I don’t believe any example of new media will ever seem that effective when the digital artists seem so willing to let their story suffer through any number of strange experimentation for the sake of something different.  The new media utilizing conversation, and J. Harris’ The Whale Hunt, certainly were impressive, but mostly for their uniqueness.  The new media which shuffled shifting shapes and boxes with broken lines of poetry, however, seemed visually fantastic, but disappointing for a reader–at least for those vocal members of our class and myself.  I find it difficult to imagine any new media which combines writing and a dizzying digital environment to great effect, without losing the stability I currently believe narrative forms require.

I say stability here with the greatest leniency.  Self-referential works, or narrative interjections, or when a writer sends a reader back and forth within the same book, or even disturbing the positioning of words on the page, seem interesting to me, but only insofar as they contribute to the meaning of the text and the enjoyment of the reader.  I remember approaching House of Leaves with a great foreboding  because I imagined that there was no way his story could be that great with that much experimentation.  But, as we’ve noted, he had enough to say and had enough control over the novel’s scope to not let it all go to his head, and lose us completely.  Those new media examples which based themselves around ‘true’ narratives, such as [theHouse] or Star Wars, One letter at a time, seemed to have lost their respect for a reader’s enjoyment.  I find some critics’ arguments that one cannot assume that a work of art is fractured to all readers well-founded, but I also agreed with David Lodge when he said that some writers or artists take the ‘presentational’ approach to far and alienate the average reader.  These new media texts appear to assume that their very opaque meanings will mean something to somebody; that this same fractured design I’ve noted means more than it might otherwise.

What I would really appreciate is a new media approach to a narrative that doesn’t seek to disorient a reader, but that supplements his reading with interesting, interactive choices to shift the work.  This may sound like it contradicts my earlier point that some stability is necessary for an effective piece of literature, but I think that when the interaction of the digital text does not impede the flow and the arc of the story–and instead presents it as mellifluous or reactive with the drama intact–, the reader stands a chance at constructive interpretation, not merely befuddled and soporific musings on why the author doesn’t want us to get through two consecutive lines of her poetry.

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    Professor Sample says:

    A common concern in the posts this week is whether or not the new media works we looked at could count as “art” or “literature.” It’s true that many of them sacrifice narrative coherency, but I’m not so sure narrative forms require “stability” — especially if their goal is to mediate or interpret the real world out there, which is far from stable.

    There is a long traditional in art and literature of what we could call “confrontational” pieces, which seek to jolt viewers and readers out of their typical habits of media consumption — habits which are deeply embedded in other social and political practices, and often, a legacy of some form of ideological domination by an “educated” class of people who decide what counts as art and what counts as literature.

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