Rethinking The Academy:

Print Conventions

Working with hypertext in a period of transition, in which we are moving from print-based texts to electronic texts, requires that writers supply documents that will meet institutional needs and that, often, have to be simultaneously produced in both electronic and print-based versions. For instance, hypertexts written as a dissertation proposal might have to be deposited with an office of graduate studies or attached to a proposal for fellowship funds. A research article published in an on-line journal might be accepted as a publication for tenure review purposes - if it could be made part of the tenure packet.

Clearly, an unacceptable solution, given the current complexities of academic life, is to require hypertext authors to rewrite native hypertext as linear texts for print-based readers. This would require both a major reconceptualization and a rewrite of every single project created by scholars and students working in and with hypertext.

As the academy moves to accept writing in hypertextual media (including the Web, but also such programs as StorySpace and even hypertexts written for Word and WordPerfect), the growing length and scope of projects, webs that function as the equivalent of books, would make the process of conversion even more time-consuming and daunting. Of course, as hypertexts become more familiar and as it becomes more apparent that, in fact, they can be as rigorous and scholarly as print texts, there might be no need for conversion; we all hope for the day when a hypertext publication has equal weight in employment decisions.

On the other hand, at this present moment, it isn't enough to say - or believe - that other scholars and administrators should simply move with the times, install readers on their office computers, and learn to deal with this new literacy. Indeed, there might be legitimate reasons to have paper copies of hypertexts. One might, for instance, wish to archive a hypertext on microfilm.

Can one design hypertexts to move directly to print? One of the purposes of this web is to demonstrate that one can indeed deliver hypertext via print, thus helping dissertation and tenure committees all over the country breathe easier ("if it looks like a book, it might even be a book.")

For this web, I will use typographic conventions to indicate the difference between "internal" links and links that go outside the document proper and thus are not formally within its boundaries.

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Last Modified: August 2, 1996

Copyright 1996 by Keith Dorwick