Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 428.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Thu, 04 Dec 2003 09:01:47 +0000
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Francois Lachance)
Subject: indexing links, delinking anxieties
Some more observations on links, citations, references and the
invitiations to guide readerly attention.
If I am authoring in TEI I can "link" and I can "point" and I can "refer".
The mark-up language helps me as author distinguish between these
activities. A <ptr> element is -naked-. It registers the target. A <ref>
element allows some text to be associated with a pointer. A <link> element
offers the opportunity of encoding associations among elements or
If I am authoring in HTML I have the anchor element whose attributes can
be used to encode a hypertext reference (href) or a fragment identifier
(name). I signal the dual nature of the HTML anchor element: used to mark
a spot with a fragment identifier; used to point to a resource or some
spot within a given resource.
When you are authoring a text, depending upon the software and its
settings, a URL might automatically be registered as an HTML anchor
element with an href attribute whose value will be the URL. Certain email
software will read a URL in a similar manner, treating it as a clickable
Some authors depend upon browser navigation features for returning reader
attention back to a text body after a detour to a footnote. Others provide
a hot spot to facilitate the move from the note to the text body.
Given that certain files will be viewed in conditions where the operating
system tightly couples email processing, WWW browsing and wordprocessing,
the question mutates. To guide reader attention is not only a matter of
offering readers explicit clickable hotspots. As such hotspots may be
generated by software accessing and rendering a file, the author is faced
with a decision of where/when to provide URLs.
This is a bit of a meander to get at the implied either/or --- that
flight/fight stress response that I read in your statement of "link
anxiety". Would not the solution for the anxious author be to use anchors
and links and pointers. That is, to segment the text that one is writing
in areas and in one of those areas list references to the relevant URLs.
The references would point to both the resource identified by the URL and
to the area(s) of the text where the referenced URL would be applicable.
For example, a reference to a specific number of a specific volume of
Humanist could be recorded in such a listing and its applicability to one,
two, or more spots in the text body could also be recorded. Such a mode
of composition would be most marvellous for extended prose where such a
cross between index and list of sources would serve as a map of the piece.
Give the reader a chance to renavigate the piece. They just might accept
-- Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance
mnemonic is to analytic as mimetic is to synthetic
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