Hinting through linking.
Perhaps the best remembered example of linking that was more than just reference,
"see also" linking, was in Suck
Magazine that ran on the web from 1997 to 2001. Suck used links extensively,
but avoided the obvious. Sometimes, following a link from a particular sentence
brought the reader to a site that forced him or her to ask whether what seemed
an endorsement about something was actually criticism. Steven Johnson, in his
not often enough quoted book Interface
Culture comments on the use of links in Suck:
great rhetorical sleight of hand was this: whereas every other Web site conceived
hypertext as a way of augmenting the reader experience, Suck saw it as an opportunity
to withhold information, to keep the reader at bay. Scott
Rosenberg, in an
article about Suck in Salon Magazine elaborates, and turns to Johnson for
Suck's best hook all along -- its most original
contribution to Web culture -- has been the style of hypertext link it pioneered.
Suck's writers use links not as informational resources or aids to site navigation
but as a rhetorical device, a kind of subtextual shorthand. A link from a Suck
article, far from illustrating a point, more often than not undercuts it. A Suck
link's highlight is often a warning: Irony Ahead -- do not take these words at
face value. Feed's Steven Johnson analyzes it in his new book, "Interface Culture,"
as a kind of associative slang: "They buried their links mid-sentence, like riddles,
like clues. You had to trek out after them to make the sentence cohere."
What Rosenberg and Johnson don't seem to mention (and Johnson has quite
a bit more to say) is that this sort of linking (and the expectation that
readers will follow and understand the links) assumes a certain rapport, a common
language, between writer and reader. Readers who, upon clicking on a link arrive
at a page that carries clues to the actual meaning of the linked-from text, have
to be familiar enough with the mind-set of the writer in order for them to understand
something rather than simply exclaim "I don't see any connection" and
move on to something else to read.
And hey, a to from whence you came button
on this page could help alleviate quite a bit of unnecessary confusion.
Go to: Beyond blue and underlined text, or
to: Dr. Hierarchy and Mr. Associative