Alright, let’s talk HyMNs, SC, PCs, CMs, and ANUs.
Heiden, Wolfgang and Arjang Ostovar. “Structuring Hypermedia Novels.” Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment: Third International Conference, TIDSE 2006, Darmstadt, Germany, December 4-6, 2006. Proceedings, Edited by Stefan Göbel, Rainer Malkewitz, and Ido Iurgel, Springer, 2006, DOI: 10.1007/11944577.
Heiden, Wolfgang and Arjang Ostovar’s “Structuring Hypermedia Novels” explores various ways in which interaction with digital storytelling can take place. The first section, entitled “Hymn Structure” introduces the idea of modular representation regarding narrative. For example, the three act structure is a common modular breakdown of a narrative that most people are familiar with. You can break things down further as well, depending on the media, for example, books can have chapters and films can have scenes. However, a key point is that these narrative blocks cannot be broken up so much as to allow non-linear access without losing track of a storyline. This is defined as an atomic narrative unit (ANU). In what the text calls a hypermedia novel, an ANU is contextualized by the media being used for the content, be it text, video, audio, etc.
When structuring hypertext stories, there are three key structural elements: serial containers (SC), parallel containers (PC), and content modules (CM). CM in this scenario is also a representation of the ANU. There is a rather useful chart on page 99 that shows the interplay of these units. Looking at an interactive novel with all of the linkages between the SC, PC, and CMs would be overwhelming for most readers, so most end-users/readers end up only seeing the strict, linear path they carve through a narrative. The text emphasizes that there needs to be a default path that weaves through the narrative without the need for user interaction. For my purpose, I wonder if this “auto-play” path would be considered the “canon” path or not.
The second major section of the text deals with “Distributed Authoring,” or, in simpler terms, the evolution of new paths of narrative in the formulation of sequels and spinoffs. For example, the authors emphasize the movie “The Scorpion King” character who branched off from The Mummy Returns into his own film. Another major example comes in the form of fan fiction, where consumers/readers can expand upon a narrative as they desire. The authors further point out that these branches occur within the canon of existing works; in the case of Star Trek, background information introduced in one episode later may be visited as a narrative of its own in a future episode or even an episode of a sequel series.
The remainder of the document discusses a prototype Hypermedia Novel (HyMN) Player assembled in Macromedia Flash. While this information is interesting, I don’t find it entirely useful to my larger aims of my own work but the design of an application that revolves around the end-user exploration of hypermedia novels is fascinating, particularly if it were designed for smartphones.