Sunday, January 21, 2007

Confessions of a text junkie

I'll admit it - I'm addicted to text. Looking through several of the new media stories, and choosig the ones that I felt worked best, was difficult for me for that reason; if I couldn't see the text to follow the story, I found it at least twice as hard to continue along with whatever the gimmick was and find the meat of the matter. Deviant, for example, seemed like it had an interesting story to it, but eventually I wanted to wander off to the next item instead of clicking my mouse on various trees and flowers and waiting for them to react. I wasn't gripped like I would have been, were the story told in a more traditional textual medium. Red Riding Hood, which ran on a similar point-and-click concept, worked better for me only because it was faster-paced, and slightly less interactive. My attention didn't have enough opportunity to wander.

I tended to explore the textual works more thoroughly, but there were, I think,, more and less practical ways to use the hypertext linking that seemed to be a staple of text-based new media stories. Twelve Blue I found fascinating for the way it used hypertext to play with language; it read more like a poem than a story, but it brought the words to life by using them to move from one poem-anecdote to another in a way that couldn't be done with plain test. More could have been done with the format, but I loved that it used the new technology to enhance language, rather than hide or replace it. my body - a Wunderkammer worked off a similar premise, but while the linked anecdotes were interesting and much easier to follow than the ones in Twelve Blue, the hypertext links between text pages seemed more forced to me - a gimmick rather than a working variation on language. One part of the story mentioned the idea of doing it using an actual physical sculpture to store the stories, and I think that might have worked better. Then again, maybe it would have felt gimmicky as well.

My deep conclusion: what wins me over in a new media story is a use for the new media, whatever it is, that feels necessary and natural rather than being put in solely because it's a neat new trick. Which is vague, and also a high standard, but I think is what's going to differentiate the forms of new media that get abandoned from the ones that stick around.

As for my near and far ends of the long, long blog tail: well, these will reveal my text addiction yet again. Television Without Pity is a site that hires writers to do long, exhaustive, mocking or humorous recaps of each episode of popular television shows. The quality of the recaps and intensity of the mockery varies, and often depends on what the writer thinks of the merits of the show, but they're almost always entertaining - when I'm bored I'll read the recaps for shows I've never even seen an episode of. (For someone who doesn't have a TV, this has the added benefit of allowing me to sound vaguely aware of what's going on in the media world.) And allll the way at the other end of the tail, there is Dracula1987, one of a group of sites which uses the blog format to post epistolary novels in blog form. Which is a really cool way, I think, to use new media to update old.

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