Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nonlinear – Snippets of Energy Outbursts

I was watching a documentary on the technological revolution on PBS; the issue of hypertext was widely discussed in the program. In this modern age of technology and multitasking, one of the concerns raised was in line with the lack of continuity in thought, reading and attention among the digital natives. The concept of non-linearity is often criticised along with multi tasking, a reason for attention deficiency. The students interviewed in Stanford admitted to writing in ‘paragraphs’ rather than an ‘essays’.
Aarseth (1994) explains text as “ a fixed sequence of constituents...” (p.763). The author also points out the two perspectives of text namely, a technical or historical, social perspective and individual perspective. Looking from such a perspective of text the relevance of  hypertext will be more significant in a culture of ‘cloudsourcing’.
Non-linearity as not being a mathematical or logical consequence can bring in logical interpretation with the application of hypertext. As Aarseth (p.766) points out, nonlinear text can bring in turbulence and unpredictability, as often pointed by critics as ‘scary’ jump into the unknown. It seems sometimes that the nonlinear texts are snippets of energy outbursts.  


  1. But, if non-linear is aligned with "associative" text, then is it really a jump into the unknown or very well known?

    Paul, do you have a link to the PBS documentary? Or the title perhaps? I'd like to learn what their definition of "digital native" was.

    And - just thinking about students saying they write in paragraphs rather than a teacher, I see that as a good thing. When teaching students how to write essays, we usually begin by writing paragraphs and then linking those together rather than face the essay in its entirety (at first).

  2. Jess, although I agree that starting with paragraphs is good way to teach writing, ultimately the persuasiveness of the essay will be judged by how well a central idea is developed. Although essays have many purposes and forms, they have to eventually make a point. I encourage students to use the "inverted triangle" structure of deductive reasoning. This doesn't always have to be linear, and certainly associative connections can still make the argument. Ultimately, though, the reader must feel that the essay is going somewhere and not meandering around aimlessly.

  3. Ah yes, the inverted triangle. Of course essays must make a point, clearly and in a well-developed way. However, writing paragraphs doesn't necessarily mean that they cannot build a fuller story (essay). Perhaps it's just an indication of how students are thinking, in smaller accruements rather than a large one all at once?

  4. Hi Jess
    I was trying to find out that show. Here it is.
    The chapter 5 in the video, talks about a study done on students and the findings that there is deterioration in their ability to put together a big idea or rather seeing things in a 'BIG picture'. The discussion in a way brought out the necessity of Hypertext and Folksonomy in the digital world.

  5. Thanks for adding the link Paul!