Compiled by Cecilia Chen
Aitken, Doug edited by Noel Daniel.
Broken Screen: Expanding the Image: Breaking the Narrative: 26 Conversations with Doug Aitken. (2006)
Book work, includes: Preface; Eija-Liisa Ahtila; Robert Altman; Kenneth Anger; John Baldessari; Matthew Barney; Chris Burden; Bruce Conner; Claire Denis; Stan Douglas; Olafur Eliasson; Pablo Ferro; Mike Figgis; Werner Herzog; Gary Hill; Carsten Holler; Pierre Huyghe; Alejandro Jodorowsky; Rem Koolhaas; Greg Lynn; Carsten Nicolai; Richard Prince; Pipilotti Rist; Ugo Rondinone; Ed Ruscha; Amos Vogel; Robert Wilson; Moments of alternative narratives and points of light; Diagram of Nonlinear Film; Captions (of images); Index; Acknowledgements.
There are actually 28 “conversations” with Doug Aitken: the Preface is structured as an interview-conversation between Noel Daniel and Aitken and the “Moments” chapter could be seen an informational conversation and collage between Aitken and Hans Ulrich Obrist. In Broken Screen, Aitken is cited in the preface as saying: “One of the things I wanted to do was to create a communal dialogue with living artists that is open to further interpretation. It’s a manifesto made up of many voices from many fields” (9). Nonetheless there is a certain hierarchy to the voices. The “conversations” in this book begin more or less like interviews with the questions being asked by Aitken. In certain cases (Barney) the interview becomes a genuine conversation with questions going both ways; in other cases (Koolhaas) the interview never becomes a conversation. The conversations are always apparently between two (with Noel Daniel being an invisible third). Even Aitken’s “Diagram of Nonlinear Film” is intended as the first sally of a potential conversation: “… this diagram is not intended to be a definitive overview, but a point of departure for further conversation” (291).
In terms of both content and graphics, there is an editing sleight of hand that disguises the existence of defining structural decisions. Noel (for the book is on a first name basis with everyone) asks Doug “How did you decide whom to speak with?” And Doug responds, “Broken Screen is a project that evolved organically and the list of participants grew organically too. It isn’t meant to be exclusive or definitive” (9). The making of a book work cannot but define a volume of information – information that “organically” emerges out of Aitken’s unexplained contacts with mostly male and well-known cultural figures. On the “Acknowledgements” page, which is unconventionally located at the end of the book and also carries all the usual publication and crediting information, it is acknowledged that the conversations have been edited for clarity. Visually Aitken privileges excerpts from many of the interviews and reiterates them in large graphically striking font; he also takes texts and images and brings them to near-illegibility – breaking them – through treatments that fall off the edge of the page. Graphically, the pages are glossy and the image quality is high. The wealth of the book is in the artful curation of Aitken’s conversational partners and the juxtaposition of their words with images of their work or illustrations of their ideas.
Aitken describes modern life as a chaotic hurricane: “Everyone in this project directly or indirectly attempts to reflect on this landscape of fragmentation in their work, either through multilayered story lines, fractured perception, or disjointed images. I wanted this book to let us in on how they approach and experiment with these questions” (6-8).
Aitken’s “Moments” collaboration with Obrist and the “Diagram of Nonlinear Film” are likely the most directly useful to CINERG and are scanned to two pdf files for reference.
Arata, Luis O.
“Reflections on Interactivity.” pp 217-225 in Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition. (2003)
See Jenkins and Thorburn below; interactivity and interactive work on the “Terms and Definitions.”
Bizzocchi, Jim and Robert F. Woodbury. (SFU)
“A case study in the design of interactive narrative: The subversion of the interface.”
SIMULATION & GAMING. 34:4 (December 2003) 550-568.
Abstract: “There is a potential conflict in the design of interactive narratives. The exercise of interaction in digital environments, including games, may interfere with the experience of story. The article uses the interactive CD-ROM CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE as a case study in the resolution of this potential conflict. It frames the design of this interactive narrative as the reconciliation of two independent design domains: the design of narrative and interactive design. Narrative design seeks a state of immersive surrender to the work. In contrast, interaction privileges choice and its consequences according to the logic of the interactive world. CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE uses two tactics to overcome this disjuncture. The first is the broad infusion of narrative sensibilities in the detailed design of the work’s subsidiary craft (sound, graphics, moving images, and text). The second tactic is to suborn certain design specifics of the interactive interface to the goals of narrative design” (from article itself).
Keywords: “CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE; cursor function; design models; interactive narrative; interactivity; interface; language of practice; narrative; rules; story” (from article itself).
Could the “conflict” identified between immersion and interactivity and between design-in-the-small and design-in-the-large be interpreted as a useful and necessary tension – why are immersion (the willing suspension of disbelief) and criticality / discrimination (the state of mind necessary to make interactive decisions) set up in opposition… isn’t the choice to suspend disbelief already an interactive choice? Finally, Bizzocchi and Woodbury explore different ways to synthesize this binary opposition with which they begin the article.
“To get a deeper understanding of the potential conflict and to identify potential solutions, it is useful to analyze a successful example of interactive narrative design. In the process, we will frame the design of the entire work as the reconciliation of two different design domains: the design of interaction within the framework of game and the design of narrative and story. Each can be described as a design-in-the-small (DIS), and the full work as a whole can be examined for evidence of successful union into an integrated design-in-the-large (DIL).
“The interactive CD-ROM CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE (Mayhew & Villon, 1997) contains a rich field of design clues to guide the fusion of narrative with and within an interactive environment. The work is an adaptation of a print trilogy: Griffin and Sabine (Bantock, 1991, 1992, 1993) [see also remediation]. The original trilogy is a unique and multimediated literary experience combining postcards, letters you pull out of envelopes, the intensive use of graphics, and calligraphy. The work looks and feels like a set of popup books for adults. The story of the protagonists’ love affair unfolds, both figuratively and literally, in the lexia—the 58 postcards and letters collected in the trilogy. The story traces the efforts of the two artist-protagonists to find and engage each other across barriers of space and time. The narrative explores themes such as love, death, identity, and sanity in a context of mystery, confusion, misdirection, and struggle” (552).
Also of interest: the transformation of the nature of interactivity in empathetic resonance to the characters or situations being portrayed. Detailed description and analysis of cursor function and transformation leading to Bizzocchi and Woodbury’s suggested addition of praxis to diegesis and mimesis as interactive narrative strategies (see 554-559, especially bottom of 558-559).
“On one hand, the interactive design privileges the puzzle, a movement through challenges toward some goal. In Klabbers’s (1999) model, the actors play within the rules (the puzzle) of the games toward some end state of the resources (the criteria for ending). It may stretch a point, but such interaction can be seen as a microcosm of rational action in real life. On the other hand, narrative privileges the whole, the complete chain of causality. The joy of story is contingent on an understanding of context and relationship. The domains are separate, but there is evidence that intention and craft flow between them. CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE brings a limited form of interaction into play to support its main intent: telling the tale between Sabine and Griffin. We conjecture that other evidence for crossover between narrative and interaction exists as well and certainly should be sought as an aid to understanding the new craft of interactive storytelling (or narrative interaction!). Our present project though aims at the new craft itself and seeks to sketch both a process account for how the existing crafts might breed together as well as suitable concepts for observing and discussing the interchange. Our motivation is synthetic—we seek both a robust understanding and devices for engaging in the new conjoined craft” (560).
“We have argued that a DIL strategy within CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE (Mayhew & Villon, 1997) is to suborn DIS interface design questions in the service of the DIS of the narrative. This strategy needs to be tested in the analysis and the design of other examples of blended and subordinated design. The effective integration of two different design domains requires a reconciliation of language, conceptualization, and practice. It is a difficult and incremental process worthy of further attention… Definitive answers to these questions are beyond the scope of this article. We do conjecture that using models of design process and structure can help us to understand what has happened as well as what to anticipate what could occur in the conjuncture of interaction and narrative. The transformation of the cursor in CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE (Mayhew & Villon, 1997) stands as evidence supporting this conjecture” (565).
See the references above to:
Bantock, N. (1991). Griffin and Sabine. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Mayhew, A., & Villon, G. (1997). CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE. Wiltshire, UK:
Codex, includes: Table of Instructions; 155 Chapters; About the Author. Translated from Spanish by Gregory Rabassa.
The main element of interest in this novel (for CINERG) is its structure. It consists of 155 chapters of varying length, narrative voice, and narrative style. It has a simpler but similar structure to the one upon which the Korsakow system works. The two recommended sequences of reading maintain the same spine of narrative. To describe the structure, I will cite directly from the author’s “Table of Instructions.”
“In its own way, this book consists of many books, but two books above all. The first can be read in a normal fashion [linearly and numerically] and it ends with chapter 56, at the close of which there are three garish little stars which stand for the words The End. Consequently, the reader may ignore what follows with a clean conscience. The second should be read by beginning with Chapter 73 and then following the sequence indicated at the end of each chapter. In case of confusion or forgetfulness, one need only consult the following list:
73 – 1 – 2 – 116 – 3 – 84 – 4 – 71 – 5 – 81 – 74 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 93 – 68 – 9 – 104 – 10 – 65
– 11 – 136 – 12 – 106 – 13 – 115 – 14 – 114 – 117 – 15 – 120 – 16 … 56 – 135 – 63 – 88 – 72 – 77 – 131 – 58 – 131 – [presumably it continues between 58 and 131 till the reader decides to stop – i added bold format to certain numbers to emphasize the narrative spine.]
Each chapter has its number at the top of every right-hand page to facilitate the search.”
The third, fourth, etc. books could be said to be reader-directed…
Harrigan, Pat and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Eds.
First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. (2004).
