The virtual palimpsest: The importance of hypermedia design for English Studies
Tonya Jean Browning, The University of Texas at Austin, United States
The University of Texas at Austin . Awarded
Design plays an integral role in teaching and learning English Studies. We have employed strategies of design in terms of composition and literature for years, and it is time to broaden our definition of what constitutes design, particularly in light of the virtual palimpsest, the computer. As a discipline interested in the study and development of texts, English Studies should be concerned with both the concept of interface and its design. If we acknowledge hypermedia as a legitimate new compositional medium, then our community will need to develop its own strategies for teaching composition and evaluation in virtual spaces. This work examines historical, current and future issues of interface, hypermedia design theory, and computer-assisted pedagogy. It addresses how past designs shape our present interfaces. Utilizing interface theories from Tufte, Alexander and Gould help us better understand instantiations of interface, such as computer games, and enables our own teaching practices. A further exploration of the potential of interface through Neal Stephenson's text, The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer is included. Elements of book history, particularly primers and children's literature, shape an analysis of navigational, structural and interactive elements present in Stephenson's narrative. Hypermedia theories are addressed which emerge from interdisciplinary sources like cognitive science, computer science and complexity theory. Visually weighted aspects of hypermedia are followed by an analysis of hypermedia models and the role of interactivity in hypermedia design. All of the information serves to frame the most difficult task of our profession--teaching design to students. A rationale for teaching hypermedia is followed by student examples from three different computer-assisted courses, each emphasizing a different aspect of design. Multiple evaluative options for teachers to employ in their own classes are included.
Browning, T.J. The virtual palimpsest: The importance of hypermedia design for English Studies. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Texas at Austin.
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