The loop as narrative continuum


By Michael Johansson and Thore Soneson 2004

Since new media itself has matured, the process is no longer depended on the predecessors more traditional and linear methods of authoring, instead every part of the process is constantly changing the way we author, program and express a multi-threaded open work. When working with moving images we choose from a partly new, partly reappropriated, palette of narrative tools as the loop. Were the timebased linearity can be substituted with other means of dramatic tension.

In loop-based scenarios we can employ parallel and repetitive elements, we can establish and create an open narrative field were creative input from the user can add new storythreads to the experience. The loop in its basic version can be seen as a tool for reflection, a moment to revere the constant streams of attractions and desires created and recreated in every digitally performed action and story. A room for expectations. Desires, needs and urges. Dreams and Memories.

While the major part of research on interactive narratives has been aimed toward the exploration of interactivity in user experience of finished art works, we aim at also exploring the perspective of collaboration in production of new media. Content dealing with narrative structures and its expressions often overlook the actual complexity of writing and prototyping the content fitted for the chosen media. Our long-term aim with research in new media is to formulate a set up of narrative tools that can be used in a creative, collaborative process.

In this paper we will look at the loop as a narrative engine in especially the field of the moving image and interactive installation, which both demand new forms of screenwriting and prototyping activities and that support the design of the expression of the final artwork itself.

We point out the need for a more profound relationship to digital materials and tools. We believe that increased complexity in creative development calls for both disciplinary depth and integrative skills. The loop used as a narrative method can then be applied to and iterated in all media creation; a story told with moving images, abstract elements, sound and in a game play setup.

We discuss the narrative esthetics of the loop and we will describe the process in a practical setup, as part of a project entitled abadyl by Michael Johansson. Here a series of sixteen Formula one track was used as framework for a ongoing collaborative artwork (the creation of the city of Abadyl). A formal structure is used to let the authors write their work into it. At the same time the layout of the text input and the programming structure generates consequences for the author as they progresses in their work, the programming structure is so to say reviled as the authoring process continues.

The concept here is to control a certain expression at the loop level and create discrete transfers between the loops that creates unpredictable, but in the some time on the loop level, controllable expressions. Here the limitations and constraints of our setup support the creation the artistic expression itself.