Recombinant text and narrative

http://www.neme.org/texts/recombinant-text-and-narrative

Hierarchies form a sense of structure and point of view and reference. Logic exists in how things connect inside of a work of art or literature in the sense of how it is entered, completed and which details and related deeper resonance and symbolism are placed at the fore in terms of detail and composition and which are placed in more subtle , auxiliary roles within.

But what could happen if when completed the work invited someone to play, to shift and reform it whole?

Malleable Hierarchies

Empathy has an inherent sense of hierarchy. It also is by necessity of definition malleable. The point of reference can shift thus altering the immersive connectivity of relationship of details and information. Without empathy one sees only from a singular point of view.

Perception possesses a girded architecture of hierarchical processing of both data and multiple datasets in reference to each other and a point of reference/entry/view. Even in the borderline surrealistic world of memory this is a sort of synaptic and aesthetic glue even as walls may wing-like shiver, a ceiling may over time rot to open raw stars and faces may become like water washed riverbed stones.

A conversation is immediately in different languages and cultures perceptually speaking in terms of processing. One is listening when the other is talking. One may be facing north toward a wall while the other faces south toward the open waves of the sea. Each participant is listening differently in terms of potential distraction (external and internal…foghorn or interior doubt or wandering thought) and cognitive dissonance or signal noise.

Metaphor is a slippery linguistic handshake at best even in its potential for great beauty and concise resonance of crashing images and ideas into a sort of singularity and fusion. The creator and each reader or viewer or listener may as well reside on different planets in terms of points of reference. The fact is language from an engineering or architectural point of view is a dismal wreck. It, in all of its shimmering to rusted from overuse components, from large to small, from words to the gears of punctuation en masse cannot capture whole death, war or that lost love. A thousand pages cannot do these layered concepts fair justice. This is not to diminish its utilitarian grace or fits of verbal and constructive beauty. Metaphor is the Frankenstein monster sewn together, the mutation that collides images and concepts and when some bit of resonance hits between creator and one observing it lands deeply and richly, a sense of singular depth but from near infinite points of view and assemblages of associations by any and all creators and observers.

Forgetting as reading: Malleable recall and return

A fascinating thing about reading is that it too is a glorious incompletion. It too is a malleable shifting entity, a balance of logic and detail and a malleable sense of point of entry and point of view. Viewing is much the same. A favorite book if held whole in memory would on second or third (or that rare fourth etc of a truly beloved text) be dreadfully rote, stale fish rot redundant, an exercise in mundane treading along. It is instead remembered incompletely. The return over time also re-enters from a different point in life, place in it as well. It is a portal again opened that may seem to have shuffled its innards, change its face somehow, but it is perception, it is the grace of forgetting.

The first sections of this text have been a bit of a ruse, a trick, an intentional authorial gaffe. The tone of the language has been a bit leaden and authoritative by design. The ideas are not disingenuous though. Subjectivity is in things like death, humanity, mortality, value, meaning, trust, faith, success and even love or beauty in all forms. Words are containers, a milk bottle, a water jug, a can unopened with some unseen ballast of some presumed shape and weight inside. Together this only multiplies exponentially. Older phrases sometimes are dead jellyfish, the initial impetus of cultural moment and reference as life force long fallen away yet there is body, there is weight, there still is potential sting. Language itself is in a sense more akin to fog as cloud, as presence and absence at once, of edge and edgelessness, of impermanence held almost by some implied sense of gravity.

Graphically an image has a point of entry for the human eye, an exit as well. A photo or painting or web page is a sort of room with door and bits of furniture and fuss. A messy room is difficult to enter and leave and there is chaos in finding something specific that is desired in all the elements and disarray. A clean organised room again finds a sense of hierarchy and point of reference: open door leads to bed then to desk to book to page, to words and back again. The room also always has the potential to be re-ordered, to be rearranged: bed to window, desk now close to door, path shifted, door still open and waiting. The elements are all together with some sense of relationship, of order even, but flux is always in wait and relationships are important connectivity but adaptable to change.

Mathematically speaking a variable represents both a piece of a whole and a point of reference and entry. X is not Y nor is it Z. To solve for x is to place it at the fore, at the centre, like a bed in a room, like a metaphor in a poem, like a main theme and character in a story to slowly be traversed and unfold. There is poetry and philosophy in higher mathematics just as tedium may often lurk in the basic constructs of addition over time; logic meets the fantastic, a language attempts to explore the near esoteric to locate some sort of sense of truth, of meaning.

Code is also of course many languages, it can be spatial, it can find logic in the void and it can be quite poetic and even profound. Here too is a sense of hierarchy established in a collection of parts to a whole. It also has the corpus of a body, it can be wounded, it can ache and at times it can even like a room or a life be destroyed.

Recombinant text and narrative

So what can happen if a narrative and its engine dive deeper into an exploration of flux, of the collision of body and subjectivity, of hierarchy and flux? A story be it textual, visual or any mix of both can thus open up to following different characters, to shifting time scale, to near infinite re-exploration.
Something fascinating becomes possible. Imagine choosing to re-gender a narrative, to plucking that ghost in the background of a smaller role and bringing it front and center while the once main character shifts immediately back to let them shine, their tale be explored. The narrative engine can be designed to hold layered reservoirs of characters’ internal and external actions, thoughts, fears, interaction possibilities, subtext, memories and all the rest. The engine can also shift the connectivity, the bones of it all to adjust each time. Story thus and even poetics can become recombinant, alive in many forms.

The nature of narrative is very mathematical. Narrative is in forms equations upon equations, variables in play. A novel has hidden chapters thusly, all do. The author made the initial text with skill and care but the ends cannot all be tied up or it will be annoyingly cute and rote. The variables hold other interaction potentials, unrealised secrets, submerged truths. This can be explored mathematically by coding the text to variables. Letting it run on a computer will allow them to formulate different versions of what else would emerge from interactions held therein. This is true but there is something else.

A story or novel or work of text and image or even some large poetic work can hold an internal coding, an engine. The observer/reader can at certain points (or in a well designed work at almost all times) choose other characters and details and then a burbling pause as the whole work recalibrates. The stories are held in all characters potentially in the tale, there are rooms and fields beyond those first described and they are in wait. The hierarchies will shift within, interactivity will be in the connective tissues within the work not selected by the user. They only choose where next to journey, what else to follow and learn in this world, of these lives and text becoming not sentient but alive with details and voices together.

This is not like choose your own adventure path selections nor is it randomising a pool of data. This is to make a singular work whole and complete but with external additional data sets of text waiting for user selections. This is also internal coding of interaction possibilities designed to recalibrate point of view and reference hierarchies, of stories emerging from what initially seemed secondary characters and bits of detail. This is many stories burbling up with a slight pause after each clicked selection within the main work at any given time. A recombinant text can thus shift pools of scenery and causality linkages in internal graphic connections and of shifting points of reference. An initial story becomes a sort of universe with many explorations.

The way it could work in a fully fleshed out literary narrative is it is written then the shift points are chosen so it can have something like that set for variations to run on internal logic for each recalibration and then auxiliary databases/reservoirs or other characters , interactions, external and internal conflicts and story details are written and filled then a kind of internal clock mechanism, gearing as such of logic matrix is plotted for each. This can be done as though imagining the other full works of prose and their chains of internal hierarchy and logic but not “writing them” per se. The reader will write them with their selections. The focus when shifted as in all the examples mentioned earlier will thus still have a focus in terms of hierarchical structure but it will be now malleable and alive with the flux of shifts and new emergence.