own paths through the text. The structural design
of web-based texts offers a degree of multilinearity along a continuum
from minimally to fully multilinear. A text that is minimally multilinear
offers readers some choices in creating their own linear readings through
the text. A key feature within a minimally multilinear web-based text
is the presence of a visually suggested arrangement through one or more
of the following strategies: numbered nodes; explicitly labeled parts of
a research argument (e.g., introduction, methodology, etc.), which suggest
a natural order; or a hierarchical arrangement of topics in menus or matrices,
thereby encouraging readers to follow a conventional top to bottom or left
to right reading order. In slight contrast, a fully multilinear web-based
text offers many possible paths through the text to the extent that the
text changes from reader to reader or even reading to reading (see Bolter,
1991; Landow, 1992, 1994; Snyder, 1997). This type of web-based text incorporates
several navigational links that change the direction of the text depending
on the readers’ selections.
A notable challenge to the assessment of structural design
within an online text is the tendency for these texts to combine navigational
options, thereby rendering a text that is both print-like (linear) and
web-based (multilinear). In “Reading
the Archives: Ten Years of Nonlinear (Kairos)
History,” Jim Kalmbach distinguishes these options as “primary” and “secondary” navigational
structures. For example, a text may offer a primary multi-linear navigation
option through multiple points of entry to several main nodes while also
including a secondary guided option within a particular grouping of sub-nodes
for readers who wish to follow a more linear/author-directed path through
the content. Question 5 in Category B of the assessment tool considers the
extent to which webtexts incorporate multiple structural designs as well
as multi-linear structures made uniquely possible by the hypertextual
allowances of the medium.
Question 5: Structural design
a) Structural options
- The webtext includes one prominent structural design/navigation option.
- The webtext incorporates multiple structural design/navigation options.
b) Type of structural design (select all that apply)
- The structural design of the webtext is linear with few to no navigational
- The structural design of the webtext is guided (print-like).
- The structural design of the webtext is minimally multilinear
based on a visually suggestive sequence (minimally multilinear/web-based).
- The structural design of the webtext is multilinear
with multiple non-guided navigational choices (fully multilinear/web-based).