Hamlet in the Holodeck
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As computer technology moves from the domain of industrial utility to the realm of communication, its seemingly limitless possibilities prove to be both exciting and intimidating. Artists and storytellers are especially intrigued by the new capabilities found in the development of technology; the computer's approach to presenting information makes it an innovative tool for self-expression. In the book, Hamlet on the Holodeck, author Janet Murray discusses the challenges of working creatively with the digital environment. In explaining the elemental properties of this media, Murray shows us how we may use the expressive power of technologies to create a more compelling form of storytelling (67).
Murray compares the current advances in technology to the birth of cinema. She explains that the invention of camera technology did not necessarily denote the arrival of movies as an artistic medium. Cinema originated as an additive art form, combining the film technology of a stationary camera and the traditional art of theater in order to make narrative films called photoplays (66). Filmmakers experimented with the fundamental properties of film for decades in order to create the series of conventions that now define the movie. By utilizing the properties of film editing, sound, color, and camera angle, the technology of film evolved into an expressive and original way to recreate and enhance reality.
According to Murray, the advancement of modern computer technology parallels the development of the movie camera. When confronted with the combination of sound, video, picture, word processing, and global networking of current computing, computer pioneers mirrored the behavior of the 19th century filmmakers, adhering closely to traditional technology formats for communication. In response to the widespread view of computers as an extension of traditional storytelling mediums, users created the phrase "multimedia". The adoption and current usage of the additive phrase proves that, like the old photoplays of the video camera, computer storytelling is still in its early stages of development. Multimedia scrapbooks (found on the Internet or CD-ROM) are a prime example of the way in which current technology simply adopts and combines conventional formats like photography and books. In many situations, documents transferred to the web take the linear form of a printed novel, with the table of contents presented as links that require too much clicking in order to reach the desired destination (87). Readers become frustrated with navigating the labyrinth of hot links that could more easily take the traditional printed form of a novel. The electronic imitation of traditional narrative in this instance, "takes advantage of the novelty of computer delivery without utilizing its intrinsic properties," (67).
In order to maximize the potential of computers as storytellers, the crucial elements of these digital...