Delinkification causes Frustration

Nicholas Carr’s  ‘Experiments in delinkification’ includes (and depends for its rationale on) the following statement: “People who read hypertext comprehend and learn less, studies show, than those who read the same material in printed form”.

But this deserves (needs!) at least a footnote (and a hyperlink would have been much better!).

The phrase “studies show” always sets off alarm bells in my mind because it doesn’t take much cleverness to design a “study” which will “show” just about anything. Regarding the issue in question, it would be easy to make up a document in which links are obstructive, but it seems that Carr has just demonstrated by example that it is equally possible to make one in which the absence of links is even more so (since I will not have been able to “comprehend” his post until I have had a chance to look at the sample documents used in those “studies”).

And when Carr says “The link is . . . a more violent form of a footnote” I agree instead with Crawford Killian who says that ” I increasingly find footnotes in print text to be ‘more violent’: those tiny little superscript numbers tell me the real information is buried in the back of the book, but I’m too lazy to keep flipping back and forth. If I did flip to the back of the book, I’d find a reference to an unobtainable book or article—or to a URL that I would have to painstakingly type in to my computer.”

Killian concludes in the end that “-wherever the hell he wants to put his links. Nicholas Carr is a guy worth knowing”, and that may be true, but I stand by my earlier opinion on the value of this antiweb stuff.

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