On Units of Meaning in DF

What’s the proper atomic unit of DF?

In last week’s post Towards a Technical Infrastructure, we worked from a model of an Episode, made up of a number of Scenes (a term with deep dramaturgical roots), where the majority of web-infrastructural things pertain—URL, content management hooks, media file associations, etc. But Scenes are made up of what? At this finer grained level, the more minute details of rhetoric, pacing, and media layers take hold; this is where a good deal of the “user experience” considerations are grounded. In our provisional model, we called these Shots, a term taken from cinema, but none of us were particularly happy with that term.

Kate suggested Clips as an alternative, a term which is similar enough to Shots, perhaps more of the era of YouTube than of 8mm film. As Kate pointed out, Clip “still has the weaponry association, but less so.” Haig noted that the CYOA platform Twinery.org uses the much more active term “Passages,” which evoeks both a section of text and a way through it.

We’re also aware of the resurgence of the term “cards” in the past year or two; from Twitter to Inkling, the card metaphor again finds its place, more than two decades after Apple’s unparalleled hypermedia toolkit, HyperCard. Indeed, the card metaphor has deep roots; Haig and I wrote a paper last year that looked into the substantial history and possible futures of cards and cardplay

Does Card make sense for the unit of immediate engagement in digital fiction? It certainly is more friendly and concrete in comparison with analytical language like “lexia” or “actemes,” or Aarseth’s “scriptons and textons”  And yet, a card is a static piece; the card metaphor denies any flux or dynamic play in the reader’s engagement. It is all about the node, and not about the link. By contrast, Clip, as Kate pointed out to me the other day, is also a verb; things can be clipped, and clipped together.