Codex, includes: Dedication and Acknowledgments; Introduction; Contributors (Espen Aarseth, Mark Bernstein, Marc Bernstein and Diane Greco, John Cayley, Chris Crawford, J. Yellowlees Douglas, J. Yellowlees Douglas and Andrew Hargadon Johanna Drucker, Markku Eskelinen, Mary Flanagan, Gonzalo Frasca, Matt Gorbet, Diane Gromala, N. Katherine Hayles, Mizuko Ito, Henry Jenkins, Natalie Jeremijenko, Jesper Juul, Brenda Laurel, Bryan Loyall, Michael Mateas, Jon McKenzie, Nick Montfort, Stuart Moulthrop, Janet Murray, Celia Pearce, Simon Penny, Ken Perlin, Rita Raley, Rebecca Ross, Warren Sack, Richard Schechner, Bill Seaman, Phoebe Sengers, Andrew Stern, Stephanie Strickland, Lucy Suchman, Eugene Thacker, Camille Utterback, Victoria Vesna, Jill Walker, Adrianne Wortzel, Will Wright, Eric Zimmerman); I. Cyberdrama; II. Ludology; III. Critical Simulation; IV. Game Theories; V. Hypertexts & Interactives; VI. The Pixel / The Line; VII. Beyond Chat; VIII. New Readings; Permissions; Index.
This collection of essays examines the relationship between digital gameplay and narrative structures. “This line of questioning, about the relationship between stories and games, is one of the major themes of First Person, and is addressed by theorists and practitioners from a wide variety of backgrounds. The editors argue that text, or “some more complex linguistic form,” is still important in digital gameplay. “This is another major concern of this project: the exploration of new textual experiences… created by artists, poets, programmers, and fiction writers… In First Person we provide examples of textual/literary practices (including hypertexts) that in their internal procedures or audience interaction can be thought of as performance or gameplay, or that provoke us to reconsider these terms.”
The book is “organized as a series of imagined panel presentations” which gather an interdisciplinary group of “field leaders and rising stars” who benefit from a set of responses from an audience of peers. Each presenter is then able to make concluding remarks in response to the respondants. See the online discussion thread paired with the book and created in collaboration with electronic book review (the last activity online is dated towards the end of 2005).
According to the introduction, the panel presentations are in book format and online, responses are only found in the book, and concluding remarks are only online, however, in actuality it seems that all material is both online and in the book. The book places the main presentations in the upper two thirds of the page with the respondants’ comments and questions running continuously in the bottom third with images interspersed throughout. The book’s graphics are a bit strained. The online version is initially a bit hard to navigate as its entry structure is set up like a thread – that is, chronologically – however, the overall layout, navigation, links to responses, further comments, author bios, etc. actually seem to work much more smoothly online one you’ve found the chapter heading that you want.
Content-wise there is a wealth of interesting and relatively compact “presentations.” This is a highly accessible resource, with Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike copyright.
Hayles, N. Katherine.
Writing Machines. (2006). Part of MIT Mediawork Pamphlet Series.
Book work with web-based supplement. Book work, or codex, includes: Preface; Ch1 Media and Materiality; Ch2 Material Metaphors, Technotexts, and Media-Specific Analysis; Ch3 Entering the Electronic Environment; Ch4 Electronic Literature as Technotext: Lexia to Perplexia; Ch5 Experiencing Artists’ Books; Ch6 A Humument as Technotext: Layered Topographies; Ch7 Embodiments of Material Metaphors; Ch8 Inhabiting House of Leaves; Source Material; Endtroduction (by series editor, Peter Lunenfeld); Designer’s Notes (Anne Burdick); Author’s Acknowledgements; Colophon. See also Web-based supplement with a user’s guide and an interactive web-response by Erik Loyer called Hollowbound Book
Hayles conducts a media-specific analysis on three works in particular: Lexia to Perplexia, an electronic work by Talan Memmott; Humument, an artist’s book by Tom Phillips; and House of Leaves, a print novel by Mark Danielewski. Hayles writes: “This book is an experiment in forging a vocabulary and set of critical practices responsive to the full spectrum of signifying components in print and electronic texts by grounding them in the materiality of the literary artifact” (6). A general description of the book is online.
From its initiation this compact book’s content and its materiality were conceived of and designed together. Anne Burdick therefore created a font to suit the hybrid voice of theory and pseudo-autobiography used by Hayles. She also employed innovative graphic devices that deliberately emphasize the materiality of the book itself, as well as conveying the materiality of the texts that are analysed within this dense work. For instance the graphics locate the reader within the book by playing off of magnifying lenses (see affordances) and barcodes. Citations from the three works analysed use excerpted images of the original texts, whether electronic or paper-based, that are collaged into the text field. The title of the book is legible if the reader flexes the book while looking at the page edges of the closed volume. Towards the end of the book a section entitled “Source Material” graphically represents the (electronic or paper) pages from which the visual citations within the text are excerpted.
“The book is also an encoded record of a decade-long journey I have made as I moved from an orientation based in traditional literary criticism to one that took seriously my long-standing interests in technology from a literary point of view. It has long been clear to me that materiality entered importantly into the theoretical debates and technical practices of cybernetics, as I argued in How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics. How materiality affected literature was something I was learning as I followed the theoretical debates surrounding electronic literature and its development from first-generation hypertexts into fully multimedia works. I saw in electronic literature the opportunity to think more rigorously about interactions between content and digital environments; I also believed these insights could be reflected back onto print to see it more clearly as well. This book is frankly experimental both in its format and ideas… If Anne [Burdick] and I open a path or two that others may find profitable to pursue, we will in our own terms have succeed. As is so often the case with hypertext, the rest is up to you” (Preface 7).
Possibly useful sources/concepts: The whole Mediawork Pamphlet series edited by Peter Lunenfeld mixes and remixes autobiography and theory. The first book in this series was by Brenda Laurel with designer Denise Gonzales Crisp and a web-response (remediation) by Scott McCloud; also Bruce Sterling with Lorraine Wild and response by John Thackara Schoenerweissen OfCD; Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky with COMA and response by Peter Halley. It is only Hayles’ book that includes a web-supplement. Lexia to Perplexia, an electronic work by Talan Memmott Humument, an artist’s book by Tom Phillips House of Leaves, a print novel by Mark Danielewski.
Anne Burdick is the site designer and design editor for the online journal Electronic Book Review. Additionally she designed the Fackel Worterbuch der Redensarten, created with literary scientists at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, which won “The Most Beautiful Book in the World” competition at the 2001 Leipzig book fair.
Interval Research Corporation.
Placeholder: Landscape and Narrative in Virtual Environments. (1994).
(See also the media work Placeholder, and book work by Brenda Laurel.)
Article, includes: A note on authorship; “Virtual Reality as Entertainment,” Laurel; “Capturing the Sense of a Place,” Strickland; “Narration and Interaction in Placeholder,” Laurel; “Technology and the Senses in Placeholder,” Tow; Sources.
This article describes the collaborative VR (virtual reality) project Placeholder that aimed to create a sense of place as an essential element of interactive narrative. Placeholder adopted the landscapes and non-mammalian characters of Banff, Alberta where Interval Research Corporation had a research-creation residency. (Interval Research is based out of Palo Alto, California.) The places chosen to hold the project’s narrative potential were “The Middle Spring (a sulfur hot spring in a natural cave), a waterfall in Johnston Canyon and hoodoos (rock formations created by erosion) overlooking the Bow River” (118). Through the spirit animals or smart costumes of Snake, Spider, Fish and Crow, the project offered embodiments other than human to give an expanded sense of the created landscape. Although participants were limited to two at any given time, each person was able to freely move about in the virtual space and to leave voice tracings in the narrative landscape that could then be discovered by subsequent players. Moreover, based on the principle of action, the vision and audition of the environment were intended to respond subtly to the player’s movements. The additional characters of the Goddess with her sidekick Mosquito were meant to be improvised live as part of a narrative strategy to allow players to experience transformations and other spatio-temporal discontinuities. The multi-essay article offers detailed descriptions of process, technology and postproject reflections on the effectiveness of both conceptual and technical efforts.
“Experiences are said to take place. One comes to know a place with all one’s senses and by virtue of the actions that one performs there, from an embodied and situated point of view… [Naturalist Barry Lopez writes:] “Each individual undertakes to order his interior landscape according to the exterior landscape.” The environment proceeds to record our presence and actions and the marks that we place there – this is a reciprocal affair.”
Possibly useful sources/concepts:
Gibson, James J. (psychologist, “The Principle of Action”) The Ecological Approach to
Visual Perception. Boston: The Houghton Mifflin Company, 1979.
Higuchi, Tadahiko. The Visual and Spatial Structure of Landscapes. Translated by Charles Terry. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983. Land, Michael. “Vision in Other Animals.” Images and Understanding, Editors Horace Barlow, Colin Blakemore, Miranda Weston-Smith. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Naimark, Michael. “Elements of Realspace Imaging: a Proposed Taxonomy.” SPIE/SPSE Electronic Imaging Proceedings. vol.1457: San Jose, 1991. Naimark, Michael. “Presence at the Interface, or Sense of Place, Essence of Place.” Wide Angle. vol.15, no.4: Ohio University School of Film, 1994.
Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. (2006).
Book work, includes: Acknowledgments; Introduction “Worship at the Altar of Convergence” A New Paradigm for Understanding Media Change; six chapters; Conclusion “Democratizing Television? The Politics of Participation;” Notes; Glossary; Index; About the Author.
Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, Henry Jenkins examines the convergence of media cultures in this book. He asks: “How we maintain the potential of participatory culture in the wake of growing media concentration?” and “Whether the changes brought about by convergence open new opportunities for expression or expand the power of big media?” (11). Jenkins attributes the first introduction of the concept of convergence to the late MIT political scientist Ithiel de Sola Pool. In a book called Technologies of Freedom (1983), Pool described a process where the borders between different types of media became blurred – a “convergence of modes” where the “one-to-one relationship that used to exist between a medium and its use is eroding.” A physical infrastructure is no longer dedicated to only one medium and can carry multiple media services; a communications medium can in turn be transmitted by multiple physical means. Divergence in media modalities may be considered an aspect of convergence in an age of media transition. Change (transition/divergence) and convergence are in constant and dynamic tension (Jenkins 10-11). Jenkins is interested in the impact of media convergence on popular culture whereas Pool was more focused on the impact upon political culture. As appropriate to a book about convergence, Jenkins suggests that the border between the popular and the political realms to be blurred. Between the overview given in the introduction and his concluding chapter, Jenkins has presented a series of focused case studies of convergence culture: chapters 1 and 2 examine the extended popular culture around the reality television shows Survivor, 2000 (spoiler sites of collective intelligence), and American Idol, 2002 (affective economics); chapter 3 discusses big screen hits The Matrix, 1999 (an example of transmedia storytelling), and Star Wars, 1977 (the conflict between fan culture and big studio defenses of intellectual property); chapter 5 studies the book series Harry Potter, 1998 (its participatory and grassroots fan culture, controversies around censorship and intellectual property rights); and chapter 6 analyses convergence and participation in public culture, particularly the 2004 American presidential campaign. His goal has been to document, rather than critique, the many conflicting perspectives on contemporary shifts in media culture. In gathering information for his book Jenkins has fully engaged himself with both producers and consumers and denies any neutrality. Jenkins is focused on the three key terms of convergence, collective intelligence, and participation. He summarizes the core claim of his book: “that convergence culture represents a shift in the ways we think about our relations to media, that we are making that shift first through our relations with popular culture, but that the skills we acquire through play may have implications for how we learn, work, participate in the political process, and connect with other people around the world” (22-23).
Jenkins, Henry and David Thorburn, Eds.
Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition. (2003).
Codex, includes: Series Foreword; Introduction – Toward an Asethetics of Transition; Part I – Media Changes (including essays by: David Thorburn, William Uricchio, Tom Gunning, Lisa Gitelman, Priscilla Coit Murphy, Paul Erickson, Gregory Crane, Oz Frankel, Daniel Thorburn, William Boddy); Part II – Emerging Forms and Practices (including essays by: William J. Mitchell, Luis O. Arata, Michael Joyce, Shelley Jackson, Peter Donaldson, Sharon Cumberland, Henry Jenkins); Part III – Visual Culture (including essays by: Constance Balides, Anne Fiedberg, Angela Ndalianis, Alison Griffiths); Contributors; Index.
This book is part of the Media in Transition series that aims to be historical, comparative and accessible in its studies of media technologies. This particular book is focused on “media change as an accretive, gradual process, always a mix of tradition and innovation, in which emerging and established systems interact, shift, and collude with one another” (x). The editors cite Bolter and Grusin’s idea of remediation among their multiple conceptual inspirations (10). They consider the periods of transition in media cultures as particularly fruitful periods of innovation, medial “self-consciousness,” and potential criticality. They resist “notions of media purity” and “static definitions of media” in their search for an “aesthetics of transition” (11). Declaring themselves for “evolution, not revolution,” and unsentimental in their examination of the waxing, waning and transformations of different media, Jenkins and Thorburn note that, “The crucial continuity involves not books [a specific medium] but language itself. Language is migratory across communications media and will endure” (12).
Citing such examples as the hand illustration of the Gutenberg Bible, the mediaconscious humour of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and early comic strip works, the introduction to this volume suggests that its contents may offer a wider and deeper historical grounding across different media than other works so far annotated, especially in Part I – Media Changes. However the essay most pertinent for CINERG in this volume might be Luis O. Arata’s text “Reflections on Interactivity.” Arata asks “What is an interactive work?” and responds by identifying four basic characteristics of the interactive approach: the use of multiple points of view, a celebration of the creative value of play; an enabling or catalyzing of emergence; a tendency towards the ultimately pragmatic (218-219). See the long answer on the “Terms and Definitions” writeboard.
This book is part of the Media in Transition series published by MIT: series editor, David Thorburn; associate editors Edward Barrett and Henry Jenkins. Other books in the series include: New Media 1740-1915, edited by Lisa Gitelman and Geoffrey B. Pingree, 2003; Democracy and New Media, edited by Henry Jenkins and David Thorburn, 2003.
Remediation, a book by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, that has also been cited by
N. Katherine Hayles. Remediation (2000) is published by MIT Press.
“Doors to the Labyrinth: Designing Interactive Frictions with Nina Menkes, Pat O’Neill, and John Rechy.” Style. 33.2 (1999) 232-246.
Abstract: Describes the interactive narrative anthology Doors to the Labyrinth by three award-winning artists from Los Angeles, California. Reasons for the selection of the artists; Demand created by the works of the three artists; Details on the narrative fictions; Exhibition of the fictions.
This article lays out the beginnings and continuing impetus for the USC Annenberg Centre’s Labyrinth Project, which started out with a three-year term. Writing towards the close of its second year of existence as its executive producer and project leader, Marsha Kinder describes it’s first year focused on production, and it’s second year centred on the conference and exhibit called Interactive Frictions. The Doors to the Labyrinth DVD is an anthology that interweaves and makes intertextual three separate works produced in collaboration with the artists, Nina Menkes, Pat O’Neill and John Rechy. Kinder describes each of their backgrounds and briefly outlines the interactive works created in the context of the Labyrinth Project. She also gives a descriptive summary of the exhibit Interactive Frictions and the 17 works included therein, including both student works and works by well-known artists, such as Bill Viola. See the online catalogue for this exhibit on the Labyrinth Project website.
The primary goals of the Labyrinth Project are: “(1) to expand the language, art, culture and theory of interactive narrative; (2) to produce emotionally compelling electronic fictions that combine filmic language with interactive storytelling; and (3) to help establish USC as a primary training ground for new talent in this medium and as an R&D site both for experimental artists and industry” (232). As in the article published in The Contemporary Pacific in 2003 (see below), Kinder further describes the deep-rooted concepts of narrative and interactivity in “prior” media; the Labyrinth Project’s deliberate choice to work with artists coming fresh to new media from other backgrounds in writing and film (Kinder cites the exemplary careers of Henry Fielding and Sergei Eisenstein working in multiple media); and the necessarily collaborative but adaptable nature of making interactive media works in the Labyrinth Project. Kinder concludes her text with an observation of the productive and mediating role of the user as “performer” in their individualized navigations of a given database narrative.
See also the Labyrinth Project website (http://college.usc.edu/labyrinth/) and other articles by Marsha Kinder annotated here.
“Hotspots, Avatars and Narrative Fields Forever: Bunuel’s Legacy for New Digital Media and Interactive Database Narrative.”
This article was drawn from the Buñuel 2000 Centenary Conference, held at the University of London, 14-16 September 2000; it also appears in _Buñuel 2000 Centenary Conference Proceedings), forthcoming from the Institución Fernando el Católico, Zaragoza and is available online at the Film Quarterly.
In this article, Kinder elaborates upon a connection between the disruptive logic of dreams (via Freud) and the potential (destabilizing) power of database narratives in an examination of the work of Luis Buñuel. (This analysis roughly corresponds to the fifth principle of interactive narrative that she discusses in her article for The Contemporary Pacific below.) One work of Buñuel’s is examined in detail: A Giraffe, an installation of a cut-out wooden giraffe shape with twenty spots. Each spot would be able to be opened to reveal its uncanny contents. For example, “In the second [spot]: on the condition that it is opened at noon… we find ourselves in the presence of a cow’s eye in its socket, with eyelashes and eyelid. The image of the viewer is reflected in the eye. The eyelid must suddenly close, putting an end to our contemplation…” Whereas, “In the seventeenth: a powerful jet of steam will gush from the spot at the moment it opens and horribly blind the viewer.” Most intriguingly, and in defiance of physical laws as the scientists would define them, “In the nineteenth: behind the spot, a model less than three feet square representing the Sahara Desert under a crushing light. Covering the sand, a hundred thousand miniature Marists made of wax, their white aprons detaching from their cassocks. In the heat, the Marists melt little by little. (Many millions of Marists must be kept on reserve.)” (from “A Giraffe.” in An Unspeakable Betrayal: Selected Writings of Luis Buñuel. Trans. Garrett White. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995. 45-48). Kinder suggests that some of these spots “suggest the illusion of a limitless database” making them “ideally suited for a digital database narrative.” And although A Giraffe could easily become an interface design, Kinder proposes that it would most fruitfully serve as “a blueprint for adapting his filmic experimentation to cyberspace.”
“In contrast to the predictability of Hollywood movies, Buñuel’s films… are full of surprising ruptures that reveal the radical potential of the underlying database structure that usually lies hidden behind the story. His films also demonstrate that dreams are the ultimate model of interactive database narrative, for they always rely on a dialectic play between the disruptive power of those seemingly random, absurd sensory percepts (those jarring objects out of context that deliver a surrealistic jolt) and a repressive narrative drive that locks them into conventional structures by imposing chains of causality.”
“Although they cannot all be discussed here, looking at some of Buñuel’s strategies will be helpful in attempting to rethink the radical potential of interactive database narratives. 1) On the level of narrative drive: the reliance on incongruous objects or hot spots, rather than montage, as the primary means of navigating from one scene or discursive level to another; 2) On the level of characterization: the use of puppet-like avatars who are not restricted by traditional notions of consistency, psychology, or narrative logic, but whom we nonetheless find fascinating, engaging, and illuminating; 3) On the level of plot: the creation of a narrative field, where story possibilities seem limitless, where randomness, repetition, and interruptions are rampant, and where search engines are motored by desire. These strategies and their distinctive pleasures could, I believe, potentially enrich and complicate the narrative impulse in cyberspace, which unfortunately is still fairly crude. In conference after conference on interactive storytelling, the same question keeps being raised without being answered: How can we create engaging interactive narratives that provide an array of pleasures both emotional and intellectual, that don’t have clearcut beginnings or endings and are full of interruptions, and that still offer a satisfying sense of drama and still make us want to return to them again and again? Buñuel’s films provide compelling answers to these questions, primarily because he enables us to see what’s at stake ideologically in his formal ruptures from conventional practices. This is the kind of perception that is sorely lacking in cyberspace, despite all the utopian rhetoric about self-authoring and its so-called democratic decentering of master narratives and power.”
