Friday, February 4, 2011

Week 4 - Temporality and "Crusing"

I found that my approach to “Cruising” changed through repeated viewings. At first, I simply listened to the spoken words and ignored the images and music. I did this to establish some narrative coherence in my brain. The words themselves are quite linear, as they describe a fairly common scene in some detail that eventually leads to a broader conclusion about the significance of the event. (i.e. a fairly standard use of inductive reasoning.) Once I determined the purpose and message of the narrative, I started to play with the images. With some practice, I was able to align the text on the screen with the spoken words. Although this created a satisfying sense of accomplishment, I can’t say that any greater understanding was achieved. However, once I played the scrolling text faster or slower than the spoken word, the experience was more interesting. As well, I played the scrolling text backwards at different speeds, which created a very strange effect. Watching the backward text, particularly at a faster speed, made me focus on certain words: lipstick, love, pickup, skinny. Although I would consciously try to find different words, the same ones would always “grab” my eye.

I found that after a slow pass with the pictures, I tended to ignore their specific details. Although the individual images were certainly appropriate to the piece, their effect on the viewer seemed related more to the speed of their passage. It was fun to play with the combination of the size and speed of the images, as the closer one looked, the faster the images passed. This has an obvious metaphorical meaning to the piece. (i.e. the deeper one looks for meaning, the harder it is to find). There are obviously other implied meanings related to the passage of time and how young people view the progression of their lives and the future.

I’m not sure this piece could be described as non-linear. Aarseth describes a non-linear text as one where the words or sequence of words differ from reading to reading. In this case, although one could vary the speed, size, and direction of the printed text, there was always the recurring voice-over that kept the narrative moving forward. Manipulation of the printed text and images certainly suggested new associations that may not have been obvious from the initial reading (I am still wondering why my brain repeatedly fixed itself on certain words in the backwards viewing) and these associations could clearly create poetic meaning beyond the literal, but I found my interpretations always seeking their way back to the linear narrative.

Multi-linear might be a better way to describe this piece. I visualize this type of narrative as a single stream moving forward that then has various branches of meaning splaying and straying outward. These branches could split into further branches, could loop back on themselves, could intersect with other branches, but they always find their way back to the main stream.


  1. I had similar challenges when trying to read this piece. Come to think of it, it was more reading, watching, listening and feeling the narrative.

    When I first opened up the story's website, I focussed solely on the images flying by and tried to understand how the mouse controls the speed. Once I learned how to control the image, I then tried to read the words and understand their relation to the images. Sound, for whatever reason, was my last worry. In hindsight, I should have tried to listen to the story first and then try to understand the images and text.

    I think this story can be referred to as a non-linear piece because the words and sequence of words differ from reading to reading. My experience will most likely be different than yours. You are right in that the audio of the story is the same for both of us since it goes in a loop, but how the images and text tie in with it will be different. Even when I engaged with the story for a second and third time, it was much different than my first experience.

    This narrative reminded me of the video games I have played in the past. Our cohort got to learn about MMPORG's (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) such as World of Warcraft and Second Life, which was interesting to say the least. The narratives changed everytime and people's experiences varied significantly. Users got to alter their storylines and experienced the game differently each time they played.

  2. This was a very interesting piece to read, listen and watch. I found it difficult to control the speed and images. Eventually, I was able to slow it down so I could read the text.

    Moose feels it is linear and Sunil thinks it is non-linear. This piece has qualities of both linear and non-linear text. The narrative could be linear as the text is written in the same sequence from left to right. On the other hand it could be non-linear as the way that it was read and interpreted. The way I read the piece was not the same as how Sonny read it or the how Moose read it. It depended on the way each of us moved the mouse and the speed at which the text was moving across the screen. So does this make the story non-linear?

    It is interesting that Sunil thinks of video games when hearing non-linear, which is the more "up-to-date" thoughts. My memory is more "old-fashioned". When I hear non-linear I think of a book that I read in junior high. At the end of each chapter you had to pick Option A or Option B which would take you on a new path which of course would change the outcome of the story.

  3. Denise - in fact, in early hypertext theory, "choose-your-own-adventure" books were used as examples of precursors to hypertext linking.

    That fact that you as readers (Denise, Sunil, Moose) can interpret Cruising differently (linear, non-linear, game-like etc...), I think lends credence to that fact that Cruising can be read non-linearly (even if it isn't in itself non linear).