Scientific research into memory shows, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the brain stores memories semantically, according to meaning. We find it difficult to remember data otherwise, and when faced with such data the human brain attempts to find or impose order and patterns upon it, one obvious example being the organisation of stars in the night sky into constellations. The creation of, and interaction with a computer hypertrail requires the formation of nodes, holding information as text graphics or sound, and links, which represent semantic associations between the nodes and could therefore could be thought of as cross-references. The links are created by the author of the system, and in most cases the user is free to follow links in a non-linear fashion.

The essence of the hypertrail is its non-linearity. In this context it may be defined as hypermedia. Hypermedia systems are non-linear and non-sequential. In practice this means that the user does not have to proceed through an application in a set manner - screen A,, then screen B, then screen C, etc - as would be appropriate in a tutorial or a demonstration, but instead has the freedom to roam around within the application, to move from node to node via semantic links. For example, in a hypermedia tutorial I recently developed in collaboration with a lecturer in Hispanic Studies on the subject of the Spanish Civil War, the student may click on a hypertext reference to Largo Caballero, a prominent socialist politician of the time, which lead to a biographical page containing his photograph and a recording of a speech by him as well as a textual description, which in turn contains hypertext references to his party which can be followed to a description of the party, which contains references to prominent figures which can also be followed, and so on. This can lead the student to investigate other related, but perhaps tangential topics in a way which would be very difficult in a linear system, such as a tutorial or a book.

A hyperpath is an example of a multimedia education system. Whilst the terms multimedia and hypermedia are often used interchangeably there is a conceptual difference between the two. Multimedia refers to the integration of two or more different information media within a computer system. These media can include text, images, audio, video, and animation, and in the medium-term future we can expect tactile media from the VR world, such as datagloves and spaceballs. Hypermedia is the extension of the hypertext paradigm to multimedia. Hypertext systems consist of nodes, holding textual information, and links, which represent semantic associations between the nodes and could be thought of as cross-references. The links are created by the author of the system, and in most cases the user is free to follow links in a non-linear fashion. In hypermedia the nodes of information may be any medium, not just text. Whilst all hypermedia systems are of necessity multimedia, not all multimedia systems are hypermedia.

Flixton is very rich in historical events, which unlike the other nine parishes have greatly changed the appearance and human activities wich now characterise the village. The Flixton Hypertrail is an experiment in learning which starts with a set of nodes representing the major historical and visual starters.



Satellite view of site of Flixton Park