When storytellers ‘hyperlink’ they still pull you back. Do you?

I had to explain what a hyperlink is to my class last week.

It’s odd to see, through the eyes of a new audience, how the words we take so much for granted, are really a tad arcane. Yet we continue to use words and phrases such as URLs (no-one cares what it stands for), Cloud, hyperlink.

But just to explain hyperlink by focusing on the word link, made me look of how stories used to be constructed in a pre-Internet era, with built-in hyper-links. The storyteller used his craft to send the listener to a place and then craftily pull him back, thereby enriching the story. The whole back-and-forth link-out/link-back process is how we intuitively learn to write. To keep an audience engaged. (for this experiment I am not using any hyperlinks in this post.)

Take Hamlet, for instance. When he speaks to the ghost of his father:

Yea, from the table of my memory

I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records,

All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,

That youth and observation copied there;

Shakespeare piles on metaphors of books, records, copying etc, to take the audience –an outbound link– to a place that provides some background to Hamlet’s state of confused state of mind, his ‘distracted globe.’

Now, nearly 400 years later, even as we experiment with ‘media snacking,’ we are increasingly aware that we don’t advance knowledge by reading headlines and summaries.

But while an actor could pull us back, we who abuse the hyperlink (just to show we know more about a topic), inadvertently encourage readers to drift off into some abyss.

Hamlet was, by his own admission,  ‘distracted,’ but he made sure we are not!

What could digital storytellers use to pull an audience back, to enlarge the story?

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