Animation involves controlling the reader

If one takes hypertext to be an information technology that demands readers take an active role, then these animated texts enforce the opposite tendency. In contrast to hypertext, they demand the reader assume a generally passive role as a member of an audience, rather than someone who has some say in what is to be read. They add, in other words, to the power of the author — or at least to the power of the text — and deny the possibility of a more empowered reader. Stephanie Strickland's Vniverse represents a comparatively rare example of text-animation hypermedia that strives to grant readers control; it is, however, quite unusual.

If one were to arrange print text, hypertext, video, and animated text along a spectrum, hypertext, perhaps surprisingly, would take its place closest to print. Reading written or printed text, one cannot change its order and progression, but because the text is fixed on the page, one can leave it, reading another text, taking notes, or simply organizing one's thoughts, and return to find the text where one left it, unchanged. The characteristic fixity of writing, therefore, endows the reader with the ability to process it asynchronously — that is, at the convenience of reader. Consider the difference of such fixed text from video and animated text: if one leaves the television set to answer the phone or welcome a guest, the program has moved on and one cannot retrieve it, unless, that is, one has a digital or analogue copy of it and can replay it. The very great difference in degree of audience control between video as seen on broadcast television and video viewed from storage media, such as videotape, DVD, or Tivo, suggests that they are experienced as different media. Still, since video, like cinema, is a temporal form — a technology that presents its information in necessary sequence — one generally has to follow long patches of the story or program in its original sequence to find one's place in an interrupted narrative. Animated text, in contrast, entirely controls the reader's access to information at the speed and at the time the author wishes. One could, it is true, replay the entire animated text, but the nature of the medium demands that the minimum chunk that can be examined takes the form of the entire sequence.

Another form of moving text appears in the timed links of Stuart Moulthrop's Hegirascope, links that dramatically affect the reader's relation to text. The reading experience produced by these timed links contrasts sharply with that possible with writing, print, and most hypertext. Since the text disappears at timed intervals outside the reader's control, the characteristic fixity of writing disappears as the document being read is replaced by another. Some of the replacements happen so quickly that this text enforces rapid reading, preventing any close reading, much less leisurely contemplation of it.

Animated text is text that controls the reader more than static text.

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