The Hyperlinked Society

I'm looking forward to participating in The Hyperlinked Society. I'm inspired (and awed) by my fellow panelists, and the program looks delicious:

Most internet users know hyperlinks as highlighted words on a web page that take them to certain other sites. But hyperlinks today are quite complex forms of instant connection: for example, tags, API mashups, and RSS feeds. Moreover, media convergence has led to increased instant linking among desktop computers, cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players, digital video recorders, and even billboards.

Through these activities and far more, links are becoming the basic forces that relate creative works to one another. Links nominate what ideas and actors have the right to be heard and with what priority. Various stakeholders in society recognize the political and economic value of these connections. Governments, corporations, non-profits and individual media users often work to digitally privilege certain ideas over others.

Do links encourage people to see beyond their personal situations and know the broad world in diverse ways? Or, instead, do links encourage people to drill into their own territories and not learn about social concerns that seem irrelevant to their personal interests? What roles do economic and political considerations play in creating links that nudge people in one or the other direction?

We need cross-disciplinary thinking to address these contentious questions, and so our panels include renowned news, entertainment and marketing executives, information architects, bloggers, cartographers, audience analysts, and communication researchers. Audience participation will be enthusiastically encouraged.

Unfortunately, I have no clue what I'm going to say. That's where you come in. How would you address these topics? What questions aren't being asked? Who isn't being included? And what should I read to get ready? Thanks!

Talk about reinventing the wheel.

So if I write a book and only cite some references am I conspiring to restrict your choices? Hyperlinks are like a citation in a bibliography.

The difference between good and bad websites is that some authors research original and primary sources and others only read secondary sources. Like good and bad print authors.

What's the big deal.

The only difference is that it is easier to replicate hyperlinks automatically without human checking than say in the printed world. This means mistakes and poor referencing will be more rapidly transmitted and amplified.

But it is not a new game. It is the same game with new rules.

This sounds fascinating. I have been interested lately in the metaphor of biology to describe our computing behaviors. I'm not sure if stigmergic systems would fit in directly with this topic, but perhaps this interview could stimulate some ideas:

A conversation with Steve Burbeck about multicellular computing

Thanks Julia, for the link, but even more for the new word:

"Stigmergy is a method of communication in emergent systems in which the individual parts of the system communicate with one another by modifying their local environment. Stigmergy was first observed in nature - ants communicate to one another by laying down pheromones along their trails, so where ants go within and around their ant colony is a stigmergic system."

Now, on reinventing the wheel, while I'm sure the conference could benefit from a review of academic literature surrounding bibliometrics and co-citation analysis... seems a stretch to suggest we're not playing a new game on the Web. Differences that occur to me include:

* Hyperlinks are much easier to follow than print they are more often they are used differently.

* This goes way beyond academia into business, social, and personal media that don't follow the same rules as scientific papers.

* With participatory blog and wiki models, the user/reader can contribute links/citations.

* Hypermedia allows (or perhaps encourages) fluid linking between radically different media types.

* With projects like Semapedia, we're starting to see links between geographic locations or physical objects and online sources of metadata about those places/objects.

And I'm sure this list could go on for a while...

I am reminded of comments and topics from your own books, in the realms of information literacy, ethics, and usability.

The title here, "Hyperlinked society," might imply that everyone is participating. In the sense that we are all following the links, maybe, but I think the topic of link *creation* is not specifically addressed (in the conference abstract, at least).

In Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, you include a short chapter on ethics. The point I took away was that there is a lot of power in the organization of information. One person's (or society's) choice of links can include quite a bit of bias.

As you've pointed out in Ambient Findability, Information Literacy is becoming (has become) a core life skill. This skill is in the hands of...well, your readers, but not society at large, yet: people have to learn how to create links - for themselves, and for others to follow - in order to fully participate in this Hyperlinked Society.

And it seems mundane, but in order to overcome some of the psychological and/or technological barriers to using hyperlinks more widely and seamlessly, we need to work on the way they look.

makes sense

does not.

A server might "understand" what that link refers to, but this format is certainly not making it easier for a human to use.

Even below this text box I'm typing in:
"Want to mention a linked URL? Include http:// before the address." Why are we making it easier for the computer to figure things out?

And we'll reach a stepping stone toward a hyperlinked society when my mother sends a link by email instead of a newspaper clipping by post.

Even more interesting than long complex URLs as hyperlinks is the emergence of all manner of new words which are designed from the start to be link-friendly.

Think of our old friend the word "findability" - Peter has cleverly engineered things so that if you type that in to pretty much any system that has an input box, you'll find your way here.

If you are fortunate to have a name that's distinctive but easy to spell, you are that much easier to hyperlink to. If your name poses spelling problems then you might need to take up some handle or alias for the moment to give you a hyperlinkable (is that a word? google says yes) tag.

Good point Ed. If you think of keywords as links, connecting users and content within the context of search, then the drive towards semantic uniqueness (e.g., flickr, indicatr) also becomes part of the picture as the volume of linked content grows.

"walking forward as you look behind"

I can't help thinking, AOL Keyword:Findability

AOL has been doing this for years. Local news pages have "keywords" they mention in broadcasts, "...for more information, visit our website, keyword: findability....". These are both examples of 'keywords as links' within a small pool of content.

How about tags as part of a Google search result (or a Yahoo search result I guess).

Found this:

Semantic uniqueness has always been important, e.g. "Kwiki-mart," not "Quick Market," "McDonalds," not "Food." tags won't drive us to semantic uniqueness.

I am reminded of Liquid Information:
"our main activity is to make all the words on the web interactive through the Hyperwords Project"