Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

Give the poor old “story” a break please!

DATABASE NOVEL by Norman M. Klein

Norman Klein’s essay read as an amusing manual on how to create database novels. However, many of the principles discussed are not bound to database format and can be applied to all kind of digital media. Now, the very interesting aspect of this paper is that is drawing analogies from real world and politics to identify the useful elements in database novels. The traditional concept of narrative are closely associated to film and novels. But when it comes to digital media (here database novels) such definition of narrative are not a good enough. Instead, we need to look at history, politics, and structure of our society to invent new forms of narrative for digital media or database novels.

“To realize that potential, to keep an innocent eye, many established story codes will have to be scrapped (for the most part, as far as digital media story goes). That includes film grammar, the three-act screenplay, the well-made play, melodrama”

Question 1: One of the main ideas in N. Klien’s paper is that the potential for storytelling in digital archive is vast and we need groundbreaking modes of storytelling. My question is why do we even need to bring the concept of story telling and narrative in here? If the new media are so NEW that can’t be put into the grammar of film or traditional novels, why do we even bother to make stories with them. Shouldn’t we spend the time figuring a new grammar or vocabulary specifically for digital media, and why even call it story.  What about calling is something new like “Ergodic Literature”? and focus on simulation and other unique characteristic of the digital media.

Ergodic Literature at wiki


Thu, February 7 2013 » futurecinema2_2012

One Response

  1. Nick February 8 2013 @ 2:45 pm

    You pose a fascinating question, Sara.

    I think Klein does in fact touch on your first question in his reference to the picaresque. This sub-genre of prose fiction provides us with a means of understanding the ways in which earlier media used certain strategies to organize large quantities of data. The picaresque uses episodic breaks, relatively flat characters, and the act of travelling through the labyrinth of the world in order to convey vast amounts of story data. As Klein mentions in his article, “the picaresque story is often driven by a hidden archive, secret knowledge, and/or a trace of memory that never quite answers its questions.” From this perspective, characteristics of this baroque mode of storytelling appear to be shared by digital archives and databases.

    Overall, I think it is impossible to create a new grammar completely independent of older existing media forms. Furthermore, I believe that by testing the limits of storytelling with new media forms, we are developing a new language. In other words, storytelling becomes a means of measuring the capacity of new media to produce its own language.