The reading experience

Three anonymous readers evaluated the Sprawling Places hypertext for a publisher. None of them had seen the book version. Their comments were mostly content-related, but they also discussed their experiences in reading the text.

Reader A:

First, I do agree with the author that simultaneous publication of the website and the book would be very advantageous. They are very different intellectual experiences that only add to each other, rather than detract or compete.

Hypertext requires, of course, a very different kind of organization than a traditional essay. When I randomly entered the site, I initially found the screens to be fragmented and somewhat frustrating. This is because I judged them in isolation. . . . After some hours of "cruising" the site, however, it began to hang together. It is the cumulative experience of the site, like the cumulative experience of the "strip," that adds up to making sense. In this manner the organization is most effective.

Reader B:

The coordinated hypertext project seems excellent to me. I have surfed it extensively. It should certainly make the theory accessible by allowing a variety of entry points, in which the reader can start with any one of a variety of current architectural and geographical topics. Then he or she can follow a number of ramifications, which will lead fairly quickly to some central concepts, thinkers, definitions, and questions. These in turn will lead to more cases. I could imagine teaching a course in which I made use of both book and hypertext. In many ways this coordination or parallelism of the two modes, the consecutively written book and the ramifying hypertext, reflects in the medium of writing the very fundamental aesthetic issue that Kolb confronts in both places, namely the contrast between a more conventional, centered, striated space and one that allows for a freer kind of movement, a patchwork or smooth space, to use a term of Deleuze and Guattari.

Reader C:

My personal approach was that I spent the first sessions going by narrative . . .

1. I had great fun

2. I had great fun -- while also thinking who else has -- probably architects, philosophers, cultural wanna-knowers . . . and above all students and PhD students.

When I later turned to the general outline and its subdivisions I appreciated very much that I could go very quickly to the areas that interested me most.

I found these two principal browsing opportunities (narratives and expositions) both attractive and usable. . . . I found many intriguing and surprising links . . . . Sometimes traveling through Kolb's virtual landscape led me to search for other sites that were not linked to by Kolb . . . I found myself often wanting to return to the subsites under the general outline because of their condensed load of thought.

I also find the project very well elaborated as an electronic reading. It is not just a book or text laid out on the net, but very intriguing in its system of links. It, moreover, keeps a personal approach towards the set of problems presented as net publication, which is not always easy when it comes to theoretical texts, but which is one of internet's main qualities.

As an electronic reading project I also think that central concepts like social grammar, place complexity and themed places come out very well, since they are approached many times at different locations, and from different aspects.

These comments evidence show that the text was working as intended, but just as with the first reader, and the second, these readers wonder whether long expository hypertexts can be made accessible while arguing for their views, without sacrificing the virtues a hypertextual presentation can add to standard prose.