Kinder elaborates upon each of these three strategies used by Buñuel in the remainder of the article, subtitled respectively: 1. Hot Spots, Warp Zones, and Surrealistic Jolts; 2. Avatars and Semi-Intelligent Agents; 3. Narrative Fields and Desiring Machines. Finally she concludes “Oneirically”:
“All three strategies I have described are characteristic of dreams, the ultimate model for interactive database narrative… This perspective on dreams gives new resonance to one of the most frequently cited quotes by Buñuel: “In the hands of a free spirit, the cinema is a magnificent and dangerous weapon. It is the best instrument through which to express the world of dreams, of emotions, of instinct. The mechanism that produces cinematic images is, among all forms of human expression, that which most closely resembles . . . the workings of the mind during sleep” (“Cinema as an Instrument of Poetry.” in An Unspeakable Betrayal: Selected Writings of Luis Buñuel. Trans. Garrett White. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995. 138-9). And that’s another reason why Buñuel’s radical films, built on the database logic of dreams, provide such a magnificent legacy for conceptualizing interactive narratives and imbuing them with dangerous emotions, instinctual pleasures, and what appears to be an unending supply of unpredictable narrative twists.”
See also the Labyrinth Project website (http://college.usc.edu/labyrinth/) and other articles by Marsha Kinder annotated here.
“Honoring the Past and Creating the Future in Cyberspace: New Technologies and Cultural Specificity.” The Contemporary Pacific. 15.1 (2003) 93-115.
Abstract: After tracing my academic journey from eighteenth-century English literary scholarship to new media production, I interweave three discursive strands: descriptions and demonstrations of several experimental interdisciplinary projects being produced at the Labyrinth Project, a research initiative on interactive narrative that I direct at the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Communication; five general principles learned while making these projects; and tentative suggestions about how they might be applied to Pacific Islands studies. Despite the diversity of works presented (Mysteries and Desire: Searching the Worlds of John Rechy, an interactive memoir about gay Chicano novelist John Rechy; The Danube Exodus, a museum installation developed in collaboration with Hungarian filmmaker Péter Forgács; The Dawn at My Back: a Memoir of a Black Texas Upbringing, a DVD-ROM based on an autobiography by African-American photographer Carroll Parrott Blue; an e-learning course on Russian Modernism with an online role-playing game at its center; a computer game for teens called Runaways; and a website called Dreamwaves), all adhere to five basic principles: honoring the past, emphasizing conceptualization over technical mastery, taking a collaborative approach to interface design, searching for culturally specific metaphors, and leveraging the transformative potential of database narratives.
Keywords: database narrative, e-learning, interactive narrative, interactivity, interface design, Labyrinth Project (LP), narrative.
This article is part of a special issue of The Contemporary Pacific dedicated to “Decolonizing Pacific Studies: Indigenous Perspectives, Knowledge, and Wisdom in Higher Education” and based on the Conference “Pacific Studies 2000: Honoring the Past, Creating the Future” held by the University of Hawai’i at Manoa on the 50th anniversary of the Centre for Pacific Islands Studies, 14-18 November 2000. Marsha Kinder’s paper was called “New Technologies and Pedagogies” as was the panel for which she opened. Below, some elaboration upon the five basic principles that Kinder identifies.
1. Honoring the Past (96-102): recognizing that interactive narrative emerges from narrative and interactivity, both of which have tangled roots far older than new media. “Narratives map the world and its inhabitants” and thus need constant retelling and revision as the world morphs. “Narratives mediate between biological programming and cultural imprinting, processing the past and refiguring the future, as in dreams and prophecy.” Each telling of each story has the potential to change individual consciousness of the past, the present, and the future. All narratives are interactive to some extent, but can never be fully interactive as the reader or “interactor” is always limited in some way by the story structure itself. “[T]he Labyrinth Project deliberately builds on narrative experimentation in more traditional forms… we believe the creative boundaries of newly emerging media are frequently stretched more by being compared with earlier forms than by exaggerating their so-called ‘newness’ ” (99). Kinder cites the inspired innovations of Henry Fielding (theater to novel) and Sergei Eisenstein (theater to cinema) as they shifted from one media to another.
2. Emphasizing Conceptualization over Technical Mastery (102-109): Strong concepts will always be adaptable to multiple formats whereas technologies change and are difficult to predict. Indeed, the LP chooses “to collaborate with artists who have a work in progress in another form, because we find that simultaneous production in both media actually helps expand the possibilities of both works” – a way to ensure a conceptual practice strong enough to span at least two media. For instance, John Rechy was simultaneously working on his autobiography during the production of his LP work; and Pat O’Neill was working on a 35mm film exploring the Hotel Ambassador in Los Angeles simultaneously to his work with the LP. With the aid of a Rockerfeller Foundation grant, the LP has also worked with Péter Forgács on a project titled The Danube Exodus: The Rippling Currents of the River, wherein the river, Captain Nándor Andrásovits and his boat, and two groups of refugees describe the complex movements of people and water. Carroll Parrott Blue is the LP’s most recent collaborator and the braided interactivity of her work is entitled The Dawn at My Back: a Memoir of a Black Texas Upbringing and will also be published as a book. Their emphasis on conceptual work means that they work with off-the-shelf authoring software rather than writing their own code, thus rejecting McLuhanesque technological determinism (106). Kinder partially contradicts this denial of technological determinism when she notes that the “period of transition” in media technologies is a period “when new kinds of experimentation are encouraged.” Technological forms are still important enough that they are worth trying to shape – “That’s why it is essential for those of us who oppose hegemonic paradigms to intervene at this historical moment, when new narrative, technological, and pedagogical forms are still in flux” (107).
3. Collaborating on Interface Design (109-111): Speaking for LP, Kinder regards custom interface design as crucial to each project and vehemently rejects the commerciallyimposed standardized interface as a form of technical colonization. Interface design is essential to shaping the digital content. So on a collaborative project this design must also be collaborative. Each of LP’s projects begins with an inclusive interdisciplinary workshop based around the project’s subject matter. In their teaching, training and recruiting practice the LP attempts to maintain an inclusive and interdisciplinary process throughout.
4. Searching for Compelling Metaphors (111-113): Kinder notes the sensitivity necessary to choosing the appropriate metaphor or trope that will structure the interface design which in turn structures access to any digital project’s content. No metaphor is neutral. Current tropes with which Kinder is working include “morphing” and “dreams.”
5. Leveraging the Transformative Potential of Database Narrative (113-114): “By database narratives, I am referring to narratives whose structure exposes or thematizes the dual processes of selection and combination that lie at the heart of all stories and that are crucial to language” (113). These database narratives “encourage us to question the choice of categories and of what is included and omitted.” The structure is not new and can be found in many novels (Sterne’s Tristam Shandy, Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Kingston’s Women Warriors, Lessing’s Golden Notebook, Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo, Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, Figiel’s Where We Once Belonged); and many films (Time Code, Memento, Run Lola Run, Ground Hog Day, The Matrix, Slackers, Pulp Fiction, Last Year at Marienbad, Vagabond, Memories of Underdevelopment, or films by Peter Greenaway, Chantal Akerman, Agnes Varda, Jim Jarmusch, Raul Ruiz, Antonioni, Godard, Buñuel). A self-conscious narrative rupture reveals the underlying database in all of the above-cited stories. Thus, the dream state and its subversive ability to activate unexpected disruptions are often employed in these works. Kinder also discusses the advantages and disadvantages of e-learning. The collaborative possibilities are high where a relatively small field is geographically dispersed. Kinder describes an e-learning project to teach Russian Modernism where a “personal pathway is central to learning, for it enables users to navigate through an open-ended narrative field driven by a culturally inflected search engine that is motored by their own curiosity, passion, and desire” (109).
This article is poorly written relative to the other two articles by Kinder annotated here. She seems to have forced fragmented thoughts and examples into the five principles presented. Possibly the scattered nature of this text can be understood in its origins as an oral presentation hastily prepared for an academic conference.
See listings under the fifth principle for novels and films that are structured as selfconscious database narratives. See also the Labyrinth Project website (http://college.usc.edu/labyrinth/) and other articles by Marsha Kinder annotated here.
Computers as Theatre. (1992).
Book work, includes: Foreword; Preface; Acknowledgements; Chapter One “The Nature of the Beast;” Chapter Two “Dramatic Foundations, Part I: Elements of Qualitative Structure;” Chapter Three “Dramatic Foundations, Part II: Orchestrating Action;” Chapter Four “Dramatic Techniques for Orchestrating Human Response;” Chapter Five “Design Principles for Human-Computer Activity;” Chapter Six “New Directions in Human-Computer Activity;” Chapter Seven “Post-Virtual Reality: After the Hype is Over;” References; and Index.
Brenda Laurel was trained in the dramatic arts and moved on to designing interactive naratives and video games at laboratories like ATARI among others. Computers as Theatre emerged from her doctoral dissertation in theatre at Ohio State University. She argues that “representing action” is essential to the nature of human-computer relations.
