A lot of our work on ARK has been influenced by ideas which we might call “true hypertext”. We certainly don’t claim to have resolved any of these issues, but they go some way to explain what has driven the development of ARK.

The term hypertext was coined by Ted Nelson in 1965, when he set out to express a new way of thinking about text and publishing (see Nelson 1981). Nelson’s aim was to break with the “paper paradigm” and to create entirely new forms of textual documents.


Nelson proposed a docuverse where all data is stored once and no data is ever typed twice. There is only one copy which is the master copy of everything, every other copy that is viewed or distributed is a manifestation of this original. This view ‘repurposes’ the entire computer system into a box which maintains the connections between all of the transitory and cached pieces whose identity is maintained with its original.


Navigation through information in this docuverse would be non-linear, depending on each reader’s choice of links. But more than this, the reader, by actively creating the links, would become a participant in the process, thereby becoming an author in this creation of new narrative structure. Unlike in HTML, the links would be two-way, allowing the document to be read in any order at any time.

Eternal Revision

Much like in wiki technology today there would be no deletions of data, just eternal revisions. These revisions ought to be transparent so that earlier edits and versions are available to the reader for simultaneous side by side comparison.

Nelson, Theodor Holm. 1981. Literary Machines, early editions (1981 to 1986). Published by the author, 1981.

It’s a system you can use to put your archaeological data on the web so that you can work on it and share it.