Functionality of Digital Text
What does it mean to be a text...
Tom Garnett Printing Press

Functionality of Digital Text (Working Draft)

In his book Palimpsests, Gérard Genette defines hypertextuality as any relationship between hypertext A and the text B, allowing for accessibility to all relative information connected to hypertext A. Hypertext structural functionality includes a range of local and global information, enabling alternative views and contexts by including original, and source content by linking A to B or B to A etc. (Michael Bieber). In his journal article Hypertext functionality Michael Bieber states that hypertext is a value-added support function (Michael Bieber), a significant improvement with the addition of the World Wide Web to textual functionality. Other features of hypertext include annotation and navigation functionality. Navigation functions create access through “bi-directional linking, history based navigation, process enactment,” while annotation functions include bookmarks, manual linking, and personal commenting (Michael Bieber). Digital hyper text functions have expanded to be much more effective than that of the printed text, hypertext “functionality can enrich business, science, engineering, and personal applications, thereby making them more effective” (Michael Bieber). Hypertext acts to present information in a web of related items allowing for the audience to access information that may be most appropriate for their purpose. THe functions of hypertext provide the audience with a wealth of context related data and meta-data, for example an article may include hypertext links for reference notes as well as a table of contents linking throughout the document (Michael Bieber). Expanding the function of text though hypertextuality encompasses more than context and reference hypertexts, it also includes hyperlinks and hypermedia as additional functions of digital text.

Hypertext & Hypermedia

              The digital functionality of text expands past the sol notion of Hypertext to include what scholars have termed hypermedia. As defined by Andrew Treloar in Applying Hypertext and Hypermedia to Scholarly Journal, hypertext refers to related textual elements, and “the combination of hypertext linking mechanisms and multimedia content,” while hypermedia includes relationships between any media elements (Treloar). Hypermedia can be perceived as illuminating the “rich information” the digital realm has made possible.   A few simple examples of hypermedia include: the use of color to enhance the text, links to article citation databases, forward citations, links to relevant websites, videos, sounds, images. Forward citations allow for the audience to link to articles that cite the article being read enabling the reader to gain a sense of how the work is being used in a community, advanced features like sound and video create a rich textual environment for the audience to retrieve textual context. “The direct use of hypermedia in journals removes or reduces the need for these and enables e-journals to 'do more' than print” (Treloar).

[1] The focus of this analysis is textual functionality, in the assumption that form and function are correlatives.

[2] Computers, Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), The World Wide Web, etc.

[3] Complete list: Book half title, Title Page, Dedication, Table of Contents, Forward, Preface, Acknowledgments, and Introduction


Devall, Sandra Lentz. Desktop Publishing Style Guide. Delmar Publishers, 1999. (Devall)

Genette, Gerard. Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree. U of Nebraska Press, 1997. (Genette)

Hazlitt, William Carew. Shakespear. 1834-1913. (Hazlitt)

Michael Bieber, Harri Oinas-Kukkonen, and V. Balasubramanian. "Hypertext functionality." ACM Comput. Surv. 31, 4es (1999): Article 32 . (Michael Bieber)

Rose, Simon Eliot and Jonathan. A Companion to the History of the Book. Blackwell Publishing, 2007. (Rose)

Treloar, Andrew E. "Applying hypertext and hypermedia to scholarly journals enables both product and process innovation." ACM Comput. Surv. 31, 4es (1999): Article 3. (Treloar)

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