Hypertext '08: Hypertext 08 Workshop on Creating out of the Machine: Hypertext, Hypermedia, and Web Artists Explore the Craft

Steve Ersinghaus started the creative hypertext workshop by playing Changing Key: A “video hyperdrama” by Charles Deemer.

In the introduction, Deemer notes that the audience in a play is passive, and conjures up the idea of a family Thanksgiving in which multiple groups interact in multiple rooms, with the audience inserted into the drama like ghosts who can follow different stories.

[My note: A ghost audience who can follow different characters is not a full participant, like the payng audience who performs dramas with professional ‘ractors in Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age… Each of Deemer’s videos is a separate, linear narrative… we’re still watching Bobby Meadows wait for his ride, in a scene that’s doubtless providing various hooks into the other scenes in the corpus.  The audience’s attempts to put the story together is an active intellectual effort.

There’s a trilogy of plays that are designed so that when a character exits in one play, he or she enters in another play. Can’t recall the title of that trilogy…]

After watching Bobby’s scene, Mark Bernstein asks the question — is this scene a story?  (We didn’t have the chance to discuss his question before Steve started the next clip, but I think that’s like asking wether an individual ant is an organism — an individual worker ant can’t reprotude, and the male ants don’t even have jaws so they can’t eat…)

Now we’re watching Kate’s story.  Kate speaks directly to the camera (which I’m pretty sure is visible in the reflection of a window at one point). An intersting cinematographic detail — during a confrontation between Kateand Dennis, both actors deliver their scene in an unbroken shot, with the shot of Dennis overlayed slightly over Kate’s image (with the focus therefore on Kate).

After just watching two clips, and noting the ways the hooks in these two stories, begin to intersect, I’m intrigued by the complex authorial process necessary for creating an ensemble drama (like a soap opera or epic TV show, such as Babylon 5 or the last few seasons of Deep Space 9).

Chris Crawford stated that a story with seven choices — “none of them informed” means the experience is not interactive.

In what manner is this presentation hypertextual?  We see different sections of overlapping stories. Susan notes that the clips don’t actually present one event — some of the characters don’t interact with each other.  We spent some time dissecting individual shots, such as Bobby wiping his shoes, and noting the apparent separation between Kate and Bobby.

Mark — differentiates between story and plot. The sequence we choose seems only to affect plot, but it’s possible to affect he story — it may be that putting the events in different sequence may communicate something different (but he’s reserving judgment because we haven’t seen enough of it).  “If it’s not interactive, it’s certainly ergodic.” (Good point.)

Marc from USC — notes the significance of dramatic irony, and its powerful affect on the viewer’s perceptioin of events.

We skipped ahead to “Nuts and Bolts,” which describes Deemer’s use of Storyspace. To produce the video, Deemer has to do a linear storyboard. Notes that live hyperdrama involves improv, since the timeline of the various threads has to line up.  Video hyperdrama is easily manipulated so that timelines sync up. In fact, according to Deemer, for video, the script only appears after the separate filmed modules are assembled.

An interesting sequence defines a theater space for hyperdrama.  (Reminds me of the rebellion against the proscenium arch which freed Expressionist playwrights from followig the conventions of the well-made play.)

Marc from USC challenges Demeer’s statement that hyperdrama needs an address; also notes the connection to reality TV (with multiple cameras). 

Somehow I worked a reference to Duck Amuck into a discussion of how instantenous scene changes affects the pace of drama.

Steven notes that he has offered to host Deemer to try to create the space for hyperdrama.