Never the Same Stream: netomat, XLink, and Metaphors of Web Documents

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Colin Post, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Document engineering employs practices of modeling and representation. Enactment of these practices relies on shared metaphors. However, choices driven by metaphor often receive less attention than those driven by factors critical to developing working systems, such as performance and usability. One way to remedy this issue is to take a historical approach, studying cases without a guiding concern for their ongoing development and maintenance. In this paper, we compare two historical case studies of "failed" designs for hypertext on the Web. The first case is netomat (1999), a Web browser created by the artist Maciej Wisniewski, which responded to search queries with dynamic multimedia streams culled from across the Web and structured by a custom markup language. The second is the XML Linking Language (XLink), a W3C standard to express hypertext links within and between XML documents. Our analysis focuses on the relationship between the metaphors used to make sense of Web documents and the hypermedia structures they compose. The metaphors offered by netomat and XLink stand as alternatives to metaphors of the "page" or the "app." Our intent here is not to argue that any of these metaphors are superior, but to consider how designers' and engineers' metaphorical choices are situated within a complex of already existing factors shaping Web technology and practice. The results provide insight into underexplored interconnections between art and document engineering at a critical moment in the history of the Web, and demonstrate the value for designers and engineers of studying "paths not taken" during the history of the technologies we work on today.

Additional Information

Proceedings of the ACM Symposium on Document Engineering 2018, 13:1-13:10. DocEng '18. Halifax, Nova Scotia: ACM
Language: English
Date: 2018
Hypertext, XLink, browsers, XML, digital art

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