A different quality: Hypertext, postmodernism, and disequilibrium

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Quality Conversations Vol. 25

July, 2002, 794 pages
Published by
Tony Herrington
0 908557 54 X

The World Wide Web is almost a paradigm case of the way postmodern knowledge works. Among the many congruences between hypertext and postmodernity are the idea of text as "nonlinear, or, more properly as multilinear or multisequential", the conception of "textual openness, intertextuality, and the irrelevance of distinctions between inside and outside a particular text", and the cultivation of multivocality, in that "hypertext does not permit a tyrannical, univocal voice" (Landow, 1992, pp.4, 8 & 11). However, many approaches to online learning severely curtail these potentially anarchic elements of hypertext. Drawing on constructivism, which also converges in interesting ways with postmodernism, this paper argues that the capacity of the Web to produce disequilibrium in learners should be exploited rather than curtailed, particularly in the disciplines associated with the humanities. It describes the development of an online learning module that sought to maximise students' confusion as a way of introducing them to the connection between hypertext and postmodernism. The results were rather startling—only by throwing away the rule book in relation to both multimedia design and, to an extent, instructional design could the design objectives of the course be achieved, and the learning objectives of the students be facilitated. The resulting course module could not be evaluated in any traditional way, which suggests that measures of quality for online learning will need to be very flexible in a postmodern environment.

Keywords: hypertext, postmodernism, constructivism

A different quality: Hypertext, postmodernism, and disequilibrium

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Priest, A.