Hypertext Romanticized

The use of hypertext has become somewhat second nature for people seeking out and spreading information digitally. In the world of online news, links are necessary to connect ideas and promote pre-reported information. Approaching the concept from today’s perspective seems to date Charney’s text. Charney does, however, raise some interesting ideas when considering the accessibility, availability, and efficiency of hypertext. Charney argues that hypertext does not operate in the way that one’s thought process does. Instead of allowing a person the intuitive process of reading a traditional text format, she argues, hypertext inundates the operator with too much information. This begs the question – who should “do the work” when engaging with a text? Must the reader assume responsibility when engaging or experiencing information and strive for fulfillment? Or, must the writer make the experience easily accessible to all readers by presenting a direct hypertextual environment that is both comprehensible and memorable?

When done correctly, I believe that hypertext can largely enhance a digital experience, but the responsibility must be shared among the reader and the writer. Some websites are inaccessibly unorganized or inundate readers/operators with too much information in a small amount of space. But many websites or digital texts utilize hypertext in a way that presents a larger experience for readers. Readers must go into such experiences with interest and the willingness to become an active participant in the digital experience. Charney suggests that hypertext may lend itself to more “romantic” pursuits than pragmatic ones. In other words, Charney argues that the use of hypertext creates more of a transcendental experience as a person explores a concept or topic. This may be true, but hypertext can also lend itself to the practical. Yes, hypertext seems romantic because it allows the operator the freedom to develop a unique learning experience, but it is also practical for this same reason.  When the writer produces a digital piece that is user-friendly and can be navigated by the standard user, he or she can present a wealth of information to the reader. The writer can also use the digital format to not only offer more information, but shape the way that the reader experiences it. The writer must do this responsibly. Likewise, when the reader approaches the digital format with a desire to seek out information, he or she can gain access to the extended information, the writer’s intentions, and a greater understanding of a topic or concept. In this way, hypertext has the potential to create an ideal (however romantic) environment for accessing information, where both the reader and the writer can pragmatically share information.

Untold History Project:

I would like to blend the romantic and the pragmatic, as well as the traditional with the digital to create a compelling semester-long project. I would like to delve into the untold history of rustbelt towns. From Pittsburgh to Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee, more than a dozen cities have seen their histories dramatically shift from thriving towns to areas of struggling commerce and revamped identities. As a Cleveland-native who has spent the last four years calling Pittsburgh home, I am interested in delving into the backstories of these rust belt towns. What was responsible for the decline of these once vibrant cities? Who is responsible for them now? What has been left behind?

I would like to use the digital space to create a more interactive look at this postindustrial region, while blending an array of voices to provide the reader insight into its past, present and, hopefully, a look into the future, or “what this all means.” To do this, I plan to focus on the McKeesport area of Pittsburgh to create a central focus for the reader. I will report and develop a written storyline around this area, interview the people who have come to call it home, and those people/texts that remember it during its industrial peak.  During this experience, I plan to ask myself, “How can I accurately and effectively capture what I am learning and seeing for my audience?”  I suspect that my answer will lie in the different digital medium that we will explore and utilize.

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