She adapts the structures, principles and techniques of dramatic action to the design of human-computer interactivity. For Laurel the isolated design of the computer “interface” as a third, add-on element is problematic. Instead she envisions a common ground or stage upon which the actions of all human and non-human agents are represented. Although she never mentions performativity per say, Laurel does write “the representation is all there is… Think of it as existential WYSIWYG” (17). Specifically, in the first two chapters, Laurel analyses and applies Aristotle’s Poetics to digital technologies. Using Aristotle’s four causes (formal, material, efficient, final) and six qualitative elements (enactment/spectacle, pattern/melody, language, thought, character, action) the end effect and affect of carthatic action (or engaging human-computer interaction) is achieved. For the most part effect and affect seem to be the same for Laurel as she argues for the equivalence of information and emotion in applying dramatic principles to HCI. Laurel declares herself a structuralist and defends her choice of Aristotle’s dramatic theory as still the most coherent, robust and dynamic around. For example, in the representation of classic drama or the construction of a daily spreadsheet, causality is essential to the dramatic, intensive and “satisfying” sequence of events. (Successful models of HCI often cite a necessary and near instantaneous “responsiveness” affect subsequent to an action by a human agent.) She sees the careful design of constraints (structural parameters) as essential to facilitating creativity and dramatic tension (99-101). The coincidental and arbitrary are to be avoided. Instead she argues for Aristotle’s universality. “Aristotle posits that any action can be “universalized” simply by revealing its cause; that is, understanding the cause is sufficient for understanding the action, even if it is something alien to a person’s culture, background, or personal “reality” “ (80). In Chapter Four, Laurel compares Drama to Narrative as competing orgainsing principles for HCI. Obviously she argues for the strengths of dramatic organisation: the principle of enactment in drama emphasizes action over narrative description; dramatic intensity is more effective than narrative extensivity; the unity of action in dramatic structures is more coherent than the episodic structures of narration; the driving force of causality in Aristotelian drama is better than the semiindependant events linked by thematic narration; and finally, the 3-4 hour maximum duration of a classical dramatic event (Noh, anyone?) corresponds well to the maximum computer session for most people (see 93-96). Chapter Five offers approaches to designing Aristotle’s six qualitative elements as applied to HCI and interactive fantasy (IF). “Focus on designing the action. The design of objects, environments, and characters is all subsidiary to this central goal” (134).
The Language of New Media. (2001).
Codex, includes: Foreword (Mark Tribe); Prologue Vertov’s Dataset; Acknowledgements; Introduction; Ch.1 What is New Media? ; Ch.2 The Interface; Ch.3 The Operations; Ch.4 The Illusions; Ch.5 The Forms; Ch.6 What is Cinema?; Index.
Lamenting the absence of a record of the process of emergence of the “new medium of cinema” as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth, Lev Manovich sees his own text as an attempt to write a “theory of the present” for new media. He is clear that by including the word “language” in his book title he means to signal his search for “emergent conventions, recurrent design patterns, and key forms of new media” (12). Above all he aims to contextualize new media in relation to other arts and media traditions, computer technology, contemporary visual culture, and contemporary information culture (13).
“What follows is an attempt at both a record and a theory of the present. Just as film historians traced the development of film language during cinema’s first decades, I aim to describe and understand the logic driving the development of the language of new media… Does it make sense to theorize the present when is seems to be changing so fast? It is a hedged bet. If subsequent developments prove my theoretical projections correct, I win. But even if the language of computer media develops in a different direction than the one suggested by the present analysis, this book will become a record of possibilities heretofore unrealized, of a horizon visible to us today but later unimaginable… We no longer think of the history of cinema as a linear march toward a single possible language, or as a progression toward perfect verisimilitude. On the contrary, we have come to see its history as a succession of distinct and equally expressive languages, each with its own aesthetic variables, and each closing off some of the possibilities of its predecessor… Similarly every stage in the history of computer media offers its own aesthetic opportunities, as well as its own vision of the future: in short, its own “research paradigm.” In this book I want to record the “research paradigm” of new media during its first decade, before it slips into invisibility” (7-8).
“The computerization of culture not only leads to the emergence of new cultural forms such as computer games and virtual worlds; it redefines existing ones such as photography and cinema… The theory and history of cinema serve as the key conceptual lens through which I look at new media. The book explores the following topics: the parallels between cinema history and the history of new media; the identity of digital cinema; the relations between the language of multimedia and nineteenth century procinematic cultural forms; the functions of screen, mobile camera, and montage in new media as compared to cinema; the historical ties between new media and avant-garde film” (9).
The structure of the book is “bottom-up” and begins by examining basic concepts in the earlier chapters which then become building blocks for subsequent analyses in later chapters:
1. “What Is New Media?” – the digital medium itself, its material and logical organization.
2. “The Interface” – the human-computer interface; the operating system (OS).
3. “The Operations” – software applications that run on top of the OS, their interfaces, and typical operations.
4. “The Illusions” – appearance, and the new logic of digital images created using software applications.
5. “The Forms” – commonly used conventions for organizing a new media object as a whole.
6. “What Is Cinema?” – mirror’s the book’s beginning [making links between new media and cinema – this time from the perspective of new media].
Lev Manovich lays out his prologue like a storyboard or dataset for his book: “The avant-garde masterpiece Man with a Movie Camera, completed by Russian director Dziga Vertov in 1929, will serve as our guide to the language of new media. This prologue consists of a number of stills from the film. Each still is accompanied by a quote from the text summarizing a particular principle of new media” (xiv): Each roughly summarized point is preceded in brackets by the pages from which it is drawn: (78-79) New media is based on a cinematic language. However, unlike the mute viewers of cinema, most computer users are now able to actively participate in the language of the new interface. (84-85) Cinematic perception and an ability to direct virtual cameras are now being incorporated into computer games among other new media [surveillance!?]. (148) Editing, or montage, is a key technique for created realities. Manovich focuses on two basic techniques: temporal montage, where separate realities are juxtaposed sequentially; montage within a shot, where separate realities are superimposed or layered within a single image. (149) As in Vertov’s work, film “can overcome its indexical nature through montage, by presenting a viewer with objects that never existed in reality.” (158) Borders between different realities may be cleverly erased, but could also be retained to emphasize semantic collision, multiple realities. (172) The cameraman becomes a surgeon cutting into the body of the world; the camera has superhuman vision. Once composited, images discard the scale and unique locations of their original subjects/objects. (173-174) Modernization disrupts and makes interchangeable matter and physical space. Objects become mobile signs, whether on film or on the computer screen. (202) Vision has become cyborg. “Synthetic computer-generated imagery is not an inferior representation of our reality, but a realistic representation of a different reality.” (239) Dziga Vertov and Greenaway are both major “database filmmakers” of the twentieth century. (241) There are three levels of text in Vertov’s film: The first two are metatexts: the record of the cameraman filming the film; and the footage of the audience watching the film. The third level is the text itself, recording a day’s unfurling, but multiply located in Moscow, Kiev, and Riga. (242) Vertov’s film “proposes an untamed, and apparently endless, unwinding of techniques, or, to use contemporary language, “effects,” as cinema’s new way of speaking.” (243) The above observation is why Vertov’s film is so relevant to new media. How do “effects” become “meaningful artistic language”? “Effects” become artistically meaningful when employed to make a particular argument. In this case, Vertov’s discovery and exploration of the “kino-eye” and his successful merging of database and narrative into a new form. (262) Manovich cites the self-conscious editing paraded in mannerist old and new media. [An idea linked to the “self-conscious” media in transition observed by Jenkins and Thorburn.] (275-276) Vertov’s work “is not only a database of city life in the 1920s, a database of film techniques, and a database of new operations of visual epistemology, but also a database of new interface operations that together aim to go beyond simple human navigation through physical space.” (306-307) “… avant-garde aesthetic strategies came to be embedded in the commands and interface metaphors of computer software… The avant-garde move to combine animation, printed texts, and live-action footage is repeated in the convergence of animation, title generation, paint, compositing, and editing systems into all-in-one packages.” (316-317) Loops give birth to a forward motion in film, a quintessentially modern movement. Loops are also essential to the code of computer programmes. (322) Spatial montage (within a frame) is contrasted again to temporal montage. Spatial and temporal fragmentations mark modern production and contemporary visual culture. (324) Multiple windows were developed with the Xerox PARC Alto workstation Graphical User Interface (GUI). This will become part of new media’s language. (326-327) The Human Computer Interface (HCI) is an interface to data; the book is an interface to text; cinema is an interface to events in 3D space. In all of these media, image scarcity and image density is possibly comparable to informational scarcity/density.
La Jetée. (1962).
Film or “un photo-roman” digitally remastered for DVD. B/W, 29 minutes. Argos Films; edited by Jean Ravel; Voice narration by Jean Negroni (French version) and James Kirk (English version); music by Trevor Duncan; mixing by Antoine Bonfanti; script and direction by Chris Marker. (Available for loan at McGill as a Region 2 DVD – there is a regionless DVD player in the library.)
Working with voice narration, some screen mounted text, sound, music, and still black and white images, Chris Marker and his collaborators created a powerful narration about memory, time-travel and contradictions resolved by death. See the transcribed script for a partial understanding of the work.
The simplicity of means and the sophistication of composition are inspiring. Aesthetically there are constant slippages of silence over darkness, voice over darkness and image and music, barely comprehensible murmurs over underground scenes of experimental timetravel, and unapologetic image and sound sequences that ask the viewers to make their own narrative connections. Drawing on the memory experiences of the viewer, as well as the speculative possibility of drug-induced time-travel, the non-sequential path of the narration makes perfect sense within this self-defining story. It nonetheless makes a very strong use of identifiable places and times: la jetée at Orly airport in the past, Paris itself before destruction, the underground present, a Parisian park (past), the museum (past), and the abstracted future.
Marks, Laura U.
The Skin of the Film: intercultural cinema, embodiment, and the senses. (2000).
Book work, includes: Preface, Acknowledgements, Introductions, four chapters, Conclusion, Notes, Bibliography, Filmography/Videography and Index.
