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Currents: An E-Journal Realism and a General Economy of the Link

by Adrian Miles 
InterMedia UiB and RMIT 

Currents in Electronic Literacy Spring 2001 (4), < 

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In describing links as "purposeful" it appears that an economy of return is suggested. Such an economy would privilege some order of intention as informing links, so that their purpose is defined in terms of their utility or instrumentality. Such an approach would privilege those links which demonstrate a clear intent in their presence and action so that it would be apparent why a link is present and what need it meets in being present.

However, "purposeful" can also be taken to indicate that links have intent, and it is their intent that gives them purpose. This is not particularly different from suggesting that links generate purpose, except to recognise that such a claim is again to reverse the hierarchy that appears to be implicit in Landow's sentence. Rather than assuming a purpose to the link by virtue of the link's intent (not forgetting that such intent ought to be transparent to the user by virtue of the application of the rules of hypertext rhetoric), purpose is retrospectively assumed to be attached to the link and interpreted as intent.

This experience of attributing purpose to a link after we arrive at its destination is common in hypertext fiction where we follow a link (and links in some cases can be randomly generated, making their 'purpose' problematic in the extreme) and then attempt to determine its purpose. This is not to dispute Landow's observation, but as stated above, to reverse its implicit hierarchy.

Currents: An E-Journal