An Example from Film

The difference between a scene and a single shot illustrates the difficulty of defining a basic unit in any medium: if the film is considered as drama, then anything less than a complete scene is insufficient to convey the essence of the form. But if film is visual art and the emphasis falls on the technology of cameras, film stock, and editing devices, then the single shot is the basic unit, and shots are the essential pieces from which the complete film is built.

If the shots that make up one scene are mingled at random with shots from many other scenes, there may be no coherence or meaning in the finished product. However, the judicious insertion of a shot from one scene into another, ostensibly unrelated scene can add or change meaning. Consider this scene:

Now insert this between Shot 1 and Shot 2:

The components of the scene have changed, and so has the meaning of the scene, but it is still a single scene.

The question that applies to hypertext is whether we can break texts down into the equivalent of shots, whether the shot is too small to have meaning when it stands alone. If a scene is the smallest fragment that actually conveys meaning, then what is the textual equivalent of a scene?

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Hypertext Breakdown, by Mindy McAdams
Copyright © 1993, 1995 by Mindy McAdams. All Rights Reserved.
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