Non-distinguished: What will yield truths?

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Non-distinguished anchors can be more than subtle: there is no visible clue that the content is anchoral or nonanchoral.

Some efferent sites, notably Adaptive Path [1] or Earthtrends [12], use lists of non-distinguished anchors to provide content. The lists serve as a navigationally-dense, non-obtrusive way of providing further content. These lists are usually readily identifable, and are often in anchor clusters--menus. They are thus a separate case from ergodic hidden non-distinguished anchors. Brand Channel [5] also offers separate content in non-distinguished anchors. Like USA TODAY [65], these can be hard to identify as anchors.

Non-distinguished anchors as the entire content

Some works use non-distinguished anchors simply because every bit of content is an anchor. Charmin' Cleary [16] and Reach [28] both use text chunks (paragraphs and sentences, respectively). Diagrams Series 5 [57] uses a layered series of transparent cards.

Hidden non-distinguished anchors require digging

Just as a buried treasure gains mystique and import far beyond its intrinsic worth, so hidden anchors benefit from the excitement of the hunt. When the words and images that yield are invisible and inaudible, they paradoxically gain importance. Up to a point of diminishing returns, the reader's reward seems greater in direct proportion to the work required to discover it.

Some works provide "easter eggs" or surprise non-distinguished anchors which complement the main ideas. Works that employ both visible and invisible links such as _][ad][Dressed in a Skin C.ode [44] take advantage of the surprise element to elements of discovery and intrigue that facilitate illation of even the obvious anchors. These can become a game between authors and readers: who will find what? Once found, these hidden anchors can take on more meaning than the more visible ones, as in I'm Simply Saying [35]. Non-distinguished anchors can exude an air of randomness or serendipity, as Marble Springs [36] hidden anchors trigger random connections.

Invisible anchors (mystery meat navigation) are intensely ergodic as they ask the reader to scroll across to find the link itself. This can evoke questions in the reader's mind: afternoon, a story [27] asks us to concentrate on the words that yield--without warning us in advance which these are--and where every click yields a new text. Jill Walker warned of the dangers in this technique: "The first time I read afternoon I clicked my mouse haphazardly on any old word, and quickly grew disoriented. [122, p. 111] "

  • Zenobia, Queen of Palmyria [10] provides graphics where only one portion of the graphic is navigationally privileged--this privileging forces the image to stand out and thus subtly changes the meaning of the text.
  • Strickland's The Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot [61] provides privileged invisible anchors on words or part of words, as part of her complex presentation of theme and counter theme within the words themselves.
  • Lexia to Perplexia [43] employs the same strategy as part of a more complex anchor structure.

Getting down to business

By contrast, hidden anchors on websites whose primary motivation is not to engage the reader in subtleties of ergodic thought provoke outrage among readers. Commentaries on www.webpagesthatsuck [87] greatly disparage "mystery meat" navigation where readers are forced to hunt for the information that they want.

Fuddruckers [19] asks readers to scroll over a cheeseburger to find out about restaurant locations, jobs, menus, or gift certificates. Here the purpose presumably is not to cause readers to wonder about the existential relationship between onions and franchise opportunities or buns and gift certificates, but rather to convey information. Hidden anchors here may not help promote the bottom line.