Towards a technical infrastructure

In planning for the Pathways workshop and the technical infrastructure required, we’ve been looking to a few historical precedents for guidance. We’ve taken stock of Kate Pullinger’s digital fiction projects, Inanimate Alice & Flight Paths, and also the original CBCRadio3 Digital Magazine circa 2002–2005, which Haig Armen was a part of.

All these publications were created in Flash—state of the art at the time—and have a good deal in common, architecturally. In particular, all three examples make use of the strategic layering imgtxtaudioof text, image (often animated), and audio to tell a story. All three play with the reader’s relative attention to these three modes; to what extent does the work direct or orchestrate the reader’s attention to one or other layer; and to what extent does it leave the reader free to attend as she likes.


We want first and foremost to create an HTML5-based environment capable of providing a platform like Flight Paths or a CBCR3 story, with that same weaving of media layers. To that end, Haig and I whiteboarded a provisional ‘object model’ for the environment, like so:

EPISODE, composed of one or more:

    - SCENE, which has the following:
        - straightforward URL
        - master audio track
        - and is composed of one or more

        - SHOT, which can have the following:
            - transitions in and out
            - triggers (for audio, for nav buttons to show, etc.)
            - maximum duration
            - text
            - image/animation
            - audio track
            - nav elements (buttons, game elements)

SHOTwbSo, a SHOT (of all the terminology we’ve used, I’m least happy with that one) has 3 visual layers: fg, mid, bg – each of which may be populated or not – as well as access to a SCENE-level background and audio for a 4th layer.

This chunking and layering of media elements is designed to allow a fair bit of flexibility in assembling orchestrated pieces. In many cases, not all the layers would be used; allowing a background image or soundtrack to simply flow across a sequence of shots.

The design of this will evolve over the next few weeks, and as we scaffold it into existence. So far, this isn’t terribly different than what HTML5 slideshow frameworks allow, but with more flexibility for bringing things in and out of focus.