I went down to the Wharton School tonight to go to a joint meeting between Philly Content Strategy and PANMA (Philadelphia Area New Media Association). The presentation was given by David Dylan Thomas (@movie_pundit). The title was “Links as Language.”
Here’s the official write-up of the talk and the speaker:
They’re the most basic technology on the web, but we underestimate just how much links are changing the way we read and write. Links give writers a way to play with reader expectations and give readers a way to turn the act of reading into a form of gameplay. We’ll discuss how links actually create meaning, how to use them as an artful writing tool, and how all of this is changing the very nature of knowledge in the 21st century.
1.How can you use links to make your writing more engaging?
2.How are links turning the web into a text-based game space?
3.What are the best/worst practices for using hyperlinks?
4.What new technologies threaten the future of hyperlinks?
5.How are links enabling a fundamental shift in how we define knowledge?
About the Speaker:
Writer, filmmaker, and content specialist David Dylan Thomas blogs about entertainment and technology at www.daviddylanthomas.com when he’s not shooting Developing Philly, a web series about the rise of the Philadelphia innovation community. He co-hosts the Talking Pictures and Pick 3 podcasts and was recently published in the Fringe essay compilation Fringe Science. He’s spoken at SXSW, BarCamp Philly, and PodCamp Philly. He currently serves as Director, Cultural Engagement for the John Templeton Foundation.”
I don’t want to steal David’s thunder, so I won’t out-line the talk, but I will say I may have changed my mind about links within paragraphs. Personally, the research I’ve seen around how human brains work suggests to me that linking like this in the middle of a sentence makes weird things happen in your head. Firstly, there’s the interruption in your regular internal reading voice. Linked words tend to be read AS IF THEY ARE TYPED IN ALL CAPS. This emphasis can convey confusing meaning, especially if the link is not all that important.
Secondly, your concentration on the content and meaning of the sentence gets interrupted, like when a bully comes over in the sandbox and takes your pail and shovel right before you finish your castle-de-résistance . It’s disruptive and distracting. I need to find some solid eye-tracking and click research to back me up (I know I’ve seen it somewhere, but this is just a quick post). It’s possible we are becoming accustomed to this way of writing and communicating, and our brain habits will change. Until then, though, I prefer to read a paragraph without links.
One concept that I will take away, more solidly, is the idea of “artful” linking. Artful linking is using links to add color as well as information to your linear text. This is a way to generate emotion and create impressions, much like good fiction writing does, but using not just words but links to sites that enhance the meaning and experience for the user. This is a hard concept to grasp, but David had a great example to flesh it out for us. You’ll have to catch up with him to see it. But suffice is to say, I’ll be taking my own stab at it in the coming weeks.
OK that’s my quick summary. See you all soon!