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Creative Hyperlinks: Writerly and readerly effects of links in hypertext fiction

Conference Presentation at MIX Digital 2017 Conference, Bath Spa University, 9-12 Jul 2017

Lyle Skains

on 12 July 2017

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Transcript of Creative Hyperlinks: Writerly and readerly effects of links in hypertext fiction

Hyperlinks Study
Results & Conclusions: Readers
Reading Digital Fiction
Bell, A. (2014). Schema theory, hypertext fiction and links. 
, 48(2), 140-161.

Brooks, P. (1984)
Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative
. London: Harvard University Press.

Bernstein, M. (1998) ‘Patterns of hypertext’, Watertown, MA: Eastgate systems. Available at: http://www.eastgate.com/patterns/Print.html. Date accessed: 05 Aug. 2016.

Tosca, Susana Pajares. 2000. ‘A pragmatics of links’,
Journal of Digital Information
1 (6). Available at: https://journals.tdl.org/jodi/index.php/jodi/article/view/23/24 Date accessed: 05 Aug. 2016.

Parker, J. (2001) ‘A Poetics of the Link’,
Electronic Book Review.
Available at: http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/electropoetics/linkletters. Date accessed: 05 Aug. 2016.

Ryan, M-L. (2006).
Avatars of Story
, London: University of Minnesota Press.

Ryan, M-L. (2015)
Narrative as Virtual Reality 2: Revisiting Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media
, Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.
Reader data: qualitative analysis (NVivo)
Initial impressions
meta-hyperlink typology
(based on current literature)
Create a hypertext
incorporating all link types
empirical research of readers
reading hypertext
Hyperlink Theory
Research Questions:
AHRC-funded project aiming to introduce more readers to DF, & investigate DF reading using cognitive & empirical approaches.
Hypertexts, Readers & Research
Types of Hyperlinks in Digital Fiction
Putting Links Typology into Practice
Reader Responses
Writerly and readerly effects of links in hypertext fiction
Creative Hyperlinks:
Bangor University

Reading Digital Fiction
Many theoretical approaches based on close readings and textual analysis; few based on empirical studies of readers.
Douglas, J.Y., 1992. Gaps, Maps, and Perception: What Hypertext Readers (Don’t) Do.
After the Book: Writing Literature/Writing Technology
, 2(3).

Douglas, J.Y., and Hargadon, A., 2000. The Pleasure Principle: Immersion, Engagement, Flow. In:
HYPERTEXT ’00 Proceedings of the eleventh ACM on Hypertext and hypermedia
. San Antonio, TX: ACM.
Reading Digital Fiction
Series of studies:
Reader Immersion in DF -
Reader Response to Textual "You" -
The Princess Murderer
Writer Response to Digital Composition
Do readers form expectations for hyperlinks and, if so, how do they negotiate these expectations?
What is the relationship between reader


Hyperlink Typologies
Schema theory:
Readers’ familiarity with conventions, expectations (Bell 2014).
Hyperlinks are “the element that hypertext adds to writing” (Landow 2006 [1992]: 13).
Relevance theory:
Links have “suspended meaning” that the reader applies after they’ve followed the link and made connections between lexias (Tosca 2000).
“The process of linking itself implies a
rhetoric of repeated disorientation and reorientation
” (Ciccoricco 2007: 80).
Structural implications (dynamic, feints, cycles, etc.)
e.g. Bernstein 1998; Parker 2001; Ryan 2006, 2015
Hyperlink Meta-Typology
: link's sole purpose is to elicit an affective response, with no navigational or narrative purpose apparent
: link indicates destination, clear one-to-one relationship

: link expands and/or develops narrative; usually indicates its destination/purpose
: link leads to a lexia of narrative relevance, though it may not initially indicate its destination
Writing the Hypertext
Reader Protocol
19 Creative Studies & Media students at Bangor University
RA observed subjects reading hypertext
Audio recording, links noted
Paused at specific lexias to ask questions about hyperlinks (pre- & post-click)
Short structured interview after reading
Demographics questionnaire
Affective Navigation
Basic (Navigation)
Narrative Exploration
Affective Exploration
Writer Intent
Reader Interpretation
All versions available at

Basic Navigation
Affective Exploration
Narrative Exploration
Affective Navigation
Reader Results
: little consensus as to expectations or interpretation
: readers expected these links to progress story; links met expectations
: readers expect an ontological destination for the purpose of exposition
: readers making character judgments; alternating use of 1st & 3rd person reference
Affective Navigation
Basic (Navigation)
Narrative Exploration
Affective Exploration
(Initial) Reader Conclusions
Reading for the Plot
: "seeking in the unfolding of the narrative a line of intention and a portent of design that hold the promise of
progress toward meaning
" (Brooks 1984: XIII).

Readers Identify with Character
: internalizing the 2nd person narrator with own moral reasoning; applying to narrative choices

Affective Exploration Links
either explored for
personal reasons, or
because a clear relevance for characterization or plot cannot be determined.
Results & Conclusions: Practice
Purpose of link types used vs. reader effect
Digital fiction "genre" & commercial implications?
Results: Practice
: least frequently used; added only in later drafts
: most common link used; often revised to other types in later drafts
: most familiar; usually led to looped structures (rather than branched)
: infrequently used; often used in "illusion of choice" links
Affective Navigation
Basic (Navigation)
Narrative Exploration
Affective Exploration
Conclusions: Practice
: avoid using because I dislike them as a reader
: used when necessary, but too much tends toward "CYOA"
: felt "literary" or "writerly"; parallel narrative techniques, e.g., flashbacks or inner monologue
: most playful of the links; "tricking" the reader, but usually letting the reader in on it
Affective Navigation
Basic (Navigation)
Narrative Exploration
Affective Exploration
Basic Navigation
Affective Navigation
Narrative Exploration
Affective Exploration
Reader Confusion
Writer Play/Experimentation
CYOA, some simple text games
Interactive Fiction
"Literary" Hypertexts
Reader Confusion
Writer Play/Experimentation
Commercial Success
Lyle Skains
MIX Digital 2017
Alice Bell, Astrid Ensslin, Lyle Skains, Jen Smith, Isabelle van der Bom
Full transcript