The arc and the machine

The arc and the machine: Narrative and new media

Caroline Bassett
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The arc and the machine
    Book Description:

    The Arc and the machine is a timely and original defence of narrative in an age of information. Stressing interpretation and experience alongside affect and sensation it convincingly argues that narrative is key to contemporary forms of cultural production and to the practice of contemporary life. Re-appraising the prospects for narrative in the digital age, it insists on the centrality of narrative to informational culture and provokes a critical re-appraisal of how innovations in information technology as a material cultural form can be understood and assessed. The book offers a careful exploration of narrative theory, a sophisticated critique of techno-cultural writing, and a series of tightly focused case studies. All of which point the way to a restoration of a critical - rather than celebratory approaches - to new media. The scope and range of this book is broad, its argumentation careful and exacting, and its conclusions exciting.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-161-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Once, even recently, narrative was widely accepted as a dominant cultural logic and it did not seem controversial to suggest that lives, histories and cultures could be understood within its grounds. These days, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, global information systems of all kinds have come to pervade every aspect of life in the North and to redefine the terms of its inequality with the South, so that information systems cast a shadow there too, even as they are held out of the reach of many. And these days narrative’s centrality seems less certain.

    Standing on the...

  5. 1 Narrative machines
    (pp. 5-42)

    The narratives of the world are numberless … Able to be carried by articulated language, spoken or written, fixed or moving images, gestures and the ordered mixture of all these substances; narrative is present in myth, legend, fable, tale, novella, epic, history, tragedy … comics, news items, conversation … [U]nder this almost infinite diversity of forms, narrative is present in every age, in every place, in every society … Caring nothing for the division between good and bad literature, narrative is international, transhistorical, transcultural: it is simply there, like life itself. (Barthes, 1982: 79)

    There is a long-standing popular conviction...

  6. 2 ‘Beautiful patterns of bits’: cybernetics, interfaces, new media
    (pp. 43-102)

    Technologies transform cultures and those who live in them. But they themselves are not simply formed by, but are integral elements of, cultures at particular moments in their history. To argue this is not to cheat, to suck the puissance out of the technological no sooner than it has been admitted and revert to culture and discourse. Nor is it to argue that the social standsin advanceof the technological – this would amount to claiming technological transformation is at root only social transformation. Rather the two engines of transformation are inextricably linked. The world in which we live...

  7. 3 Those with whom the archive dwells
    (pp. 103-127)

    Chapter 2 of this book set out to consider the terms of a culture’s contemporary engagement with networked new media; to ask how we plug in, and to what. I argued that the engagement between humans and machines within the social totality constitutes the human–machine interface, understood in its broadest terms. Interacting with machines, at whatever scale, is therefore, andinescapably, a historically located social process as well as a technical reality. This position has implications for how contemporary interfaces are understood and investigated, not least because, viewed in this way, interactions across the human–machine interface can never...

  8. 4 Annihilating all that’s made? Legends of virtual community
    (pp. 128-164)

    A world now arose that could not be grasped by looking. (Dagognet, 1992: 110)

    ‘This is not an image space’, but as I type these few words, describing a virtual community and its transformation, appear on my screen. I view them as an image as well as read them as a text. This textual visual display thus seems to confirm and confound the assertion it articulates. Clearly any claim that cyberspace, the interactive world that appears on the screen but that also reaches behind it to other screens in other places through a network staggering in scale and astonishing in...

  9. 5 ‘Just because’ stories: on Elephant
    (pp. 165-186)

    With some trepidation, this chapter explores a film calledElephant.² This is Gus Van Sant’s 2003 account of the shootings at Columbine High School and is at once an experiment with non-linear narrative and an exploration of interactivity as a cultural logic, one emerging within specific historical horizons: those of the United States at war with itself and with the world.

    Columbine raised a series of questions thatElephantrefuses absolutely to answer: why those students, why that school, why that day? Indeed, while many possible triggers or motivations are presented in the film, none of them is presented as...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-208)
  11. Index
    (pp. 209-216)