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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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Landow's essay on hypertext rhetoric has had a significant impact on hypertext research in the humanities, offering a terminology and examination of link type and structure that other work has necessarily needed to respond to (for instance Moulthrop Beyond, Rhetoric). While Landow has clearly developed his position substantially from the early work of his rhetoric, his influence remains significant, particularly within the contemporary information architecture of Jakob Nielsen.

My criticisms of Landow's original claims and the larger concept of usability are specifically concerned with the ways in which the rules for a rhetoric of hypertext are probably not relevant given the experience of the World Wide Web and the assumptions we routinely make in following and understanding link structures in this context. In addition an emphasis on usability in relation to links domesticates the link in a manner that may prevent us from understanding how links work in discourse. The problem, to the extent that there is one, is that many researching hypertext rely on work such as Landow's (largely because it is published in a widely available anthology) and regard it as canonical although as Landow's own work illustrates, in particular his more recent "Hypertext as Collage-Writing," usability is no longer seen to be particularly significant within broader hypertext practice, as its focus is now on problems of the relations of text to still and moving image in a mutable, multi-window environment.

Currents: An E-Journal