For this week’s blog prompt I’ve asked my DigCiz students to write about hyperlinks. We discussed it and brainstormed it in class a little bit. I’m always harping on them to use more hyperlinks in their posts. I’m not sure they understand why I put them through this.
A part of it is the simple digital literacy of creating a hyperlink. Different systems do it differently and there could be a whole post just on how they are technically created in various environments. I’ve come to appreciate how I can highlight text in WordPress, with a URL waiting on the clipboard, paste it over the text and rather than the text disappearing and being replaced by the URL a hyperlink is created. Other systems don’t make it so easy. Some force you to use a WYSIWYG editor and for some others if you don’t know how to code the HTML you are out of luck.
There is, of course, the point about citation to be made when talking about hyperlinks. It is important to understand your influences and to be transparent about where ideas (and materials) are coming from. In a formal citation we make a notation in the text following a certain rules of style which then reference a list at the end of the paper or the page that give more information about how we can find that resource. The hyperlink is doing something very similar but in a much more compact format.
However, a big reason why I want students to think and write about hyperlinks is because I want to draw out a conversation about layers and connection in knowledge. This is the bigger conversation that I want to have. I’m not sure that all students will get it but I want to challenge all of them to consider it. We just finished reading Vannevar Bush’s 1945 article As We May Think where Bush envisions a machine that could trace the connections of knowledge. We did an improv exercise in class where we said the first word that came to our minds based on the word the previous person said. We are starting to explore how the pursuit of knowledge is a connected endeavor more so than a transactional one.
Of course there is the old game of “Hey look at me. I’m the professor and I have all the knowledge. Now I will give the knowledge to you and then you will give it back to me so that I can make sure you got it.” That is a thing and I don’t want to belittle it because there are tons of instances where that might be the best way to learn a thing. However, when we stop seeing knowledge acquisition as only possible via a transaction and we start seeing it in terms of connection then powerful things start happening.
So, I’m hoping that students will consider different dimensions concerning hyperlinks. That they will do some searching on the different purposes around hyperlinks that are of interest to them, write about that, and of course link to the things that they found interesting. These next three weeks we are talking about environments and we will get into other ways of layering knowledge and connecting.
Image Credit by Xavier Gigandet et. al. [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons