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
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:
Shot 1, close-up of Tom
Tom (worried): "I don't know what happened to Bob."
Shot 2, two-shot, Tom and Gwen
Gwen sobs and falls into Tom's arms.
Now insert this between Shot 1 and Shot 2:
Shot 1a, medium shot, Tom and Bob on top of a cliff
The two men struggle. Tom throws Bob over the edge and watches. At
first his expression is one of horror, but slowly a smile spreads across
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
Hypertext Breakdown, by Mindy McAdams
Copyright © 1993, 1995 by Mindy McAdams. All Rights Reserved.
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