Academic journal article Visible Language

The Metastructural Dynamics of Interactive Electronic Design

Academic journal article Visible Language

The Metastructural Dynamics of Interactive Electronic Design

Article excerpt

spatial grammar

Interactive electronic computing enables users to manipulate text, graphics and sound into new multiliteracy models that emphasize patterns of relationships rather than discrete entities. However, most multimedia programs fall short of this objective because they reflect Western hierarchical concepts that have dominated communication since the development of writing. We need interface designs that help the user define dynamic patterns and synthesize information. The paper explores new forms of temporal, spatial and rhythmic links in interactive design that enable the viewer to explore information outside the framework of narrative and causality. The paper discusses the 'spatial grammar' of interaction and introduces the concept of kinesthetically articulated design in which the user builds cognitive maps by combining rhythmic patterns of interaction with audiovisual navigation cues. This new design syntax is derived from oral communication techniques used in aboriginal cultures.

In interactive multimedia computing, the interface designs do not reflect the dynamic nature of interactive multimedia environments where relationships continually change. Instead the interface designs support hierarchical structures that separate information into specific categories or groups. Current design techniques emphasize the position of text and graphics on the screen and the sequence of links, rather than using space and time to define semantic relations. Links to information in an interactive environment provide flexible access to information, but that flexibility is stifled by the fact that we still read for "fixed links between screens rather than focusing on a network of dynamic relationships between ideas" (Search, 2001).

The dominance of the printed page in communication has limited our ability to visualize alternative formats for structuring information. In written text, printing conventions such as paragraphs, indices and punctuation affect the way we read by organizing information into predefined hierarchical structures. However, in interactive computer programs the process of navigation reveals new patterns of relationships between the groups. As Monge and Kaiman point out, ". . . as processes unfold they constitute (i.e., reproduce and/or transform) structures" (Monge and Kalman, 1996, 87). Jay Bolter acknowledges that this interactive process should result in new forms of communication: "the dialogic structure of hypertext might also enable us, as Derrida put it, to 'reread past writing according to a different organization of space'" (Bolter, 2001, 110).

The interface designs for interactive programs need to emphasize dynamic patterns of information as well as underlying structures. How do we visualize patterns that change over time? We need to combine logic and perception into a dynamic syntax that encourages a flexible, open interpretation of the matrix of patterns and relationships that evolve as the user navigates through a network of links. A new form of audiovisual logic is needed using Gestalt principles of perception to create a holistic synthesis of patterns that change in space and time. In these discursive environments, text takes on characteristics of visual imagery because words derive meaning from their relationships in space and time. In turn images and sound define a new audiovisual aesthetic in which graphics and sound have interchangeable or complementary meanings, creating multiple levels of semantic encoding. The new design syntax should enable the user to recognize the changing layers of associations, multiple dimensions of space and time and potential new connections that evolve as the interactive process transforms relationships. Within the context of this changing environment, the interface design should establish a flexible, underlying structure that helps the user recognize the continuity between ideas.

There are many parallels between oral communication and electronic communication that can provide insights into ways to visualize the transformative process that occurs in interactive multimedia computing. …

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