Books: Technofile - Books - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

Books: Technofile

Here in the Books department, we deal in insights and impressions rather than calculations, so I'm not obliged to address the question of whether hypermedia took more steps forward than back during 1996. Like the Red Queen, hypermedia enterprises are forced to run ever faster just to stay in the same place. Computers are twice as powerful as a year ago, but Web browser programs demand twice as much memory; plug-ins, authoring tools and such arcana are launched every week, but the experience enjoyed by the ordinary net-surfer or CD-ROM user has not changed hugely over the last 12 months.

On the other hand, the number of people experiencing hypermedia has increased vastly. It's easy to overlook the obvious truth that the explosion in Internet subscriptions has happened not because people have realised how cheap and efficient e-mail is, or because they wish to swap trivia in newsgroups, but because the core of the Net is now the World Wide Web. People can now visualise the Internet, which is based around a medium in full colour and with multiple dimensions - in other words, with the makings of a new cultural form.

It doesn't matter that they don't see hypermedia as the cinema of the 21st century. In fact, it's better that they find more immediate uses for it, because hypermedia will be stymied until the Net becomes a genuine medium of commerce. Fortunately, there are signs that entrepreneurs are beginning to turn the surreal economy of the Internet into a real one.

On the other hand, it would be nice to see a few more ventures that affirm the artistic potential of the new media. Penguin's Irina project showed how to make economical use of text and graphics in the construction of a narrative that said something intelligent about popular culture (in this case, the UFO conspiracy myth).

But Penguin`s foray into hypermedia is a parable for the industry as a whole. At the beginning of the year, the company's range of CD-ROMs covered a compendium of rock music, optimistically expecting to find a market at pounds 999 plus VAT, to a biography of Jack Kerouac. I'll be hanging on to my copy of the latter as a museum piece. By the autumn, Penguin had backed out of electronic publishing, as a cloud of angst settled over the CD-ROM trade. Although CD-ROM drives became standard on home computers, people seemed to feel no need to go out and buy any disks to add to those that came with the machine. Once upon a time, audio CDs were in a similar position, but that was because the only titles available were by Dire Straits.

The mass market may well continue in a Dire Straits condition, but that doesn't imply CD-ROMs are an evolutionary cul-de-sac. As with application software, like word processors and spreadsheets, success depends on producing things that people feel they have to have. This would seem to mean titles designed for niche enthusiasms. In that regard, it's good to hear that Thames and Hudson are really, definitely publishing their multimedia art encyclopedia next year. But it would have been even better to have seen the title appear on schedule this year. The long pauses between significant new CD-ROM releases stir up apathy in a sceptical public.

There is the odd sign of hope in the CD-ROM indy sector, such as the fact that photographer Judah Passow has persevered with his project to turn his portfolio of Middle Eastern and Balkan conflict into multimedia. But what hypermedia most needs now is to demonstrate its vitality and diversity. CD-ROMs seem to be too baroque in their architecture, consuming all the medium's diversity internally. As Microsoft, Apple and everybody else has concluded, next year's excitement will be on the Web.

The navigational devices familiar today may end up looking like the intertitles which could take up half the running time of early films; both guide and obstacle. As directors and audiences became more fluent in visual language, the need to use words to explain the story diminished. But words are fundamental to hypermedia, whose artistic potential must lie in new relationships between image, sound and text.

Marek.kohn@mcr1.poptel.org.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week