What Nodes May Be

IN WHICH an Attempt is made to define “Node”.

A node is something that nobody can agree on what it is, apart from the notion that it is the fundamental unit of hypertext.

Hendrik Christando defines “node” in a class assignment for George Landow as “…a collection of data organized around a specific topic.”

A definition so broad means the term is essentially undefined. Why a collection of data? Is text data? Why does the collection have to be focused on a topic? Couldn’t it cover a swath of topics?

TermWiki defines a node as “a complete module of information that is linked to other relevant modules by hypertext links.” “Complete module of information” seems a bit closer, but is still problematic as a definition. What makes a node complete? Must it contain information? Couldn’t a node contain incomplete nonsense?

Then again, the second part of the definition rings more true. Nodes are linked to. Links link to nodes.

Jakob Nielson defines node in the negative as I started to above: “Nodes are the fundamental unit of hypertext, but there is no agreement as to what really constitutes a ‘node.’” He then goes on to distinguish between frame-based and windows-based nodes, which has little bearing on the matter at hand.

Dorian Taylor does not set out to define nodes as such, but makes a helpful distinction between representations and resources.1

The Official Hyperverses Definition

A Node is that which one receives after clicking a link.

It necessarily follows that a node under the Hyperverses definition refers to a representation, not a resource.

  1. As helpful as this distinction is, it still feels squishy. Anything can be a resource, but we can only link to representations of it? What does this added layer of complexity gain us?