Structural design

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

b) Type of structural design (select all that apply)