Notes On The Physio-Logic Of Hypermedia (Part 4)

This is, as must have been noted elsewhere before, also like a cyborg dance in progress, human and machine. We can expect that an in-depth ethnography of the physiology of hypermedia in relation to the nature of the narrative or information being accessed, will produce illuminating insights. Pertinent questions to begin with include: Given a particular piece of software, for example, how much physiological activity might it arouse in the user? Does this physiological experience enhance the software content, or is it likely to prove intrusive or distracting?

One immediate consideration for authors and software developers is the possibility that such physiological experiences can be orchestrated in advance through the interface and software design, to optimise reader/user sympathy. This is not just arguing for a sense of ergonomic efficiency, but the principled manipulation of physiological experience in order to activate users' bio-rhythmic impulses in the manner that film-editing employs particular soundtracks to arouse a catalogue of emotions, which is on the whole achieved with rather high degree of success and systematic predictability.

Taking up Aristotle again, and connecting the physiological aspect of hypermedia reading to the art of dancing, we might pursue investigation into a working metaphor of dances as imitated by respective hypermedia reading scenarios. For example, we might discover that certain informational hypermedia or database search components inspire a rapid and mechanical click-and-drag routine, and thus might be likened to a martial rhythm, a military march; ie, "click-drag, click-drag, click-drag", as in "left-right, left-right, left-right". While, on the other hand, a work of interactive poetry might demand a period of contemplation before the pursuit of the next lexia, and this produces a more elegant and waltz-like physiological response; ie, "click-read-read, click-think-think, click-drag-drag, click-read-read".

As with soundtracks in films, this dimension will activate readers in a very powerful manner should a systematic poetics of usage be derived and put into practice. The authorial question might then be phrased as: who should lead the dance, the user or the software? Moment of interactivity would then be more efficiently structured in relation to the larger reading-dance in effect, which would also immediately imply certain new principles (or poetics) in the deployment of music and audio elements.

By extension, a narrative experience might be authored/configured as a series of dances, moving from the waltz described above to perhaps violent heavy metal (the physiology observed when a user plays a classic shooter game on the joystick: whole body twisting and jerking as if to wrestle with the onscreen avatar, fingers frantically jamming on the buttons to keep up the discharge of missiles) to a mellow slow dance (perhaps similar to reading through important emails after deleting the junk messages).

One interesting case in relation to this would be the Dance Dance Revolution interactive game, which is popular on both arcade and Playstation formats. Players dance around a broad mat in order to set off triggers, in response to the game display onscreen, and score points for correct execution of steps. This merges the experience of dancing as a form of creative expression, and dancing as a physiological result of technology usage. With these ideas taken on board, reading hypermedia might be authored into a truly intense experience.