Smith, “Hypertextual Thinking”

Smith, Catherine F. "Hypertextual Thinking." Literacy and Computers:
The Complications of Teaching and Learning with Technology
. Cynthia Selfe
and Susan Hiligoss, eds. Research and Scholarship in Composition Ser. New York:
MLA, 1994. 264-281.

Smith seeks to develop an understanding of hypertext as having a figural
relationship to cognitive form and structure.  She draws on Susanne Langer
(Living Form) and Walter Kintsch (Cognitive Architecture) to suggest models of
thinking as they overlap with "human capabilities for designing a conscious
intellectual quest" (280). The intellectual experience of
hypertext–hypertextual thinking–Smith contends, might move us toward "reidentifications
of literate thinking, especially those that realign literacy’s relation to
textuality" (280).

Smith opens with a riff on Bolter’s correlation of mind as a network of
signs.  She questions this.  Is it?  Something seems to be
lacking in the metaphor.  Smith’s focus in the chapter is what she calls
"the pragmatics of making meaning," and the discussion proceeds through
distinctions between thick and thin cognition.  "I am asking whether
hypertext systems might be designed and used to support the ‘thicker’ kinds of
knowing" (265).

Hypertext is an "intellectual experience" in addition to a "textual
experience related to reading and writing" (266). This approach puts pressure on
what it means to read and write hypertext as meaning-making activities or, in
Langer’s terms, acts.

In her discussion of cognitive architecture, drawing on Kintsch, Smith
considers structures of expectation and the problem of getting lost in a
"spaghetti" of hyperspace (275).  Other factors include relevance (a
teleological turn here) and quest.  ^It’s not clear in places whether the
quest is ordered according to a network topography or something more grid-like

Implications for teaching focuses on heuristics (280): "In Langer’s view of
acts of thinking, objects are saturated by their relations, grounded in a
context; most important, they are motivated by a particular situation" (279).

The Issue: Making Meaning
Hypertext: The Original Paradigm and Its Limitations
An Alternative View: Hypertext as Living Form and as Cognitive Architecture
Living Form
Cognitive Architecture
Implications for Teaching and Learning
Hypertextual Thinking and Orality

"Nodes and links are the defining capabilities of hypertext"

"’Living form’ is Langer’s characterization for continuous vital process or
organic connectivity, both within a single form of existence and across
forms of existence" (270). Smith explains how Langer’s philosophy of mind–keyed
by 1.) dynamic architecture, 2.) origination and effect in a situation, and 3.)
formative principles of individuation and involvement–inform "a different
notion of hypertext" (271).

"Through ambience, an act gathers relationships with other acts.  The
possibilities are so varied as to blue distinctions between kinds of existence,
e.g. between organic and inorganic existence" (271).

"This constructed output–the initial text base–is an associative network,
with propositions as nodes and associations as links" (273). [Return]

"My primary aim here, however, is not to specify the technical implementation
but to bring into view a fresh concept of hypertext. As Mark Frisse
notes, ‘How people conceptualize hypertext will affect how they design
and information retrieval methods for those systems’" (276).

Terms: mental representation (272), structures of expectation (273),
activation vector (274), hypertextual thinking (280)

Related sources:
Kintsch, Walter, and Teun A. van Dijk. "Toward a Model of Text
Comprehension and Production." Psychological Review 85 (1978): 363-94.
Langer, Susanne K. Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art. New York:
Scribner’s, 1953.
Langer, Susanne K. Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling. Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins UP, 1967.