Suburbs and Hypertexts

click on images for full-size:

Sprawl viewed from different perspective

A map of links in a large hypertext (part of the "scenes" region of this text)

A mechanism of linking

I want to make, but also qualify, a parallel between suburbs and hypertexts, as a way of emphasizing that the meaning of a given chunk of suburban building or real estate usually depends on its linkages to distant items. The basic comparison with hypertext -- a non-linear assemblage of chunks of text with links among them -- is that the form of the text is not the same as the form visible on any one page or screen. It reaches beyond, just as form of the suburb is not the same as the immediately visible spatial connections. Immediate architectural form is not the same as the place form of suburban locations, because they reach out beyond the local horizon, and form wholes and networks that are not architecturally obvious. We are not sure how to express this linkage architecturally, and most suburban architectural types celebrate isolation rather than connection.

This parallel is useful, because the armature of links in a hypertext creates a "spatiality" that has more complex interrelations and dimensions than the linear one-thing-after-another of physical space, or of pages in a novel. The analogy with hypertext shows how the reality of a suburb can be more complex than appears locally, with more dimensions of movement and connection. There are other parallels as well. But the parallel between hypertext and suburbs is not perfect, for a number of reasons. The most important difference has to do with the two kinds of spatialities formed by grammatical and spatial connection. This also has to do with the way meaning is created by adjacency.