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Annotated Bibliography 4

Burbules, Nicholas C. "Rhetorics of the Web: Hyperreading and Critical Literacy" in Page to Screen: Taking Literacy into the Electronic Era, edited by Ilana Snyder. New South Wales: Allen and Unwin, 1997. (http://www.ed.uiuc.edu/facstaff/burbules/ncb/papers/rhetorics.html)

Summary

In this essay, Burbules writes about the meaning and significance of a hyperlink, and how this may call for a need to hyperread critically. The whole paper mainly talks about what a link can do, the meanings a link can take on, the different types of links, and the implications of all theses on hyperreading. His paper hinges on the significance of links in hypertexts. He argues that links are often underestimated, with regards to their significance in a hypertextual environment. Links can not only function as the 'normal' information points, nodes, or texts, and "subservient to the important things", but also have a rhetorical effect due to their ability to "imply choices and reveal assumptions".

Links are able to function as metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche (where a part stands for the whole), hyperbole (understatement or exaggeration), antistasis (the reiteration of the same word in different contexts), identity (the opposite of antistasis, i.e. highlights points of commonality instead of difference), sequence and cause-and-effect, and finally, catechresis i.e. "far-fetched uses of familiar words in a new context". He devotes a large part of his paper to a discussion of the points above.

Finally, he draws a conclusion by reiterating a point which he had made at the beginning of his paper i.e. links have meanings and significance, and he went on to talk about how this necessitates a critical attitude towards hyperreading. According to him, "judging links, then, is a crucial part of developing a broader critical orientation to hyperreading", and warns us "not simply to follow the links laid out for us, but to interpret their meaning and assess their appropriateness". Other points to take note when hyperreading includes assessing the credibility of the designers and authors, and recognizing the limits of the web that lies behind its apparent 'boundlessness' and 'neutrality'.

Review

This is a well-written, coherent and concise essay with sound arguments. I was persuaded into thinking differently about hyperlinks and hyperreading after I read the essay. Burbules' arguments are straight-to-the-point, making understanding a lot easier. There is systematicity in his well-organized essay, and the use of sub-headings to break his essay into 4 main parts certainly helps a lot.

Some interesting points Burbules brought up includes: the idea that links have more meaning than what we think, or what they apparently are, some of the different kinds of meanings a link can create, and ways by which it achieves those effects.

Even though the paper is quite long, the arguments are well-presented and elaborated, and so there is not much problem with following the lengthy essay. This is definitely one very useful paper for my essay, not only because the question is based on this but also because of its well thought-out arguments that sets me thinking. One point he brought up that left a deep, lasting impact on me was the idea that a link has the potential to exclude as much as it includes. It seems quite philosophical initially, but upon some thinking, one would be able to see what he means. The very same link performs at least two functions simultaneously: it includes things that are beyond the text, but at the same time, it excludes all other things that have not been linked! This, in my opinion, is the underlying concept behind all the meanings a link can create.

Summarized and reviewed by Tan Lee Peng

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