Coherent navigation in hypertext environments: The SMIsC conception
The key usability problem in hypertext and hypermedia is the Navigation Problem. This problem can be divided into the problem of disorientation and the problem of cognitive overhead. We believe that one systematic approach to the Navigation Problem consists in developing mechanisms to assist users to navigate coherently; that is, to blaze trails which imitate semantically coherent discourses in hypertext/hypermedia networks. The main purpose of such a mechanism is the maintenance of the macrocontrol over local transitions among nodes of information during a navigational (interactive) session. This macrocontrol should provide the trail's global (thematic) coherence.
Based on the works of such well-known psycholinguists as van Dijk, Kintsch and Levelt, we demonstrate that a good portion of the macrocontrol maintenance can be implemented on a computer. We describe the portion as content-independent navigational strategies, which are formulated in terms of only the network's node-link structure, and are expressible in the form of machine instructions. The strategies mechanism we have developed aids users to move in the network, maintaining the trail's global coherence in relation to a chosen theme. This trail imitates a so-called canonically-ordered discourse based on the network's nodes. With this mechanism, the macrocontrol is shared among the computer and the user and this makes the user's burden significantly less. We use the term ’System of Meaning Integrities structural Creation’, or SMIsC, to denote our hypertext system with such shared macrocontrol.
KeywordsCurrent Node Local Unit Psychological Distance Semantic Unit Navigation Problem
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