Laura U. Marks now teaches in the School for Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. The Skin of the Film emerges out of her dissertation work at the University of Rochester in the Visual and Cultural Studies department. This volume examines what Marks terms intercultural cinema with a specific focus on its use audiovisual means to evoke embodied experience and memory. Marks is particularly interested to bring analysis to the senses that have most often been neglected by conventional cinema and traditional analyses: touch, smell, taste. It is through the synaesthetic perception and embodied memory of the filmmakers and their emergent audiences that these nonaudiovisual senses can be evoked by cinema. Marks sees intercultural cinema as an area where newly emergent cinematic languages can speak of newly articulating embodiements and experiences. Regarding her choice of book title, Marks writes: “… The Skin of the Film, offers a metaphor to emphasize the way film signifies through its materiality, through a contact between perceiver and object represented. It also suggests the way vision itself can be tactile…” (xi). One of the terms and theory that she introduces is the idea of haptic visuality, “or a visuality that functions like the sense of touch” (22, see also Chapter 3). Marks admits to not treating in any detail the important role of sound in cinema in her text, but speculates that there must be a form of haptic sound (182-183). With all four of her chapter titles beginning with “The Memory of…”, memory and its artful evocation is clearly the hinge between an embodied sensuous experience (often of things lost) and what Marks calls intercultural cinema. There is a conscious narrative arc in the book as chapter by chapter an emerging cinema of sensuous experience is approached. There are consistent references to the work of Gilles Deleuze and Henri Bergson among many others.
McClean, Shilo T.
Digital Storytelling: The Narrative Power of Visual Effects in Film. (2007).
Book work, includes: Preface; Acknowledgements; 11 Chapters; Apendix A “Genres of Films Featured in Cinefex Magazine;” Appendix B “Films, Release Years, and Directors.”
According to the MIT Press website “Shilo T. McClean is a consultant in storybuilding and digital visual effects. She has worked as a writer, producer, director, and script editor.” Moreover, Digital Storytelling has emerged from McClean’s doctoral dissertation for the University of Technology Sydney. The intention of her book is to discover how DVFx (digital visual effects) impact narrative: why they are shunned as costly technical obsessions that undermine storytelling; and whether they can be an inspiration for narrative creativity beyond genre stereotyping to enrich the larger process of filmmaking and storytelling (viii). The book is addressed to film writers, filmmakers and film theorists. More specifically, it is focused on the impact of DVFx on the scriptwritingstorytelling process; “the closely related issues of spectacularity and narrative functioning” (3); and the use of DVFx as a fundmental part of the production or even preproduction (and not the post-production) process (9). (By production process, McClean is referring to image and sound capture and image and sound creation.) Considering the ubiquity of DVFx (even when used in combination with other kinds of analog effects), McClean draws our attention to the way in which this film technology is unjustly demonized. She identifies a long-standing tension between spectacularity and narrative integrity that may help to explain the demonizing of DVFx. Studying the history and place of special effects in general is informative in this regard: Vivian Sobchack, in her article “The Fantastic,” identifies special effects with narratives that move beyond verisimilitude and “natural confines”; Albert J. La Valley sees special effects as the celebration of new (film) technology; Martin Barker argues against this pure technophilia and proposes that special effects also mark narrative “modality shifts” (7). Thus, special effects, when used as spectacle (excess), solicit admiration of the virtuosity of the filmic technology, thus detracting from the film medium’s ability to invisibly support narrative momentum. This is forgetful of the fact that special effects can be and are often used imperceptibly to enhance storytelling. Interestingly, McClean references Steve Neale’s examination of the awkward integration of sound and colour into filmmaking and their (at least colour’s) initial treatment as a “special effect” (12). McClean cites David Bordwell’s question “Is there anything in a narrative film that is not narrational?” and his observation/answer that “narration can in fact draw upon any film technique as long as the technique can transmit story information.” If, for example, a Hollywood film story is meant to be excessive and spectacular then spectacularly applied DVFx are simply transmitting “story information.” As to the adoption of new technology, McClean via Bordwell has listed three criteria to consider: “production efficiency (economy); product differentiation (novelty); and adherence to standards of quality and aesthetic norms” (13). There is very little mention of nonnarrative DVFx use.
Selected works referenced by McClean:
David Bordwell, Narration in the Fiction Film (London: Methuen&Co., 1985).
David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristen Thompson, The Classical Hollywood
Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (London: Routledge, 1985).
Steve Neale, Cinema and Technology: Image, Sound, Colour (London: MacMillan
Education Ltd., 1985).
Digital Storytelling: A Creator’s Guide to Interactive Entertainment.
Bookwork. Highly descriptive, theoretically bereft; many examples (and most of the screenshots) are taken from first generation CD-ROM videogames for young kids.
Twisty Little Passages: an Approach to Interactive Fiction. (2003).
Codex, includes: Preface; Acknowledgements; Ch.1 The Pleasure Of The Text Adventure; Ch.2 Riddles; Ch.3 Adventure And Its Ancestors; Ch.4 Zork And Other Mainframe Works; Ch.5 Infocom And Commercial Beginnings; Ch.6 Different Visions Worldwide; Ch.7 The Independents; Ch.8 Interactive Fiction In Our Culture; Interactive Fiction Works Cited; Secondary Sources; Index. Author’s info online at “nickm.com”: http://nickm.com/.
Nick Montfort has written a selective history of interactive fiction (IF) focused on its conceptual development and its validity as a non-commercial but evolving and vital form of literature. The two essential components to an IF work is the presence of a parser, or “that part of the program that accepts natural language input from the interactor and analyzes it,” and the establishment of a world model, which “represents the physical environment of the interactive fiction and the things in that environment” (ix) or its manipulable setting, including, physical parameters, characters, objects, etc. Additionally, Montfort understands the riddle as “not only the most important early ancestor of interactive fiction but also an extremely valuable figure for understanding it” (37). As a specialized form of poetry, the riddle lyrically and enigmatically poses a question. Although IF had a very short-lived commercial success in the mid 1980s, Montfort suggests that IF is contemporarily much like poetry in being a non-commercial but vital literary form.
“The very concept of interactive fiction and computer literature more broadly makes the argument that the computer can be a device that challenges and enlarges us, a way of communicating powerful and disturbing and deeply necessary ideas. This argument answers the concept of the computer as a government-regulated entertainment device, a soothing palliative that can only emit family-safe and brand-conscious advertisements for mediocrity… [This] is opposed by the way interactive fiction is now created outside of corporate control by individuals from many different walks of life, worldwide… by the very complexity and individuality of vision manifest in almost every large interactive fiction work of the last ten years” (233).
Montfort also makes reference to these online IF resources: Adventureland Baf’s Guide to the Interactive Fiction Archive and also these online IF communities:
Murray, Janet Horowitz.
Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. (1997).
Book work, includes: Acknowledgements; Introduction, “A Book Lover Longs For Cyberdrama;” Part I, “A New Medium for Storytelling;” Part II, “The Aesthetics of the Medium;” Part III, “Procedural Authorship;” Part IV, “New Beauty, New Truth;” Notes; Bibliography; Index.
Janet H. Murray writes as a specialist in Victorian literature, erstwhile software programmer and educator intrigued by the future of storytelling in cyberspace. She gives a historical context to the hostility and other extreme reactions to digital culture by referencing reactions to the introduction of other new technologies: for example, radio. Most intriguingly she writes about the future of narrative in digital media within what she describes as a “bardic” continuity:
“I am drawn to imagining a cyberdrama of the future by the same fascination that draws me to the Victorian novel. I see glimmers of a medium that is capacious and broadly expressive, a medium capable of capturing both the hairbreadth movements of individual human consciousness and the colossal crosscurrents of global society. Just as the computer promises to reshape knowledge in ways that sometimes complement and sometimes supersede the work of the book and the lecture hall, so too does it promise to reshape the spectrum of narrative expression, not by replacing the novel or the movie but by continuing their timeless bardic work within another framework… This book is an attempt to imagine a future digital medium, shaped by the hacker’s spirit and the enduring power of the imagination and worthy of the rapture our children are bringing to it” (9-10).
“The most important element the new medium [digital narrative] adds to our repertoire of representational powers is its procedural nature, its ability to capture experience as systems of interrelated actions… We are learning how to create characters by modeling their behaviors, how to create plots by establishing the rules by which things should happen, and how to structure the participation of the interactor into a repertoire of expressive gestures… Most of all, the procedural medium will challenge our notions of authorship. In a print model, we think of an authored environment as fixed and not open to variation. A mutable, kaleidoscopic world can feel to some like an unauthored world… With familiarity we will come to realize that the procedural author can shape a juxtaposition or a branch point in a multiform story as artfully as a traditional author shapes a speech in a play or a chapter in a novel” (274-275).
“The kaleidoscopic powers the computer offers us, the ability to see multiple patterns in the same elements, might also lead to compelling narratives that capture our new situation as citizens of a global community… in a global society we have out grown our ability to contextualize. We are tormented by our sense of multiple conflicting frameworks for every action. We need a kaleidoscopic medium to sort things out… Not only is the computer the most capacious medium ever invented, but it also allows us to move around the narrative world, shifting from one perspective to another at our own initiative. Perhaps this ability to shift perspectives will lead to the technical innovation that will rival the Shakespearean soliloquy… All of these story patterns would be ways of enacting the contemporary human struggle to both affirm and transcend our own limited point of view” (282-283).
Murray engagingly contextualizes the possibilities of digital media within the grand traditions of storytelling while embracing the new narrative patterns facilitated and made possible by new media.
Parkes, M. B. (Malcolm Beckwith)
Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West. (1993).
Book work, includes: List of plates; Preface; Acknowledgements; Principal Abbreviations and Conventions; Introduction; Part I “Pause: Symbols as Notations” including six chapters; Part II “Effect: Symbols as Signs” including two chapters; Notes; Appendices; Part III “Plates and Commentaries;” Part IV “Glossary, Indexes and Lists.”
