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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Weaving the word : subtitle a textual consideration of user-disorientation in hypertextual space Guha, Arnab

Abstract

The central argument of this project is that user-disorientation in negotiating hypertextual environments is primarily a crisis in textuality. The crisis is precipitated largely by a series of binary assumptions that we have hitherto held as being near-axiomatic, and which continue to dominate our textual negotiations, resulting - as argued and illustrated at the conclusion of this project - in two broad categories of hypertext disorientation: the diegetic and the vectoral. Many of the biases that undermine our negotiation of hypertext have borne no relevance to scientific scholars who have contributed to the bulk of HCI studies; indeed, in many cases, the operational success of their projects have relied on modes of thinking which, while undoubtedly beneficial to science, have informed and biased our cognitive processes in ways that have precipitated crises in textuality. Through a critical reading of texts - from Chaucer to Tennyson and Browning, Crabbe and Joyce - that precede a more contemporary electronic hypertextuality, this dissertation argues that userdisorientation in negotiating textual environments is not unique to hypertext: a critical exploration of user (or reader) disorientation in negotiating such non-electronic texts as Browning's The Ring and the Book or Crabbe's The Borough, emphasizes the relationship between hypertext disorientation and crises in textuality, and seeks to illustrate the importance of placing the issue of hypertext disorientation within the continuum of our ambiguous relationship with "text" in any project that seeks a long-term solution to user disorientation in hypertextual environments. In conclusion, this dissertation argues that the long-term solution to hypertext disorientation lies in contemplating a spatio-visual framework (for negotiating hypertext) that would enable the shift in cognitive emphasis from the individual document to the network, from the "page" to the information space, from the enclosure to the path, the individual utterance to the dialogic sphere. And if such a solution calls for a radically different browser interface from what we use today, then the proposition is not unrealistic, as argued through a brief review of software that already exists in the public and commercial domain.

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