Excerpted from Rhetorics of the Web: Hyperreading and Critical Literacy
Nicholas C. Burbules
What are some different types of links?
"School is jail"
Web links can be read as metaphors when apparently unrelated textual points are associated: a link from a page listing Political Organizations to a page on the Catholic Church might cause a sense of puzzlement, or outrage, or insight - or it might be taken for granted unreflectively - but considered as a metaphor it might make a reader think about politics and religion in a different way.
" Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet"
A Web link, almost by definition, has the potential to become metonymic, with repetition. Most users do not have to have it explained any longer that clicking on a pentagon-shaped icon will take them "home," that is to the index or entry-page of a set of interlinked pages. The icon could be, for example, a pyramid shape just as easily, and the language of return would be less domestic, and more vertically connotative. A page labeled "Vacation Spots" may take one to information about "How to Avoid Pickpockets." On a broader scale, the increase of clickable icons sponsored by private companies, crowding the screens of pages that have nothing to do with their product, creates a metonymic space that continually reminds the user that the Web is for sale, and that commercial interests (the fastest-growing category of Web page producers, by far) underwrite more and more of what is presented there.
The mustache came to the bar.
This relating of categorical wholes to particular instances, or of parts to wholes, is a matter of key importance. The power to register superordinate categories to which particulars are subsumed is a special way in which conceptual and normative leverage is exercised over how people think. Because different categorical wholes are always possible, clustering and organizing available instances in different ways, and because identifying and adjudicating particulars as instances is a way of regulating them, such determinations need to be recognized as such and brought into question. Links make such associations, but do so in a way that often is not made problematic: yet because such categorical links are often the gateway through which access to that information is controlled, clustering and relating items in one way rather than another is more than a matter of convenience or heuristic - it becomes a method of shaping and restricting how people think about a subject.
my office was flooded with mail
Dining in San Francisco via Google http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&q=dining+in+san+francisco yields to http://www.bayinsider.com/restaurants/
Google results for North Beach: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&q=north+beach+
There is a metonymic element at work here as well; as in those encyclopedias or calendar programs that connect together everything that happened on a particular day in history ("September 24: on this day, the President signed the Voting Rights Act into law; the Baltimore Orioles beat the New York Yankees 4-2; the movie 'Singing in the Rain' opened in Los Angeles; a housewife in Akron, Ohio won the Betty Crocker Cookoff with her recipe for Upside-Down Blueberry Cake; in Pakistan government troops used clubs to disperse a crowd of protesters; a panda bear in the Peking zoo became the first to give birth in captivity; etc."). As noted previously, one of the primary effects of the Web is such juxtaposition of apparently unrelated points of information and reduction of all to the same surface level of significance: a bricolage of elements, mixing the momentous and the trivial, the local and the global, the contemporary and the historic; inviting multiple - and frequently untestable - interpretations of significance that can be as personal and idiosyncratic as one wishes. As such points of information all pivot around a common date, or a particular location, or a given word, they are brought into an association that may, from different perspectives, seem arbitrary or trivial, or on the other hand meaningful and explanatory; at the same time, the pivotal word or concept shifts and broadens in significance. Antistasis invites such connections by invoking "the same" in a way that reveals difference.
or most of Dreaming Arnold (see http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/ioa/arnold/arnoldwebpages/dhaessay.htm )
Unlike antistasis, which tends to highlight the ways in which terms or concepts change significance in different contexts, identity tends to hypostasize meanings, to freeze them, by suggesting the resistance of core meaning to changing context. In the context of the Web, such associations tend to draw lines of connection through pages, from different people or institutions, different cultures, or different countries, as if these reference points established a unifying net that spans the surface multiplicity of Web content and contexts. Beneath the particular instantiations of such an association is an underlying figure of interwoven unity and commonality; one image of the Web, but one that excludes and obscures at least as much as it highlights.
see http://slate.msn.com/SummaryJudgment/01-10-02/SummaryJudgment.asp or EB link to World War I http://search.eb.com/bol/topic?eu=118861&sctn=1#s_top (needs proxy)
Sequence and cause-and-effect.
In the context of the Web, catechresis becomes a trope for the basic working of the link, generally: any two things can be linked, even a raven and a writing desk, and with that link, instantaneously, a process of semic movement begins; the connection becomes part of a public space, a community of discourse, which, as others find and follow that link, creates a new avenue of association - beginning tropically or ironically, perhaps, but gradually taking its own path of development and normalization. It could be that, before long, a new word processing will be called, jokingly, "Raven"; or someone will hand-carve a desk, made with black wood, using bird shapes as a decorative feature; or the word "raven" will be used casually to refer to office furniture in general ("I wish these ravens would fly up here themselves so I didn't have to call the movers"). Far-fetched or not, such developments are indistinguishable from examples that we do not see any longer as "far-fetched" at all. Two key points follow: first, we never can know which uses will become accepted and standardized, so it is impossible to separate in any strict way proper uses from misuses (it may be simply a judgment made from within a particular time frame); second, the Web, because of its global and cross-cultural span, because of its linked architecture, and because it currently requires most pages to be filtered into and through a common language, English, will become (is already becoming) a major new avenue in which malapropisms, slang, and far-fetched associative links will become familiar and, before long, normalized.
And a very interesting essay on the politics of linking can be found at http://www.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/research/whyuna.htm .
(The page at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/08/books/08OROU.html has no links but is a great read, nonetheless.)
this page maintained by: Michael Roy