Interactive Multimedia: an investigation into its potential for communicating ideas and arguments

This thesis considers the potential of interactive multimedia as a new medium for communicating anthropological ideas and arguments. In looking at the relationship between interactive multimedia and anthropology, the aim is to look at the possibilities for the creation of single-authored texts which represent aspects of long-term studies of cultural change. Using data gained from empirically based fieldwork study, the thesis considers how photographic and moving image records of culture might be presented alongside descriptive and analytical text to communicate ideas and arguments. Key issues raised by the thesis relate to the problems and possibilities involved in using interactive multimedia to seamlessly integrate diverse forms media, and in giving the user a sense of agency without compromising the integrity of the author’s ideas and arguments.
Possibilities for creating both tightly structured and more open-ended forms are considered. A key possibility that is explored relates to ways in which authors can use the medium to communicate discrete points by creating sets of video juxtapositions which can be linked together to create an argument. It is argued that this enables ideas and arguments to be presented using techniques of comparison, offering an alternative to the moving image convention of sequential editing. I suggest that this creates new possibilities for scholarly discourse which are not necessarily predicated on the concept of a linear chain of reasoning, and I relate these possibilities to well-established debates about the use of moving images within anthropology. In so doing, I suggest ways in which moving image records might be used to help deliver anthropological ideas and arguments as opposed to serving as an illustrative adjunct to text-based discourse. The thesis has been written from an interdisciplinary perspective, combining debates within anthropology with issues relating to media production.

Aston, J. (2003) “Interactive Multimedia: an investigation into its potential for communicating ideas and arguments”. In: PhD Thesis, Royal College of Art

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