www.dichtung-digital.de/2000/Wingert-22-Dez


Hypertext Conference 2000
in San Antonio, Texas

Report by Bernd Wingert
- Research Center Karlsruhe -

The text was originally published in German in „'nfd' - Information - Wissenschaft und Praxis" 51 (2000) 6/Sept., pp. 379-386. dichtung-digital.de thanks the publisher for permission to post it here again. The text is translated by Ralph Friese, Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe
(see also the report by
Anja Rau and Susana Tosca)

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San Antonio, located in the south of Texas, was this year’s venue of the ACM Hypertext Conference held on May 31 - June 2 and organized by Frank M. Shipman, last year’s winner of the Douglas Engelbart Best Paper Award. San Antonio had hosted a hypertext conference before, in 1991, when, as indicated in a brief reference in the preliminary program, a certain "Tim Berners-Lee demonstrated something called the World Wide Web." The next conference, HT01, will be held in Europe, namely in Århus, Denmark, on August 14 - 18, 2001, and the Program Committee will be chaired by Kai Grønbæck (University of Århus) together with Jane Douglas (University of Florida).

The San Antonio event attracted some 150 paying participants, which is approximately the same interest as had been shown in last year’s conference in Darmstadt, a detailed account of which was published in this journal (cf. NfD 1999, 4, July; and on this site as well). This year’s program offered a special feature, as the "Digital Library" (DL) followed immediately after the HT Conference, thus allowing workshops and tutorials on Friday afternoon and Saturday to be attended by persons interested in HT as well as in librarianship. I, for instance, had booked a tutorial about the "Open E-Book Initiative" for Saturday afternoon. The ACM HT Conference can still afford a high selection rate, as the 22 full papers and short papers each were selected from among 67 and 48, respectively, papers submitted. That the "Doctoral Consortium" was dropped this time for lack of attendance should not be considered a bad omen.

The conference was held at the Menger Hotel, a sprawling hotel complex with a swimming pool in one courtyard and a tropical garden in the other. The original building had been erected in 1859 and converted extensively around 1900. Compared to the high riser hotels in downtown San Antonio, this one, with its three stories, is of moderate proportions, splendidly (but not showily) furnished and radiating solid elegance. On the whole, it is a good place to recover for a number of concentrated conference days, if only the conference rooms had not been cooled to deep freezing temperatures. To add to the local color, the Menger Hotel is located opposite the Aloma, originally a Spanish mission which, in the spring of 1832, was the site of a bloody clash between a residual troop of soldiers and settlers within the fortification and incoming Mexican troops. The outcome is not difficult to imagine. Consequently, the heroes of Aloma are commemorated by a monument on the open square which may have turned out a bit too melodramatic. That same year, Aloma was reconquered and constituted the starting point for the battles leading to the independence of Texas. In 1845, Texas became the 28th member of the United States.

Program Survey

The program began on Wednesday morning with an Opening Keynote by Scott McCloud and then branched out into two sections, the first of which was devoted to "Media Issues in Hypertext" (attended by the author, marked with an * below), while the other dealt with "Hypertext and Education." In the afternoon, one session was about "Open Hypermedia Systems and Infrastructure" (a topic to which another session was devoted the next day), while the other was about *Links and Relations,* with a contribution winning this year’s Newcomer Award (for more details, see below). The panel following the same afternoon as well as the "Short Paper Session" can both be summarized under the heading of "Collaboration," developed as a scenario at the panel, while the series of lectures added topics, such as interaction history, navigational aids, and other aspects of user interfaces. An item familiar from last year’s conference was an event called "Hyperreading," at which authors presented their work. This *Hypertext Readings by Hypertext Authors* item had now become a firm part of the program and thus was able to attract the undivided attention of congress attendants.

Thursday initially was devoted to the session about "Open Hypermedia" referred to above; this was paralleled by a panel about *Publishing Issues for Hypertext.* The second half contained brief papers on *From Authoring to Design,* and a parallel paper on "Clustering Hypertext." In the afternoon, there were two contributions under "Technical Briefings" of which I am unable to say whether they are likely to generate effects similar to that produced by the contribution by Berners-Lee referred to initially. Instead, I attended *Adaptive Hypertext,* curious, as in Darmstadt last year, whether any progress had been made in this area (not evaluated below).

The contributions presented in the second half of the afternoon in a way constituted the key point of the conference. There was only one section, and it was devoted to *Reading and Interaction,* a topic on which I concentrated already in the last report. The secret of who among the nominees would be awarded the prizes was lifted at the reception in the evening.

The conclusion of the conference on Friday morning was a single section on the subject of *Hypertext Design, Generation, and Evaluation* (not evaluated), followed by the *Closing Keynote* by Jonathan Grudin whom I had heard at a meeting in Berlin years ago, the MMK ’96 at Bollmannsruh, which, inter alia, had been about "Learning in the Web." At that time, Grudin had presented an empirical study of handling electronic company diaries, the results of which showed two different forms of corporate culture. In San Antonio, the speaker roamed the cultural history of media, making extensive stops for quotations from various authors, including Plato's Phaedrus dialog.

This rundown is meant to compensate, albeit insufficiently, for the highly selective piece of reporting below. In view of the range of topics dealt with, and the variety of potential specialized interests, this is the only way of coping. Again I am not going to focus on aspects of computer science, but will concentrate instead on the "applied topics," specifically on the problems of reading and interaction. Surely, this is not going to cover satisfactorily areas such as "Open Hypermedia" or "Hypertext and Education." On the other hand, the survey at least indicated that the conference included contributions also on these topics. Here are my subjects:

1. The Introductory Paper.
2. Aids for Visually Impaired Web Travelers.
3. The Pragmatics of Linking.
4. Hypertext Variants and Readings.
5. Publishing Issues.
6. From Authoring to Design.
7. Reading and Interaction.
8. The Concluding Paper.

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