What is hypertext and hypermedia?
According to Ted Nelson who coined both the terms in the 1960’s:
“Hypertext” has become generally accepted for branching and responding text, but the corresponding word “hypermedia”, meaning complexes of branching and responding graphics, movies and sound – as well as text – is much less used.— Nelson, Literary Machines, 1992
How can hypertext and hypermedia be incorporated into my discipline of anthropology and archaeology?
Subject matter in the field of anthropology is profoundly vast. Therefore any sort of technology that simplifies the effort of research would be most appreciated by those who are researching. Rather than lugging around a profuse amount of publications, hypertext and hypermedia enable a researcher access to even more information at their convenience and at their immediate demand. Not only does this benefit researchers of anthropology, but any field for that matter.
My focus in anthropology is in prehistory, near/middle-eastern archaeology. All of the cultures during prehistory did not possess a writing system; therefore there is no written record that exists to inform one on the culture’s way of life. Archaeologists have to act as if they were detectives at a crime scene and piece together the information to reconstruct what took place in the past. Hypertext and hypermedia could be very useful in my study. They allow me to search through an almost infinite amount of information as well as save time that it would have taken to find the same information in a library. This saved time can now be used to further work on my research and speed up the date in which the results are to be published. Also by using hypertext and hypermedia I can interact with others who are working on similar subjects. I can receive instant feedback, opinions, and advice from other researchers. This is something a physical book cannot provide, well at least to this extent and speed.
There are contradictions however. According to the article, Ancient History, Archaeology and Hypertext Publishing:
The first problem is one which you may well have already overcome. Reading papers on the internet is a very bad idea, unless you actively seek out a migraine. A slightly more spurious argument against internet publishing is that you cannot read electronic papers in the bath. This is both wrong (if you own a PDA) and irrelevant. The costs of printed journals are astronomical…The cynic will point out that any web page can be printed. The best argument for not doing so from the browser is that it often looks awful.
Additionally problems exist in the accuracy of the hypertext and hypermedia. Often times on accident, information is inaccurately recorded and this can severely hinder the intended interpretation and meaning of the information. Another problem with inaccuracy is that anyone can instantly publish information onto the internet and a researcher may come across the information believing the claims are true. This can be easily exemplified within the website of Wikipedia.
Despite the contradictions I have mentioned I think hypertext and hypermedia can help those in my field and virtually any other. But when using these technologies one should be aware of these contradictions and take them into account when researching.