Walden’s Paths

Introduction

Walden’s Paths lets you organize the World Wide Web resources for another reader’s uses. You can collect these resources from widely-varied sources, annotate them, and bring them together to form a single path. This allows your readers to obtain a cohesive view of your collected material, and browse off the path freely with the assurance that they can return to the path at any time with a simple mouse click.

The Internet has the potential to provide readers with a wealth of multimedia materials through the near limitless resources of the World Wide Web. In order for this information to be used, it must first be tailored for focused topical learning. The bulk of the material that is accessible on the web is not necessarily created with focused topical learning in mind, although many elements — image collections, simulations, digital video, audio, electronic versions of fiction and non-fiction, library indices, databases, and hypertextual documents — have the potential to play a strong role augmenting this form of learning.

Individuals know best how to perform this tailoring: they have their own goals, presentational styles, understandings of community standards, and can better judge their intended audience’s interests. Walden’s Path is one such tool that enables this tailoring.

Walden’s Paths

Walden’s Paths is designed to enable individuals to make use of these preexisting materials by creating directed paths over the World-Wide Web. These directed paths are structured orderings of chosen web resources. These paths provide a means for directing a reader’s traversal along the selected components extracted from web resources. The ordering of component pages on a path is not constrained by the structure of the source documents–there does not need to be a link between pages for them to be next to one another in the path. In essence, the directed path allows creation of a presentation, defining a meta-structure that is layered on top of the underlying resources’ preexisting structures.

Besides providing an ordering of pages, a directed path can provide additional context for the page through annotation. By providing additional textual information in addition to the content of the page, the path author may provide a rhetorical or narrative structure to the path as a whole, create transitions to fill in informational gaps between pages, and create emphasis to particular aspects of the materials.

Readers following a path may follow encountered links to freely examine the information space. A reader’s need for detailed explanation, alternative discussion, or details on related topics are satisfied by his or her own desires to explore, to construct knowledge, to find information. Such explorations don’t cause the reader to lose the organizing context provided by the path as Walden’s Paths augments off-path pages with controls that allow immediate return to the path.

The System

Walden’s Paths is comprised of two basic parts: a path authoring tool and a path browser. Authoring a path consists of locating web resources, selecting specific pages from the resources for inclusion of the path, and annotating these pages with additional information. All of these things can be accomplished in the integrated, straightforward interface for path authoring.

Viewing the path is a separate action through a dedicated web-based interface.