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Blogtalk Downunder » Granularity

Blogtalk Downunder
   May 19-22, Sydney

Blogtalk Downunder


Granularity is a term common to the hypertext literature (as any casual search of the ACM proceedings will show) and refers to the scale of the units used within a larger system. For example, the Web can be considered highly granular (in general) because it is made up of many millions of individual parts, each of which appears well suited to being interconnected in quite unstructured (non hierarchical and multilinear) ways.

Books, on the other hand, are not as granular as the pages within the book are generally designed to be used in a fixed order, and as an object you tend to have to connect (to use hypertext terminology) to the entire book when wanting to insert it into other contexts. (This is the role of footnotes and bibliographies, for example).

This difference is simple, but illuminating. In a page based essay I need to refer to the entire containing object, lets say the book, and the reader, if they wished to view what I am referring to are obligated to get all of that object. Hence we think of it as being not particularly granular. On the other hand, in a web based essay I may provide a link to the specific page from which I’m citing (which may be one page amongst many in a larger work) but there is no need for myself or the reader to have to get the entire ‘object’ for this connection to take place. Hence we think of this has being highly granular.

Text, as text, and prior to considering it in terms of genres or discourses, is highly granular, as is video ordinarily understood as consisting of narratives composed sequences, in turn composes of shots.

In the context of hypertext and multilinear, interactive web based material, a premium is placed on formats, genres, or systems that support a high level of granularity because such systems offer multiple possibilities for (or of) connection and reconnection.

note: This page forms a part of a hypertext essay by Adrian Miles. The homepage for this essay is located at:
A long version of this paper (containing some but not all of the text contained in the hypertext version) is available at:

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