Childish enthusiasm and Sculptural Hypertext

I gave my first seminar yesterday, talking about how I come to begin the PhD. It seemed to go pretty well, and was recorded for posterity, so when it appears online, I’ll post a link to it.

But before the seminar I spoke at a workshop examining Digital Narratives, and was impressed and excited by all the other speakers. One in particular got my childish enthusiasm all fired up though. David Millard, of the university’s Electronics and Computer Science department, spoke about “strange” and “sculptural hypertext.”

Hypertext is of course the basis of the World Wide Web. But the last time I did anything with it was when I was using Hypercard to prototype museum interactives for my degree. What makes hypertext “sculptural” is the idea that instead of authoring links between individual cards, all the “cards” are linked to all the others to begin with, and you cut away links to get to what you want. (This may be massive oversimplification, or I might have got hold of the wrong end of the stick entirely – if so forgive me, I only learned about it yesterday.)

This cutting away can be done dynamically, so for example, links might not be evident until you are in the right place geographically, or until you’ve read a particular “card”, or until the right time of day.

The more David explained, the more I thought “this sounds like the real world equivalent (actually not quite real world – I need to think about which of Pine’s “eight realms” it is) of the algorithm behind the likes of Red Dead Redemption”. Which is, I think, exactly what I’m looking for right now.

So, this morning, my childish enthusiasm got the better of me, and I’ve been on-line looking for a free Hypertext authoring tool that I might be able to get my head around to give it a go. I’ve just downloaded HypeDyn (pronounced Hyped-in) which seems an easy enough authoring tool to start with.  Its produced by my my wife’s old Alma Mater (or one of them) the National University of Singapore, who say “Much of our focus is on end-user technologies for people who may not be technically inclined, but who want to use the power of computation to build and explore things,” which sounds just like me. It’s very latest development version includes location tools and a way or publishing to HTML5 which can be used on any mobile phone. So it could be used to prototype a pretty sophisticated location based narrative. I’m going to start on a more stable version though.