Eastgate Systems      Serious Hypertext

Conclusion: Combining Patterns

All the patterns discussed here may (and usually do) contain other patterns as components. A Cycle, for example, may contain sequences and cycles as well as individual nodes. Two parallel cycles might be composed to form a Counterpoint pattern, or a group of cycles might converge to a Tangle. The great utility of structural patterns, in fact, derives in large measure from the ways that patterns can be combined to form larger structures. Where a familiar pattern appears prominently, its components are perceived as a coherent unit, what other writers have called an episode [66] or a region [44].

By developing a richer vocabulary of hypertext structure, and basing that vocabulary on structures observed in actual hypertexts, we can move toward a richer and more effective hypertext criticism, one that can move beyond the presentation-centered rhetoric so prevalent in current discussions of the Web. Simple names help us formulate concise queries and conjectures. A shared vocabulary of structures can facilitate both critical and editorial discussion, not only by facilitating the study of structure but also by helping us refer succinctly to the composites and aggregates that make up a hypertext.

Finally, we may note that our current tools for visualizing hypertext are not particularly effective in representing the patterns described here. Many Web-mapping programs, for example, uncover spanning trees on the hypertext graph and so tend to hide Cycle patterns. Conventional node-link views like Storyspace [42] and MacWeb [62] represent isolated cycles fairly well but provide little support for visualizing contours created where many cycles intersect. The elision implicit in NoteCards tabletops [74] or the nested boxes of Storyspace [11] helps to keep displays simple but hides patterns that span multiple containers. Some patterns (Mirrorworld, Missing Link, Feint, Montage) are not easily represented by conventional tools and require new visualizations to help writers (and readers) perceive, manipulate, and understand the patterns of their hypertexts.


My understanding of hypertext structure is deeply indebted to discussions with Eastgate editors Eric A. Cohen, Kathryn Cramer, and Diane Greco, and with many Eastgate authors. Eric A. Cohen, David B. Levine, and David G. Durand read drafts of this work, and I am grateful for their many suggestions and improvements.

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