Rhetoric and hypermedia in electronic textbooks

Allison, Kimberly Jo
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By employing the three progressive yet distinctive theoretical/rhetorical approaches to hypertext—poststructural, post-digital, and cinematic—as what Kenneth Burke refers to as terministic screens, this study examines the current state of electronic textbook design to evaluate their added value over printed textbooks—that is, the extent to which eTextbook publishers have embraced the rhetorical principles of hypertext design and moved beyond the traditional book model. Thus, chapters two and three examine the theoretical convergence of hypertext and literary and rhetorical theories, revealing that the best method for conceptualizing the rhetoric of the eTextbook emerges from an understanding of how hypertextual content breaks out of the traditional conceptions of textuality, narrative, and author's and readers' roles. Chapter two, for example, examines hypertextuality as a unique form of writing. Chapter three, then, investigates how the unique textual and technological elements of hypertextuality impact readers' perceptions of narrative order and coherence and develops a view of hypertext narrative through the exploration of hypertext theorists' appropriation of poststructural, rhizomorphic, and cinematic theories of narrative.

The findings from the theoretical textual and narratological discussions in chapters two and three are, then, used in chapters four through six to analyze eTextbooks currently available on the World Wide Web. Because Web-based eTextbooks embody a wide range of digital formats, structures, and features, for the purpose of this study these eTextbooks are divided into three major categories: simple eTextbooks, complex eTextbooks, and advanced complex eTextbooks. Simple eTextbooks, the subject of chapter four, include both downloadable and simple hypertext eTextbooks. Chapter five evaluates the three types of complex hypertext eTextbooks: eTextbooks that (1) externally link to hypermediated components (i.e., sound, video, and moving images); (2) primarily offer hypermedia in supplemental texts or companion websites; and (3) intermingle hypermedia elements within the eTextbook content itself. The advanced complex eTextbooks discussed in chapter six reflect emerging forms of Web-based eTextbooks that offer insight into the future potential of this genre of electronic books. Chapter seven concludes this study by proposing a new model for electronic textbooks that encompasses all of the discoveries made in chapters two through six.

Education, Language, literature, and linguistics, Electronic, Textbooks, Hypermedia, Rhetoric