Multiplicity of Aesthetics –
In relation to the multiplicity of aesthetics, identity and structure that characterise i-docs, it is fundamental to acknowledge that it is the Bakhtinian dialogism that recognises the multiplicity of perspectives and voices. Dialogism is also referred to as “double-voiced” or “multi-voiced” and is a principle that often becomes the main referent of a particular aesthetic field. According to Bakthin, each subject has his/her own world, but it relates to and interacts with those of other characters. In other words, aesthetics is deeply connected to interaction. The aesthetic experience of an i-doc is a product of the relationships among all the different elements that compose it (polyphony). Our role as active participant (at any level of participation) in any system we enter, or we are part of, introduces a nonlinear and unpredictable input that generates a predictable result: complexity (Kemp).
My idea of aesthetics of complexity in i-docs does not talk of the aesthetics of the form (as a pure form), of a finished and well rounded entity but, every element, fragment, process is a knot filled with meaning and has the ability to transfer this meaning to other knots and to the whole experience. It other words: a net of content (CONTENT STREAMING – 1997) that operates, according to Murray, within 3 aesthetic categories, in order to trigger interactive story experiences: immersion, agency, and transformation. Immersion is the feeling of being present in another place and engaged in the action therein. Immersion is related to Coleridge’s “willing suspension of disbelief”. Agency is the feeling of empowerment that comes from being able to take actions in the world whose effects relate to the user’s intention. This is not mere interface activity. If there are many buttons and knobs for the player to twiddle, but all this twiddling has little effect on the experience, there is no agency. Transformation – in this case, the project allows the users to transform ourselves into someone else for the duration of the experience. Most of Murray’s discussion of transformation examines transformation as variety, particularly in the form of kaleidoscopic layers (Polyphony) which can be re-entered multiple times so as to experience different aspects of the project. In i-docs projects, the medium chosen to channel content always has a role, but sometimes this role is only aesthetic and is there to purely facilitate the effect of likelihood. They operate to make the fictional world as close to reality as possible. The air conditioning is distracting (a distractive vector, it is a reality effect that acts at both levels: aesthetic and narrative. It tells a story and, at the same time, it helps in the creation of an alternative space.
Murray, H. Janet. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. MIT, 1997.
For further info, please see:
The Poetics and Politics of Polyphony: Towards a Research Method for Interactive Documentary
by Judith Aston and Stefano Odorico