The Concept of Linearity

Well, this is my second time writing about this excerpt and I’m still a little confused about Ellen Lupton’s idea of “linearity”. Awesome. Anyway, here is my thinking: linearity literally means “line”, going from point A to point B. There needs to be some sort of organization, otherwise one might stray from the linear path, and the user should not be able to jump from one point to another when it comes to linearity; that is the polar opposite of what it means. In terms of writing, linearity is basically a single stream of consciousness. A novel, therefore, would be linear because the reader cannot jump from page 3 to, say, page 50. He or she has to read each word and page in sequence in order to understand it. Similarly with speaking, there is no real way to veer off path; words cannot be spoken out of order. A textbook or a blog on the other hand would not be linear because the reader can easily jump from one passage to another, but more so for a blog. At least for a textbook, each passage is related. For a blog, the only relationship between each post may only be the general topic covered. Combine this with the reader’s ability to jump between any two passages fairly easily (at least with most blogs) and you have a complete nonlinear form of writing.

When Lupton mentioned PowerPoint as an example of linearity, I was a little befuddled. I didn’t exactly know what linearity was, but I thought it would be nonlinear based on what I got out of her explanation. Now that I sort of understand the concept a little better, it makes more sense. It is tough for a reader to jump from one slide to another because the information is presented in an organized, logical way (at least to the presenter), much like the novel. Thus, PowerPoint would be considered “linear”.

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