Blog Entry 8: Multimedia on the Internet

You have to admit, that multimedia is what makes the Internet so entertaining. Without all the prosumer videos, animations, music and podcasts, as well as all the flash games and virtual worlds, the Web wouldn’t be half as enjoyable. And it’s not just about entertainment and enjoyment, but also educating ourselves – multimedia have become a very powerful form of learning.

One of the most interesting trends pertaining to this facet of the Internet would be the rise of hypermedia. Used as a logical extension of the term hypertext, hypermedia is the phenomenon where graphics, audio, video, plain text and hyperlinks entwine to create a generally non-linear medium of information.

The first hypermedia system was developed at MIT by a team working with Andrew Lippman in 1978, using ARPA funding. Known as the “Aspen Movie Map”, it enabled the user to take a virtual tour through the city of Aspen Colorado. I imagine that must have been immensely enjoyable for users when it was first introduced – I do remember how excited I was as a child of 8 years when my primary school’s official website finally got with the times, dropped the text, and created a similar hypermedia function. It didn’t matter that the virtual tour lasted all of one minute, or that we were in school and could easily see much more of the campus by walking around – the insinuated advancement in technology was what threw us into a tizzy.

Speaking of education, hypermedia has been linked to learning, so much so that several theories have been developed. One significant claim pertaining to hypermedia learning is that it provides the reader or student with more control over the instructional environment, and another is that it levels the playing field among students with differing abilities, thereby enhancing collaborative learning. Psychologically-speaking, hypermedia is also said to resemble the structure of the brain more closely than simply printed text.

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