Notes On The Physio-Logic Of Hypermedia (Part 3)

While the interactive options embedded within a hypermedia narrative work to liberate the reader in terms of participating in the construction of a story, these physical movements amount to a characteristic physiology of hypermedia, and participate in a rhythmic exchange between human user and technology. Many mouse movements -- such as resizing and repositioning windows -- are in fact disruptive in nature, unless the elements have in fact been artfully designed to conceal and reveal story elements.

And, the contemporary distinction between "lean forward" versus "lean back" media (essentially, desktop paradigms and living room entertainment system paradigms respectively) already highlights the physiological basis of this distinction. The former implicates an active involvement in triggering and navigating interactive elements and thus indicate relatively more intense physical commitment; while the latter privileges a less interrupted media consumption, thus allowing the user to be less constantly "on his or her toes".

Given the state of technology today, the act of interaction in a hypermedia narrative conjoins both cognitive as well as physical participation: the brain calculates and makes a choice between available options, while the hand navigates the mouse (or joystick, or any other pointing device) towards the target link. Somewhat similar to reading a printed book, reading hypermedia demands its own bodily discipline in relation to the technology.

Typing on a keyboard, positioning and manoeuvering a mouse, keeping a watchful eye on the display: these operations call for sophisticated hand-eye co-ordination skills, such that one can often recognise a veteran computer user by observing his or her posture and listening to the percussive rhythm that arises when tapping the keyboards or clicking the mouse. In fact, one could argue that a form of physiological metre might perhaps be activated through the corresponding rhythm of keyboard and mouse movements arising from software usage, in a radical extension of the poetic sense. As Aristotle might be read to suggest in chapter 24 of his Poetics, tasteful metrical composition in this sense should be founded on a natural (hence, it is argued here, bio-rhythmic) basis (Halliwell 59). [>]


Halliwell, Stephen. The Poetics of Aristotle: Translation and Commentary. London: Duckworth, 1987.