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Word Circuits Connection Muse

(updated 01/10/06)

System Description
Download and Install the System
Demos of the System
System Features
Features for a Future Release

Hypertext 2000 Paper About the System


Word Circuits Connection Muse is a set of software tools specifically for authors of Web-based hypertext poetry and fiction. Most hypertext tools available today for the Web are intended primarily for creating informational Web sites where readers will usually browse (in the original sense of rather haphazardly sampling some of the content) or seek out specific information. Literature, on the other hand, demands a system designed for whole-text reading--that is, one designed to accommodate readers who wish to consume an entire hypertext in a satisfying manner.

One of the requirements for a successful whole-text system is a sophisticated mechanism for handling the complex relationship between read and unread material, which lies at the heart of maintaining momentum during the reading and achieving closure at the end of it. Adaptive hypertext techniques can help bring this sophistication to hypertext literature, making it more responsive to the reader's needs. Connection Muse adds dynamic functionality to HTML texts through a system that tracks the reader's progress and responds on the fly to changing conditions. It also lets the author create components within the hypertext--paths and sets of nodes--and manipulate these as objects with extractable properties.

Writers have three different options for adding Connection functions to their work. A Toolkit for Dreamweaver allows users of Macromedia Dreamweaver to insert functions as objects by entering information in Dreamweaver dialog boxes--little or no knowledge of JavaScript required. Other users can run the Toolkit for Browsers in their Web browser. This lets users create Connection functions by filling out forms, which will then automatically generate JavaScript code that can be pasted into any HTML document. Users will also be able to create Connection functions manually or edit any of the automatically generated function code.

For detailed discussion of how Connection Muse can be used in hypertexts, see Toward an Organic Hypertext. This paper (presented at Hypertext 2000) also discusses the concepts of organic hypertext and object-oriented literature, which underlie the system.

"[Connection Muse gives] those already committed to the form some long-needed tools for delivering long-needed effects." ("Hypertext Writing Finds Potential in Connection System," by Jimmy Guterman, in The Chigago Tribune, March 9, 2000)

Download Connection Muse Version 1.0

MuseDoc&Files1.zip (197K compressed file) contains the Connection Muse documentation, the system files, and the Toolkit for browsers.

ConnectionMuse1.mxp (20K) contains the Toolkit for Dreamweaver.

If you have been using a beta version, you can read about the changes in Version 1.0.

Installation Instructions

Extract the contents of MuseDoc&Files1.zip. This should create three separate folders: system contains the system files and templates; doc&tools contains the documentation, the Toolkit for Browsers, and the system demos; dw contains the Toolkit for Dreamweaver files. (The Toolkit for Dreamweaver files are included for the benefit of anyone who wishes to install these manually. See below to install the Toolkit for Dreamweaver automatically.) To read the downloaded documentation, open the file manual.htm (located in the doc&tools folder) in your browser.

To install the Toolkit for Dreamweaver:

  1. Download ConnectionMuse1.mxp.
  2. In Dreamweaver, go to the Commands menu and select Manage Extesions. This will open the Dreamweaver Extension Manager.
  3. In the Extension Manager go to the File menu and select Install Extension. Select the file ConnectionMuse1.mxp and click Install.
  4. Follow the prompts to install the Connection Muse Extensions.
  5. Close the Extension Manager when you're done. 
  6. If Dreamweaver is currently running, you must exit the program and restart it before you can use the Toolkit.


Demos of the System

To get an idea of what the system can do, take a look at our two demos. Our Simple Demo shows off some of the basic system functions. The Text Components Demo presents more advanced features in the form of an "organic hypertext." (For an explanation of this approach, see "Text Components and Organic Hypertext" in the User's Guide.)

The following online hypertexts are enhanced by Connection Muse. These works save the reader's place between sessions and allow her to resume exactly where she left off. They also incorporate the features listed below.

Robert Kendall's poem Penetration (Eastgate Reading Room, 2000) 

Text that changes randomly within a node.
Conditional text and conditional links that depend upon which node was visited immediately prior to the current node.
Conditional links to a predefined set of nodes. (A predefined set contains all of the nodes that can serve as effective initial entry points into the poem. Periodically the poem displays four links at the top of the screen that lead to randomly selected unvisited nodes within this set.)
A progress gauge showing how much of the text remains to be read.

Jackie Craven's In the Changing Room, Version 1.1 (Word Circuits, 2001)

Conditional links to a predefined set of nodes. (In the main menu, when you click on an icon for a character, you are taken to the first unread node in that character's storyline. The system thus saves your place within the separate story threads that make up the work.)

Robert Kendall's Clues (Work-in-Progress)

Conditional links control the reader's movement through a gaming environment. They ensure that a new area of the gaming domain is presented every time a new screen is displayed. Controls how many scenes in each area of the domain the reader can visit until she is forced to enter a new area.
Keeps the reader's score in the game.
Allows scenes to recur if the reader has previously missed an opportunity to score there.
Displays elements of graphics conditionally. (If the reader has missed a clue in a scene, the system removes from the scene the object connected with the clue.)