M.B. Parkes offers a detailed history of punctuation in the West as it moves from the dynamic tradition of oratory and rhetoric, to the varied interpretations of medieval scribes, through to the printing press. The inclusion of this volume in the CINERG bibliography suggests that the principles and dynamics of punctuation could be a very fruitful perspective from which to view contemporary and digital narrative forms. (Consider for instance the use of Short Narrative Units (SNUs) and Keywords in the Korsakow structure of non-linear narration.) If only to remind us of the importance of spaces (pauses) between words, this is a valuable text. Alterations in punctuation can alter meanings and effects: “Its [punctuation’s] primary function is to resolve structural uncertainties in a text, and to signal nuances of semantic significance which might otherwise not be conveyed at all, or would at best be much more difficult for a reader to figure out” (1).
“Punctuation was developed by stages which coincided with changing patterns of literacy, whereby new generations of readers in different historical situations imposed new demands on the written medium itself. In order to perform new functions symbols from different systems of aids to the reader, including annotation marks as well as features of layout and display, were gradually combined into a general repertory of punctuation, which came to be accepted everywhere… The fundamental principle for interpreting punctuation is that the value and function of each symbol must be assessed in relation to the other symbols in the same immediate context, rather than in relation to a supposed absolute value and function for that symbol when considered in isolation” (2).
The first part of the book focuses on the history of the graphic symbols of punctuation and their development and refinement; the second part offers a sketch of the effects carried by practical applications of punctuation symbols within texts. Parkes “principal aim has been to raise a reader’s consciousness of what punctuation is and does, and to emphasize the effects it produces” (6).
New Screen Media: Cinema/Art/Narrative. (2002).
Book work and DVD, includes: Notes on Contributors; List of Artworks on the DVDROM; List of [Book] Illustrations; Acknowledgements; Preface; Forward; Structural Overview; Part One “Orientations: History and Theory” (Definitions, Origins, Convergence, Beyond Narrative?); Part Two “Explorations: A New Practice” (Restructuring Time, Restructuring Space, Beyond the Screen, The Personalised Interface); Glossary; Bibliography; Index (author, subject, work).
This volume features close to 30 contributors with a heavy representation from Europe and North America with a few authors from Australia and New Zealand. (Karlsruhe, Germany, New York City and London are the urban centres most often referenced in the author biographies.). Of the artists featured on the DVD there is a slightly wider range of contribution. Of the text contributors, 7 are women. At the time of publication, both editors were based in England: Andrea Zapp in Manchester; Martin Rieser in Bath. Zapp was born and educated Germany. Special support from The Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany and The British Film Institute (BFI) in London, England, was received for the production of the DVD
“Structural Overview: Cinema, Art and the Reinvention of Narrative” introduces the volume. The editors list the volume’s themes which “question traditional analyses of narrative modeling and reception” and may lead to a “new grammar and aesthetic of story”, including: “Time montage and the spatial mapping of story; The rediscovery of the body inhabiting telepresent and immersive spaces; The matrix as a natural structure for the digital to define irreducible units of narrative; Generative fiction as ‘liquid narrative’ or ‘the floating artwork’; The changing nature of audience: from passive viewer to active and nomadic participant” (Structural Overview, xxix). The book’s text and the works on the DVD are cross-referenced through flags in the book. DVD navigation mirrors the structure of the book. Therefore both book and DVD have two major sections: Part 1 “Orientations: History and Theory”; and Part 2 “Explorations: A New Practice”.
Part 1 “Orientations: History and Theory” is further subdivided into four sections: Definitions (Sean Cubitt, Paul Willemen); Origins (Soke Dinkla, Peter Weibel, Annika Blunck, Lev Manovich); Convergence (Andrea Zapp, Alex Butterworth and John Wyver, Chris Hales); Beyond Narrative (Ken Feingold, Jon Dovey, Martin Rieser, Eku Wand, Grahame Weinbren).
Part 2 “Explorations: A New Practice” is further subdivided into four sections: Restructuring Time (Jill Scott, Toni Dove); Redefining Space (George Legrady, Malcolm Le Grice, Bill Seaman); Beyond the Screen (Luc Courchesne, Jeffrey Shaw, Merel Mirage); and The Personalised Interface (Zoe Beloff, Michael Buckley, Graham Harwood).
“This collection of essays by leading cultural theorists, critics and artists using new media, seeks to establish a clear overview of this changing territory [new media art]. It does this by outlining the challenge interactivity and new media pose to the future of cinematic and broadcast formats of story… By introducing a mixed economy of reflection around attempts to accommodate these new media forms of narrative, this book intends to look closely at issues of audience engagement in recognised works of various genres” (Foreword, xxv).
“The practitioner-participants in this work were chosen by the editors for their strong reconfiguration of screen media linked to narrative content or fiction, although some of the artists themselves might deny the connection. The idea was to provoke a new discourse concentrating on content rather than interface. We also aimed, with the accompanying DVD, to provide visual examples of the discussed state-of-the-art media projects, which had previously only been accessible to the public on the global exhibition circuit” (Foreword, xxvi).
Many interesting perspectives potentially provided by this anthology. As noted by MKG, their focus on strongly reconfigured narrative content does not carry over into the structuring of the book, the DVD and the way book work and digital record relate to each other: the result is awkward and certainly does not play to the strength of digital media. The book is of fairly conventional organisation.
“Beyond Myth and Metaphor: Narrative in Digital Media.” Poetics Today. 23:4 (2003) 581-609. (See pdf file of article in “Files.”)
Abstract: “The concept of narrative has been widely invoked by theorists of digital textuality, but the promotion of what is described as the storytelling power of the computer has often relied on shallow metaphors, loose conceptions of narrative, and literary models that ignore the distinctive properties of the digital medium. Two myths have dominated this theorization. The myth of the Aleph (as I call it) presents the digital text as a finite text that contains an infinite number of stories. The myth of the Holodeck envisions digital narrative as a virtual environment in which the user becomes a character in a plot similar to those of Victorian novels or Shakespearean tragedies. Both of these myths rely on questionable assumptions: that any permutation of a collection of lexias results in a coherent story; that it is aesthetically desirable to be the hero of a story; and that digital narrativity should cover the same range of emotional experiences as literary narrative. Here I argue that digital narrative should emancipate itself from literary models. But I also view narrative as a universal structure that transcends media. This article addresses the question of reconciling the inherent linearity of narrative structures with the multiple paths made possible by the interactive nature of the digital text by distinguishing four forms of interactivity, which result from the cross-classification of two binaries: internal versus external interactivity; and exploratory versus ontological. Each of these categories is shown to favor different narrative themes and different variations of the universal narrative structure.” (abstract from article itself)
“In the internal mode, users project themselves as members of the fictional world, either by identifying with an avatar or by apprehending the virtual world from a first-person perspective. In the external mode, users are situated outside the virtual world. They either play the role of a god who controls the fictional world from above or they conceptualize their own activity as navigating a database. This distinction is a matter of degree: there are digital texts that situate the user at a variable distance with respect to the fictional world or that locate the user at the periphery, not quite in, not quite out. The dichotomy internal/external corresponds roughly to Aarseth’s (1997:63) distinction between personal and impersonal perspective… The only potential difference between Aarseth’s labels and mine is the case of a user who is projected as a powerful figure external to the playing field and who makes strategic decisions for the participants, such as the commander in chief of an army, a sports coach, an author writing a novel, or a specific god” (595).
“In the exploratory mode, users navigate the display, move to new observation points, alter their perspective, or examine new objects in order to learn more about the virtual world. But this activity does not make fictional history, nor does it alter the plot; users have no impact on the destiny of the virtual world. In the ontological mode, by contrast, the decisions of the users send the history of the virtual world on different forking paths. These decisions are ‘‘ontological’’ in the sense that they determine which possible world, and consequently which story, will develop from the situation in which the choice presents itself. This distinction is much more strictly binary than the preceding one: the user either does, or does not, have the power to intervene in the affairs of the fictional world” (596).
Useful as an alternate (literary theory) take on some of the other writers reviewed here, for example, Brenda Laurel and Janet Murray.
In describing her two sets of binary classifications for interactive works, Ryan refers often to Espen Aarseth’s book, Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. See also her website:
“Immersion vs. Interactivity: Virtual Reality and Literary Theory.” SubStance. 28:2 (1999) 110-137.
“As a literary theorist, I am primarily interested in the two components of the VR experience as a novel way to describe the types of reader response that may be elicited by a literary text. I propose therefore to transfer the notions of immersion and interactivity from the technological to the literary domain and to discuss the conditions of their textual implementation. While interactivity has been extolled by postmodern theory as the triumph of its own aesthetic ideals of a creative reader, an open text, and a ludic relation to language, immersion has been either ignored or dismissed as the holdover of a now discredited aesthetics of illusion that subordinates language to its referent, and ignores its power of configuration over the reality it is supposed to represent. Through this comparative study of the immersive and interactive potential of literature and VR technology, I hope to pave the way for a more critical investigation of the concept of interactivity in literary theory, a rehabilitation of the experience of immersion, and a greater awareness of the expressive properties of the medium that supports literature” (111-112).
Other works by Marie-Laure Ryan: See her website: http://lamar.colostate.edu/~pwryan/books.htm
Shaw Jeffrey and Peter Weibel.
Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film. (2003).
Catalogue accompanying the exhibit of the same name, includes: Prolegomena (Debord); Preface (Weibel); A Panorama of Pre-Cinematic Principles (van Tijen); Introduction (Shaw); Ch.12 The Cinematic Imaginary; Ch.11 Screenings; Ch.10 Theaters; Ch.9 Codes; Ch.8 Remapping; Ch.7 Transcriptive; Ch.6 Recombinatory; Ch.5 Navigable; Ch.4 Interpolated; Ch.3 Immersive; Ch.2 Calculated; Ch.1 Networked; Ch.0 Screenless; Appendix (Notes on the Artists, Notes on the Authors, Works in the Exhibition, Letter to Serge Daney from Gilles Deleuze).
