The Intersection between Film and New Media: Narrative Databases

In The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich introduces the concept of a database as a term normally antithetical to that of narrative. A database involves many trajectories through many possibilities of a text. A narrative has one trajectory-a beginning, middle, and end. Yet Manovich says films can be both a database and a narrative, noting the machine-like structure of The Man with the Movie Camera. I’d like to explore films which are based on a database logic and compare them to the databases/narrative structure of hypertexts.

Jim Bizzocchi discusses Run Lola Run as adopting a narrative database since it is “a highly structured set of parallel plot events…[compelling] the viewer to examine the relationship between the consistency of event iteration and variation in event outcome.” Ultimately Bizzocchi decides of Run Lola Run: “if cinema does not afford explicit physical interaction, it can and does support implicit psychological interaction.” Certainly all films generate a degree of interactivity (in the most general sense) But I aim to research ‘higher level interaction,’ where films more closely resemble hypernarration than traditioanl film narration in the way they present time, space, and causal relations. Besides Run Lola Run, other examples include Short Cuts, Time Code, The Norman Conquests, and Rashomon. (all briefly mentioned by Bizzocchi, but not thoroughly examined) (Perhaps Mulholland Drive and Slacker would be interesting to look at as well) These films involve the construction of a complex narrative database requiring viewers to work harder to make plot connections. What can we learn from these films in relation to new media narration? How does their form and style tailor the story and to what effect? I wish to research how the films relate to Salen and Zimmerman’s four levels of interactivity in Rules of Play and how they compare to various hypertextual works such as Afternoon, Hot Norman, and Patchwork Girl.

Preliminary Thesis: Films containing narrative databases are useful tools in understanding the potential for new media narration since they provide a framework for introducing a higher degree of interactivity without compromising narrativity.

Bizzocchi, Jim. “Run, Lola, Run: Film as Narrative Database.” MIT Paper.

Harries, Dan. The New Media Book. London: British Film Institute, 2002.

King, Geoff, and Tanya Kryzywinska. ScreenPlay: cinema/videogames/interfaces. London: Wallflower Press, 2002.

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000.

Murray, Janet. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York, NY: The Free Press, 1997.

Rieser, Martin, and Andrea Zapp. New Screen Media: Cinema/Art/Narrative. London: British Film Institute, 2002.

Salen, Katie, and Eric Zimmerman. Rules of Play: Game Design and Fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004.

Scholder, Amy, and Eric Zimmerman. Game Design and Game Culture. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, 2003.

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah, and Pat Harrigan. First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.


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