Landing : Athabascau University

Unpacking Sense-Making in Academic Blogs

Title: In Defense of Links, Part One: Nick Carr, hypertext and delinkification


Author: Scott Rosenberg

Date: September 2, 2010

For Further Reflection and Unpacking:

If we are going to study the impact of hypertext on our brains and our culture, surely we should look at the reality of the Web, not the dream of the hypertext artists and theorists. (Rosenberg, blog post, 2010)

For Further Reading:  Interface Culture, 1997 by Scott Johnson

Scott Johnson (1997) explored links as a tool for synthesis — “a way of drawing connections between things,” a device that creates “threads of association,” a means to bring coherence to our overflowing cornucopia of information.

Tone: mixed formal/informal, used academic phrasing blended with jargon (brain-alarm, tipoff, muck up)


Weaving (Linking and Connecting)

1.      Provided introductory bridge to quote and used extensive quoting of several sentences of another’s work.

…here is how Carr describes the study that is the linchpin of his argument:

In a 2001 study, two Canadian scholars asked seventy people to read “The Demon Lover,” a short story by the modernist writer Elizabeth Bowen. …

2.      Used in-line quotations to cite phrases or single sentences

The nub of Carr’s argument is that every link in a text imposes “a little cognitive load” that makes reading less efficient.

3.      Linked to others’ work using authors’ names

…found at least partial support from some other estimable writers (among them Laura Miller, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Jason Fry and Ryan Chittum).

4.      Linked to specific articles using descriptive text

I was flummoxed earlier this year when Nicholas Carr started a campaign against the humble link, and found at least partial support from some other estimable writers.

5.      Linked to two supporting authors’ works within single sentence

Nelson’s idea hearkened back to Vannevar Bush’s celebrated “As We May Think,” paralleled Douglas Engelbart’s pioneering work on networked knowledge systems, and looked forward to today’s Web.

6.      Embedded page numbers and author’s name

But for now let’s zero in on Carr’s case against links, on pages 126-129 of his book as well as in his “delinkification” post.

7.      Linked to textbook cited in blog post: Interface Culture, 1997  by Scott Johnson



 Texturing (Meta-Analysis) Strategies:

1.      Used quotation marks around key words and phrases “delinkification”, “hypertext”

2.      Italicized titles of books  The Shallows

3.      Use quotation marks around phrases that indicate change of tone or register,

“here’s where I got this” or “here’s where you can learn more”

4.      Use of brackets to indicate asides, or contrasting, ideas

…the hypertext artists deploy them as part of a larger experiment in expanding (or blowing up) the structure of traditional narrative.

5.      Italicized open questions

What studies? By whom? What do they show? What were they actually studying? How’d they design the study? Who paid for it?


Meta-Narrative (Reflecting on Ideas for Self/Audience) Strategies:

1.      Used the dash to append a shift in his direction of thought, and added asides, for his audience

For 15 years, I’ve been doing most of my writing — aside from my two books — on the Web.

2.      Describes personal significance of topic for additional context, and sets the tone for the audience

Links have become an essential part of how I write, and also part of how I read. Given a choice between reading something on paper and reading it online, I much prefer reading online

3.      Used orienting cues to speak directly to his audience

You recall…; If you’re still with me, come a little deeper into these linky weeds.

4.      Used italics for affective emphasis of conclusions

…the idea of rewriting it as literary hypertext is dubious to begin with. But that’s not what the researchers did.

5.      Used chatty form of narration

Yes, a paragraph larded up with too many links can be distracting.






  • The writing strategies described here are almost as good for teaching academic writing in general as they may be for academic blogging more specifically. (Where the genres differ might be in formality of register; I don't think I'd go for a "chatty" research essay.)

    As an aside, the discussion of delinkification is really interesting, with lots to think about in terms of style, rhetoric, and readability.

    #writing #composition #style #mais606

    Mark A. McCutcheon September 5, 2011 - 5:11pm

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