What is Hypermedia? - Definition & Systems

Instructor: Lonny Meinecke

Lonny teaches psychology classes at King University, and has a bachelor's degree in IT and a doctorate in psychology.

This lesson will define hypermedia and hypermedia systems, and it will explain some of the advantages hypermedia provides. Then you can take a brief quiz to test your new knowledge.

What is Hypermedia? (The Short Answer)

You've probably heard of hypertext. In case you're unfamiliar, hypertext is textual content that appears in various media (usually on web pages) that you can both read and interact with in some way. Usually, clicking on the hypertext (often called a hyperlink) takes you somewhere, linking to another spot in that document or another location entirely. Well, think of hypermedia as the next logical kind of hypertext. With hypermedia, just about any accessible element becomes a link (graphics, video, audio, or text, for example).

Example of a hyperlink (hypertext)
example hyperlink

What is Hypermedia? (The Slightly Longer Answer)

Hyperlinking can do quite a bit more than just take us from one spot to another. First of all, it's about being able to manipulate navigation in a lot of different ways, instead of just one way every time. Usually, we start from point A and read, listen, or watch straight to point B. This is called linear content - we can only go from beginning to end with no detours.

Example of linear content (point A to point B)
linear content

But with hypermedia, we aren't stuck with this linear form of navigation. The user can take control of the web experience and direct his or her own journey in a nonlinear way. That can make you feel exhilarated! Just as important, designers can plan these detours to provide for much more engagement, and with that, much more business/educational opportunity. Hypermedia lets us tailor content to a diverse audience with diverse needs.

A second benefit of hypermedia is that this hyperlinking concept allows us to create associations between many different kinds of information. The end result is neither book, nor video, nor sound file, but a web of associations we can traverse in whatever way seems best at the time. That's real power. This not only makes user access easier and more varied, but it allows us to utilize information in almost limitless ways.

Example of nonlinear hypermedia connectivity
nonlinear content

A Metaphor for Hypermedia

If you're old enough, you may remember one of the first video games ever, called Spacewar! There were two spaceships battling it out around a star whose gravity well would suck you into it if you weren't careful. One of the game options was called hyperspace. If your ship needed a way out, you went into hyperspace and magically appeared again somewhere else (hopefully less dangerous). Well, hypermedia works kind of like that. Hypermedia acts like hyperspace, letting you take an invisible detour and appear somewhere else - like a tunnel between places on the web.

Hypermedia links function a bit hyperspace
hypermedia hyperspace example

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