CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work

Paper Report

Title: Hypertext: An Introduction and Survey
Author: Jeff Conklin
Citation: IEEE Computer, September 1987
Reprinted in: Pages 363-374, Baecker

This paper discusses the basic concept of hypertext. It is a survey of existing hypertext systems, their applications and their design. It is both an introduction to the world of hypertext and, at a deeper cut, a survey of some of the most important design issues that go into fashioning a hypertext environment. The author describes how hypertext systems, which feature machine supported links, both within and between documents, open exciting new possibilities for using the computer as a communication and thinking tool.

The concept f hypertext is quite simple. Windows on the screen are associated with objects in a database, and links are provided between these objects, both graphically (as labeled tokens) and in the database (as pointers). The author discusses which systems can be classified as hypertext and which cannot. He describes one of the features of a hypertext system and the importance of the browser in displaying the hypertext document.

The author then discusses hypertext as a computer based medium for thinking and communication. Hypertext allows the writer to make references and the allows the readers to make their own decisions about which links to follow and in what order. Thus, hypertext eases the restrictions on the thinker and the writer. Hypertext is a union of database method, representation scheme and interface modality.

An essential feature of hypertext systems is that the system should require no more than a couple of keystrokes or mouse movements to follow a link. Also, the briefest delay should occur in referencing requests. Various terminology used in hypertext are then presented.

The author then talks about hypertext nodes. and how the size and number of nodes can be mapped onto the modularization of ideas. There are two types of nodes, semi structured nodes and composite nodes. Hypertext nodes can be thought of as representing single concepts or ideas, internode links as representing the dependencies among the ideas and the process of building a hypertext network as a kind if informal knowledge engineering. A detailed discussion of the advantages, disadvantages and uses of hypertext follows.

The author concludes that hypertext, far from being an end in itself, is just a crude first step toward the time when the computer is a direct and powerful extension of the human mind.

Report prepared by: Abhijit Rele Email: abhijitr@cs.tamu.edu
Discussion Date: September 19, 1997            Report Date: September 21, 1997