Time For No One, Hypermedia Duration

Forum Organized by Adrian Miles
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia
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Abstract: Recent hypermedia work, whether creative or critical, has recognised temporality as a significant paradigm, yet duration in new media remains the great ‘unthought’ of hypermedia practice. This forum will examine time in hypermedia, for writers and readers, and is to experiment with the idea that duration in hypermedia poses questions that our existing literary and cinematic paradigms are unable to answer.

Forum members will hold an open discussion around the following position statement, chaired by its author, with the aim being not so much to prove or disprove a thesis as to find the possibility of an appropriate argot to allow a critical language to form.

Hypertext theory and literature have appropriated various discourses of time in an attempt to characterise what is specific, and peculiar, to itself. This has taken the form of various fictional works and essays that explore the possible uses of time in hypertext, as well as the 'form' of time in hypertext in a general sense. Symptomatic of this is the increasing use of temporal markers in hypermedia work, extending from net.art animation practices, video streaming, Web performance work through to the time-based poetry of John Cayley, the riffs of Loss Glazier, Mark Amerika’s "Grammatron," and the more subtle machinations of Moulthrop’s Hegirascope. In theoretical writing, numerous recent essays have sought to identify time-based tropes in hypertext, or have sought to apply cinematic terms, metaphors or analogies to new media practice.

Almost without exception this work has relied on narratological methodologies to characterise duration in hypertext, whether this is in the form of the temporal rhetorical strategies available, or the changed relation of reader to the textual object in the multilinear work. However, this theoretical endeavour remains stymied by an assumption of duration that relies on narratological notions of textual closure, sometimes defined diegetically as narrative completion, and sometimes as the reader’s eventual recognition of narrative comprehension – or exhaustion.

I’d like to propose that the reliance on notions of narrative, and literary tropes in general, has obscured an adequate consideration of hypermedia duration. The time of hypermedia is closer to cinematic time, prior to or alongside of any particular narrative instantiation, so that like film, hypermedia occupies time. There is a military sense to ‘occupation’ where in some ways hypermedia works occupy a specific and determined duration, and our reading is always subject to this occupation of a time and its movement. Hypermedia duration is a user-produced flow within a set of combinatorial rules, in combination with obdurate passages that express an immanent and not negotiable duration. It is this combination that has obscured, and confused, much of our work in defining and considering hypermedia as a definable entity. What would it be to think of time in hypermedia as prior to any particular narrative representation? Is this a meaningful question?

About the Presenters:

Adrian Miles teaches cinema studies and hypertext theory and practice at RMIT. He is currently researching the relation of cinema to hypertext.

Stuart Moulthrop. Associate Professor, University of Baltimore, noted hypertext author and theorist.

Nancy Kaplan. Associate Professor, University of Baltimore, noted hypertext theorist, teacher and researcher.

Markku Eskelinen. Experimental writer and new media designer, Finland.

Raine Koskimaa. Graduate student working at the Research Unit for Contemporary Culture (University of Jyvaskyla, Finland), specializing in the field of electronic textuality. His publications include "Sex, liaisons, and murder. Finnish and German interpretations of a short story by Rosa Liksom" (in Finnish), His contribution to ebr6, the image + narrative special, deals with the visual structuring of hyperfiction narratives.