Rob Swigart's About Time (Word Circuits, 2002)

The graphics in the menus are displayed conditionally. A different graphic is displayed for visited than for unvisited nodes.
Conditional links provide access to a new section of the work only after all the nodes in the current section have been read.
A user choice at the beginning of the work sets a condition that determines whether comments about one of the characters are positive or negative throughout the work.

Helen Whitehead's Shopping List (trAce, 2003)

Conditional links control the reader's progress. For example, the "salad" node can't be read until all the ingredients for salad have been visited.



Here is an outline of the most important features that are currently available in Connection Muse.

History Creation

The system records a complete history of all nodes visited, which it stores in cookies. The author can use this history information to tell the reader how much text is left unread, to create conditional links or text based on the history, or to alter the behavior of the hypertext during later stages of the reading. The reader can return to a text during a later session and resume where he or she left off, with all history information intact.

Conditional Links and Text

Links or text can be displayed conditionally. Conditions are built from a large set of functions and operators, giving the author a high degree of control. Here are some of the conditions that can determine whether or not an element is displayed:

whether certain specified nodes have been visited
whether a specified node was the last node (or among the last several nodes) visited
whether the current node has already been visited a specified number of times
whether a specified number of nodes within the entire hypertext (or within a specified subset of it) has been read

Path and Set Management

The author can define a path (a sequence of nodes) or an unordered set of nodes  and create links directly to the path or set by specifying a property of it. Here are some examples:

A link could always lead to the first unvisited node in a path. This would let a reader more easily return to narrative threads in progress. For example, in an image map with points representing different paths, each point could return the reader to his or her last position in a path rather than just leading to the path's first node.
A link could always lead to a randomly selected unvisited node in a set. For example, an author could create a set containing all nodes that would serve as good initial entry points into the text. Conditional links can then ensure that the reader has access to a fresh starting point whenever necessary. Sets could also contain nodes related to a specific character, setting, theme, etc.

The system can analyze the "wear" on a particular path--that is, determine how many nodes on a path have been visited. This information can help steer readers onto paths that will take them to new material.

Randomization Functions

A link can lead to a randomly chosen node. The author has the option of specifying that this be an unvisited node.
Text can be randomly selected from a set of text strings and displayed within a node.

Link Descriptions

Every link can be given a name or description, which will be displayed in the status bar or in pop-up text (similar to a Windows tool tip) when the reader places the mouse pointer on the link. These names can be altered on the fly in response to specified conditions.


Possible Features for a Future Release

We are considering the following features for future versions of Connection Muse.

Links with Multiple Destinations

Clicking on a multivalent link anchor will pop up a list of destinations from which the user can select.

Reader Progress Gauge

An optional graphical indicator can show the reader how much text remains to be read.

Returning to the "Path Not Taken"

The system will identify nodes in the history that contain links to unvisited nodes. This will allow the reader to jump back to earlier points in the reading to explore "the path not taken."

Connecting Sets or Paths

Just as authors can link nodes together, they will also be able to connect other objects within the system. Sets can be connected by combining them as subsets of a larger set. Individual paths can be concatenated to form longer paths. Any of these connections can be conditional, drawing upon the same set of functions and operators used to build conditional links. The reader can also be given the option of making or breaking these connections.

More complex types of connections between objects will also be supported. Between two sets or paths the author can define multiple "contact points," which are activated by connecting the sets or paths. A contact point is a conditional link that leads from any node in one set/path to a node in another set/path. The link will be active only if the source and target nodes belong to sets/paths that are connected.

For example, suppose the author has created sets called "Jason" and "Mary," each containing the nodes relating to that specific character. While the reader is exploring the Jason set, he or she may decide to connect it to the Mary set. This will introduce into the Jason nodes a number of new links that lead to material contained within the Mary set. Conversely, the Mary nodes will contain new links back to the Jason material. Connecting sets/paths will let the reader move back and forth between episodes of text to explore relationships between them. Changing which elements are connected will change the relationships that are explored.

Condition Monitoring

The system will identify certain conditions that may occur during the reading and will be able to respond to them. For example, long periods of looping or backtracking could automatically call up a set of links to unvisited material.

Support for Author-Defined States

The author will be able to define global variables, which can be set at any time either manually by the reader or automatically when certain conditions apply. Different values for the variables can elicit different behaviors from links and other hypertext elements.

Control Panel

This will optionally be displayed for use by the reader in either a frame or a separate window. The author will be able to configure it to display any of the following components:

A history monitor will display the entire history list from which the reader can select a node to revisit.
A path monitor will display the name of the path the reader is currently following and optionally show a list of all other paths that intersect with the current node. The display will indicate how much new material each path contains. The reader can set any listed path as the default path and click a button to go to the next node in it.
A "smart backtrack" button will take the reader immediately back to the last node in the history that contains at least one link to unread material.
A "links" button will pop up a new window containing a list of all links in the current node. The clickable link anchors, the author-assigned link names, and the names of the paths containing the links will be displayed.
Options for setting global variables or states.


Robert Kendall
Jean-Hugues Réty



Contact site director Robert Kendall at kendall@wordcircuits.com.
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