“lost in hyperspace” – do we care?

I have rarely heard the phrase “lost in hyperspace” in the last 10 years, although it used to be a recurrent theme in hypertext and HCI literature.  For some time this has bothered me.  We don’t seem less lost, so maybe we are just more laid back about control, or maybe we are simply relinquishing it?

Recently Lisa Tweedie posted a Pintrest link on Facebook to Angela Morelli‘s dynamic infographic on water.  This is a lovely vertically scrolling page showing how the majority of the water we use is indirectly consumed via the food we eat … especially if you are a meat eater (1 kilo beef = 15,400 litres of water!).  The graphic was great, except it took me ages to actually get to it.  In fact the first time I found a single large graphic produced by Angela as a download, it was only when I returned to it that I found the full dynamic info graphic.

Every time I go to Pintrest I feel like I’ve been dropped into a random part of Hampton Court Maze, so hard to find the actual source … this is why a lot of artists get annoyed at Pintrest!  Now for Pintrest this is probably part of their design philosophy … after all they want people to stay on their site.  What is amazing is that this kind of design is so acceptable to users … Facebook is slightly less random, but still it takes me ages to find pages I’ve liked, each time I start the search through my profile afresh.

In the early days of hypertext everyone used to talk about the “lost in hyperspace” problem … now we are more lost … but don’t care anymore.  In the Mediaeval world you put your trust in your ‘betters’ lords, kings, and priests and assumed they knew best … now we put our trust in Pintrest and Facebook.

3 thoughts on ““lost in hyperspace” – do we care?

  1. Mm, I hear Google solved the lost in hyperspace problem…

    …except, indeed, they have not. It always takes me a surprisingly long time just to find my own photographs on Facebook! Google helps give us shortcuts to certain things (I wonder what proportion of people use remembered, repeated Google searches instead of bookmarks?), but not always — and as you observe, other sites can be winding mazes, quite possibly by design.

    In much the same way that modern web designs can fail terribly at complying with Schneiderman’s golden rules of interface design, so it would seem that we are once again becoming lost in a maze of winding links and passageways.

    Perhaps once we stop expecting clean interfaces or obvious hypertext pathways, the motivation for authors to provide them is gone…

  2. Strangely Alan, I started my pinterest page precisely because of the “lost in hypertext” idea. I found that when I wanted to refer back to stuff I posted on facebook I often could not find it. Pinterest seemed like a way to organise this stuff in logical ways and store it cupboard like for future use.

    I spend quite a lot of energy posting things on facebook and I guess it annoyed me that that work was then lost. This way I can store it for posterity. In a similar way for longer issues I have started writing on my blog and then posting the blog post to facebook rather than doing all the work on facebook. Although there is a synergy there. I definitely fish for discussion on facebook which I sometimes write up on my blog.

    In other word for me facebook is for ephemeral passing thoughts… and building ideas whereas my blog is for considered opinion. See this blog post for a bit more on this: http://lisatweedie.com/2012/07/12/a-social-media-ecology-of-the-web/

    The whole “lost in hyperspace” thing takes me back to my undergraduate days. My final year project was on the use of maps to aid this problem … I even have a paper published on the subject. What a different world that was!
    Stanton, N.A., Taylor, R.G. and Tweedie, L.A. (1992) Maps as navigation aids in hypertext: an empirical evaluation. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 1, (4), 431-444.

    I have been trying to replicate your problem with the Pinterest UX. From facebook it is simply a click on the picture to Pinterest and then a second click on the picture to the original source. My guess is that your issue was due to low bandwidth? But interested to hear more.

    Question is should I continue to post on facebook via pinterest? Not sure (:

    You can follow me on twitter @lisatw


  3. Pingback: Experience: Where am I? Where have I been? Where am I going? | Ruth Stalker-Firth

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