Informatronsphere’s Blog

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Hypertext and the new ways of reading

Development of information theories in the early 1950’s led to emergence of cybernetic theory (with Wiener and others) on the one side, and Transformative theory of 1960’s with McLuhan, Ong and Havelock on the other. McLuhan, in the spirit of the prophet, analyzed and predicted many of modern electronic ways of doing and thinking. In his time, radio, telephone and television represented the paramount of “thinking globally”. But, reading his “Understanding Media” (1964) today, one will found almost the same “symptoms” in our modern-day life as in his, 40 years old.

The same thing is with cinematography. With some variations, almost the same problem exist from the beginnings of cinema until today.

Bunuel tried to, in his surrealist perspective bring some of these issues on the screen with his widely acclaimed Un chien andalou (1929). The issue is the need for juxtaposing the mainstream with something new. While Hollywood was making genre movies and big budget movies like Intolerance (Griffith, 1916) and many others, with famous 180° ramp and rather linear narrative, french surrealists experimented with narrative flow, dream-capturing and something Derrida would call “out of joint-ness”.  To be out of joint in these movies meant to offer something that mainstream had only in small traces.  Logic was replaced by the absence of logic, time was removed, focalisation was constantly reconfigured.

It would be wrong to assume that there exists a clear gap between mainstream and unconventional art. The main example is classical Hollywood film noir. It incorporates a little of German expressionism, surrealism and classical Hollywood film-making.

Nevertheless, I think that the main difference between those two is the avant-garde use of technology. While mainstream can copy, sometimes better than the original, a truly unconventional mode of production incorporates new modes and uses of technology. For Soviets, it was montage, editing. For television (over cinema), it was multi-program continuous flow (Williams, Programming as Sequence or Flow).

For hypertext it was new way of using computers for the creation of new type of literature. And finally, for the Soft Cinema, it is going to be the use of computers and user generated software for the creation of independent and contingent narration and discourse in general.

In next post, I will shed some light on the history of hypertext, and how it relates to Lev Manovich project Soft Cinema.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment