April 25, 2013
Narrative, interactivity and hypermedia

The consolidation of the use of new technologies in daily life, the development of social networks and the intense connectivity that mobile devices offer to us have modified the way of looking and understanding audiovisual productions. We are in an interesting moment because, as it happened with the appearance of media like photography, cinema or video, a new range of aesthetic and narrative possibilities appears. Along the second half of 20th century, different approaches to the idea of not linear narrative were suggested, that is, not sequential literary structures nor of causal order. From fields like philosophy or critical theory, computer sciences and software theory, authors like Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Theodor Nelson, Vannebar Bush, Roland Barthes or Michael Foucault questioned the dominant paradigm of the rigid, linear and one-way text as a vehicle of knowledge transfer. Despite starting from different disciplines, their approaches were built from the intuition that not linear textual structures creation was possible. In this context, when we speak about text generation, model concepts are not only linearity, information hierarchy and the beginning and the end anymore; multilinearity, network, link and nodes come into play (1). The notion of rhizome (2) of Deleuze and Guattari suggests concept maps articulated in a network, in contrast to linear discourses of cause and effect. Nelson introduces the concept of hypertext (3): a text that connects with other texts, a device that allows drawing links among words and offers not sequential routes. Bush explored the possibilities of creating a machine, called Memex, designed to manage information in real time for the user to read and visualise images while making notes. In this prototype, not developed, Bush expressed his reflections about the shape that information management systems would take in the future, when the amount of data would exceed the abilities of the existing devices. Barthes indicates the need of a text in which the spectator would be an active agent. Foucault, on the other hand, describes power structures implicit in the text. Both authors are critical regarding the ruling discursive model. From these approaches, with the appearance of performance in the sixties, the first artistic trend questioning the unidirectionality of communication between work/text and recipient gathers strength. The spectator is part of the artistic phenomenon; he can intervene in it and modify the work contents and development. This fundamental transformation is the basis from which other artistic practices have been developed, among which installations and digital arts have an outstanding place. The interactive nature of digital media offers a suitable context for experimenting with the possibilities of non-linearity. Today, the use of the web and interconnected text by means of hyperlinks is part of our daily reading habits. The integration of the use of hypertext is translated into the existence of practices in the audiovisual field that can be considered hypermedia practices, both regarding production and use. Understanding narrative as a group of texts forming a communicative process with sense, it seems to be complex imagining a story without a speaker. In the case of oral story, for example, the orator tells a story, modulates the tone and adds anecdotes and rhetorical questions: he improvises looking for the spectator’s empathy. This interaction can have an equivalent, in a certain way, in the digital environment: beyond reproducing stories, computers are potentially able to manage in real time the information deriving from spectator’s reactions. That would be translated into the possibility of modulating stories, modifying contents and showing texts with a similar degree of variability to the one offered by the hypertext on the web. In fact, thanks to the development of computers ability of processing, a series of practices that get close to these approaches are appearing. They are hypermedia and interactive proposals that, to a greater or lesser extent, allow the user to introduce or modify contents. From the interactive documentary Bear71 to, a fictioned video clip, as well as blabla, an interactive short film. Although it is true that audiovisual proposals begin to appear, non-linearity exploration, the possibility of interacting, connectivity and bidirectionality in writing contents offer a field of potentialities still to discover. References 1. Landow, George Hypertext (1994) The convergence of Contemporany Critical Theory and Technology. The John Hopkins University Press 2. Deleuze, Gilles. Guattari, Félix (1994) Mil Mesetas. Editorial Pre-Textos 3. Nelson, Theodor (1981) Literary Machines. Mindful Press Joan Sànchez (25.04.13)