Journalists’ Uses of Hypertext

Authored by: Juliette De Maeyer

The Routledge Companion to Digital Journalism Studies

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138887961
eBook ISBN: 9781315713793
Adobe ISBN:


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In its celebratory 20-year anniversary issue, the magazine Wired proposed an inventory of all the keywords that mattered during the past two decades of the digital world. Somewhere between ‘GIFs’ and ‘Jobs, Steve,’ we find an entry for ‘hypertext.’ In it, writer Steven Johnson mulls over predictions about the “the transformative potential of journalism in a hypertext world” and how they proved to be wrong. Johnson points to a “strange mix of myopia and farsightedness that some of us experienced in the early 1990s” (2013: 92). Johnson includes himself in those who made predictions that hyperlinks “would allow us to jump suddenly to different textual locations—were about to become a central mode of communication. But many of us thought the primary impact of hypertext would be on storytelling” (2013). That optimism was pinned on an idea that “contributors would compose stories built out of small blocks of text—roughly the length of a blog post—that readers would navigate according to their own whims” (2013). This reimagined storytelling, predicted each reader’s experience as differing from another’s, and practices of reading being replaced by ‘exploring.’ As Johnson notes in his retelling: “That future never happened” (2013: 92).

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