Opens with a citation from Guy Debord from 1952 “Prolegomena to All Future Cinema.” (Translated from the French by Sarah Clift. See original text in french)
In the Preface, Peter Weibel finds hope in the ability of individuals to transform the practice of cinema. He identifies this “new class of experts, those individuals formerly called artists” who have the technical abilities and innovativeness to “challenge a cinematic homogeneity supported by millions of dollars.” He explicitly refers to Hollywood. To contextualize the intention of Future Cinema, both exhibit and catalog, Weibel identifies three phases in the transformation of classical cinema as based on its apparatus: the Expanded Cinema movement in the 1960s which used analogous means; the video revolution in the 1970s with its use of electromagnetic media, intense image manipulation and extended post-production; and the digital apparatus of the 1980s and ‘90s which he associates with algorithmic imagery involving “completely new features like observer dependency, interactivity, virtuality, programmed behavior, and so forth.”
“This book focuses on the cinematographic code’s expansion into the digital field and concentrates on the apparatus-oriented approach… we insist on the technical aspect because artistic and ideological functions of cinema are, according to the apparatus theory of the 1970s, inscribed in the cinematographic apparatus… The technical apparatus of the cinema is the ideological instrument. There is no neutral technology… The apparatus theory of film shows that the cinema is an ensemble of discursive, material, formal elements that construct not only a reality, but also a subject… The aim is to deconstruct the total apparatus of the cinema, to transform the cinematic apparatus, and create new technologies that allow different psychic mechanisms, that subjugate subjects in the cinema, that allow different relations between spectator and screen, different representations / constructions of reality and subjects, a critical relation to representation. The cinematic imaginary beyond film is the imaginary signifier in the digital field.”
Jeffrey Shaw (director of the ZKM | Institute for Visual Media, a well-established research centre that focuses on the “expansion of cinematic codes and techniques” according to Weibel) introduces this exhibition catalog: “Future Cinema is an exhibition of current art practice in the domain of video-, film- and computer-based installations that embody and anticipate new cinematic techniques and modes of expression.” The curation drew from the last ten years of notable cinematic works with experimental strength and included many works produced specifically for the exhibition.
“One of the main curatorial emphases is on installations that diverge from the conventional screening formats, and explore more immersive and technologically innovative environments… Another focus is on works that explore creative approaches to the design of non-linear narrative content by means of multiple points of view and/or interactivity…. this catalog also sets out to document the historical trajectory of the variegated cinematic experiments that prefigure, inform and contextualize our current cinematic condition.”
“The first four chapters – THE CINEMATIC IMAGINARY, SCREENINGS, THEATERS and CODES – offer a general yet idiosyncratic cluster of theoretical statements that set the stage for an understanding of the variegated experiments embodied in the artworks themselves.” The remaining chapters describe curatorial groupings of cinematic work that are not mutually exclusive:
* REMAPPING “shows a group of works that in one way or another make direct use of the actual filmic products of our cinematic heritage, taking these extant materials as the means to generate various forms of critical reflection upon the nature of the cinematic experience.” Remapping is the reframing, recycling, remixing, or remediating of existing material (see Hayles’ term remediation for example).
* TRANSCRIPTIVE “covers the broad range of current experimentation that is challenging traditional notions of cinematic narrative.” Physically enabling the exploration of more open narrative structures is the actual reconfiguration of cinematic installation to allow for “multiple screenings, multiple layering of narrative and, in the case of interactive works, the creation of navigable multi-branching narratives.”
* RECOMBINATORY “is an extension of the transcriptive; its practitioners recognize the emergent narrative potentials of an interactively accessible database of audio-visual materials. Whereas transcriptive narratives are concerned with the re-assembly of defined sets of narrative paths (as is the case in most video-game scenarios), recombinatory narratives embrace the idea of an unascertainable complexity of path options, leading to an unforeseeable patterning of narrative conjunctions.
* NAVIGABLE artworks “that make the construction of a navigable narrative space their central feature, and in so doing create cinematic formalisms quite distinct from the types of representation wee are used to in the cinema… the navigable artwork allows the interactive viewer to assume the role of both cameraperson and editor, operations that in the traditional cinema are determined beforehand.
* INTERPOLATED artworks “all share an interest in conjoining conditions that are carefully separated in traditional cinema. The familiar boundaries between the factual and fictional, the actual and the virtual, are challenged by these “mixed reality” strategies that create paradoxical audio, visual, spatial and temporal interrelationships resulting in unexpected formations.”
* IMMERSIVE artworks, or environments, aim to create “an experience of physical and imaginative relocation that induces a totality of engagement in the aesthetic and dramatic construct of the work.” This has nothing to do with the size of the screen and instead “an immersive condition result[s] from our virtual dislocation into inhabited information spaces such as the Internet and cyber-games.”
* CALCULATED works “abandon, to various extents, the use of images captured from the real-world and instead offer software-generated formations that may lead to representations that mimic the real-world, or may constitute completely synthetic image structures.” This quality of being calculated is attributed to software engines with “algorithmic sophistication” but may also employ “real-world data such as motion tracking or texture mapping” to inform the development of these works.
* NETWORKED media benefits from the “economy of individual production, its open distributed modalities of consumption, its ideological freedom and idiosyncratic formal characteristics… The technologies of video games and the Internet point to a cinema of distributed virtual environments that are also social spaces, so that the people present become protagonists in a set of narrative dislocations.”
* SCREENLESS, as a chapter examines “cinematic options that posit technical and theoretic strategies of completely new forms of image-generation and image reception systems…. theoretically we begin to conjure for the cinema futures that offer radical new territories of expression and experience by foreseeing technologies and creation modalities of an order very different from those currently being exercised.”
Claiming the Real: the documentary film revisited: The Griersonian Documentary and Its Legitimations. (1995).
Book work, includes: Preface; Part One “The Creative Treatment of Actuality;” Part Two “Creative: Documentary as Art;” Part Three “Treatment: Documentary as Drama;” Part Four “Actuatlity: Documentary as Science;” Part Five “Documentary in the Age of Digital Image Manipulation;” Envoi; Notes; Bibliography; and Index.
Winston is writing from long experience in the field of practising and teaching first journalism and then the making of documentaries (UK and N.America). He currently heads the School of Communication and Creative Industries at the University of Westminster. This book was developed during the advent of a technologically enhanced blurring of “actuality” and “creativity” via various forms of media manipulation, especially digital manipulation. He questions the relationship between image and reality and begins by reviewing the history of the documentary-making and its truth-claims, citing, for instance, John Grierson and Michael Renov (6). “The Creative Treatment of Actuality” is, in fact, a phrase coined by Grierson to describe the act of making documentaries. In Part Three, Chapter 20 is entitled “Non-Narrative: Works Better in the Head than on the Screen.” Here, Winston basically punctures what he sees as a false idea that documentaries are non-narratively structured. He repetitively refers to the requirements of organising and structuring a film, and is insistent that a good film needs some form of narrative sequence, or “internal ‘chrono-logic’, and closure (116). In his concluding Part Five, Winston begins with a chapter called “Towards a Post-Griersonian documentary.” He seems compelled to distance himself from postmodernist readings of film work, but acknowledges that illusionism and realism are each other’s cognates. He identifies one, and perhaps the only, essential difference between narrative (implicitly fictional) film-making and documentary film-making to be the way in which they are received. Citing Robert Fairthorne, writing sixty years prior to 1995, he situates “actuality” and the attribution of truthfulness to the relation between a film-work and its audience – or to the reception of the film-work. Winston is disparaging of the stylistic tropes of realism – handheld camerawork, jump-cuts, bad lighting, minimal graphics, a certain sobriety and deliberately unappealing aesthetic. As promising examples of contemporary creative documentaries he cites: Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line (film noir meets miscarriage-of-justice); Cane Toads (1987 comedy horror/sci-fi meets environmental disaster); Michael Moore’s Roger and Me; among others.
“If documentary drops its pretension to a superior representation of actuality, promises of non-intervention will no longer need to be made because they are beside the point. Objectivity, whether scrambled in meaning or elegantly redefined, can either way be abandoned also. Actuality can be an earnest of little more than the physicality of the plastic material before the lens. (At least for the moment.) Most important, since the audience’s understanding that what is on offer is indeed a truly subjective interaction with the world – or, unlike direct cinema’s, unburdened by objectivity and actuality – what is on offer can be really ‘creatively treated’. Documentary style could then be liberated.” (254).
Expanded Cinema. (1970).
Book work, includes: List of Illustrations; Introduction and poem by R. Buckminster Fuller; Preface; Part One “The Audience and the Myth of Entertainment;” Part Two “Synaesthetic Cinema: The End of Drama;” Part Three “Toward Cosmic Consciousness;” Part Four “Cybernetic Cinema and Computer Films;” Part Five “Television as a Creative Medium;” Part Six “Intermedia;” Part Seven “Holographic Cinema: A New World;” Selected Bibliography; Index.
Beginning with an introduction written by Buckminster Fuller, (an architect of the utopian convinced that a better world could be designed), Expanded Cinema was published in 1970 and harbours many of the utopian dreams of the liberating and enlightening potential of design and technology shared by Fuller and the 1967 World Exposition “Man and his World.” Youngblood in fact makes reference to the ’67 Expo in Montreal and many of the works exhibited and performed therein. From the situation of 2007, a certain amount of comparative self-reflection is invoked in reading about the expectations associated with new technologies and their impact on cinema in a different time. Youngblood goes into detailed technical descriptions of the technologies of the day concluding his volume with a discussion of the future of holographic cinema. (His enthusiasm here is somewhat comparable to Brenda Laurel’s description of VR in Computers as Theatre.) He also showcases many cultural works of that time that are chosen for their illustration of expanded cinema, for instance: Carolee Schneeman, Stan Brakhage, Michael Snow and Stanley Kubrick among many others. The betterment of Humanity’s lot through the creative use and development of new technologies to make meaning is central to his idea of the intermedia network.
“Through the art and technology of expanded cinema we shall create heaven right here on earth” (concluding sentence of Youngblood’s book, 419).