I’ve spent the past two years working on novels that contain visual media, arguing that they can be considered hypertexts existing in print rather than electronic form, and thus can be analyzed using tools developed for hypertext. In fact, I maintain that the definition of hypertextuality must be expanded to include such works, for analyzing them with the traditional literary techniques can leave the new possibilities for literary creation unseen. In making this argument, I relied heavily on the work of George P. Landow, specifically the four axes he developed for determining whether a text could be considered hypertextual in nature or not.
In examining hyperlink cinema, the supposed new genre of movies influenced by the Internet that contain a playfulness with time and interwoven storylines, I think it is important to use some of the same techniques in order to determine if one can actually see the remediation of the digital within these films, and to attempt to determine if their existence is confined to a certain genre or a precursor for a coming revolution in film and film studies.
The first axis of hypertext that Landow identifies is the most vexing in terms of evaluating hyperlink cinema: does the text involve reader choice, intervention, and empowerment? By its very nature, a film possesses none of these traits. Films exist on large reels, meant to be fed one after another at a constant pace while the viewer merely watches; it is a passive experience in many ways. And while one might say that as films are created and produced digitally more and more often, we might begin to see efforts that allow for an audience to affect the narrative as it progresses, the films that have been categorized as hyperlink cinema retain the traditional approach of passive viewership. Yet even as we realize that the medium of film limits the hypertextual nature of a narrative, we begin to see how the hypertext has influenced these films despite the medium’s restrictive nature.
Landow’s second axis maintains that hypertexts include extralinguistic texts. While in the novels I mentioned before extralinguistic texts can refer to the visual media included (among other things), the way one goes about defining extralinguistic texts in a film is a bit trickier. In fact, while I know what devices I have categorized as extralinguistic in films, I am a bit of a loss as to understand why they exist outside the language of film. More research is in order.
I didn’t post this for a couple of days because I wanted it to be a fully formed thought, but then I realized that such missteps are the heart of research, and if I intend to research and write this paper through a sequence of blog posts, such missteps should be visible. And, this is the sort of time that the community here could suggest possible ways to interpret the extralinguistic in film. Thoughts?
Meanwhile, I am going to do some more research into new media and revisit this in the coming days.