Tuesday, November 01, 2005


"In Western academic theory, narrative is traditionally perceived as a mode of discourse containing actions and characters that interact and change according to laws of causality within a spacial and temporal setting. Yet by privileging nonlinear storytelling and communication, new digital media help us see that in a much broader cognitive and ideological sense narrative is also a means of patterning and interpreting the meaning of all sensory input and objects of knowledge."

This is exactly what I have been thinking about since we first started talking about the nature of narrative, and I love the way Kinder articulates it. I wrote a blog a while ago about the tendency of those within our culture to want to see the world as orderly, and to desire a definitive end to each action they undergo. We want things to fit into patterns so that we can make sense of them. When we do not understand things we feel powerless. I am very interested in these cultural constructions that surround our idea of narrative, and the ways that new media help us rethink them.

I really like thinking of narrative instead as a basic building block of the human experience - the process of taking in information and attempting to understand it. When we look at narrative in this way, it becomes essentially the same as the aporia-epiphany. It becomes a much more accurate representation of the fundamental way that we rationalize our world - by categorizing and weeding through all of the input we are constantly receiving and attempting to make sense of it.

By redefining the narrative, we also enable it to work cooperatively with the database. Rather than presenting two opposing methods of exploring information, they become two parts of the same concept. Databases are constructed with large (but finite) supplies of information, and then narratives are constructed by selecting small pieces of that information and interpreting their relationships.

The way that the essential processes of selection and combination are exposed in database narrative makes it an ideal form of new media. We know that we are thrown off by pieces like these, and that uncomfortable feeling makes us search for what it is that is different here. With database narrative this discomfort is the key to pushing us into a place where we can appreciate the process of story-making. We are forced to confront the fact that while there is no set path, there is an underlying engineered structure.

This gets into the idea of process-oriented art, which I will explore in my upcoming blog...

1 comment:

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