...multimedia is a transitional term. It says that something is not 'itself' but a conglomeration of other things, and it is a played out slut of a term.
Mike wrote that people might object because the word 'multimedia' reminds them of CD-Roms, but that is not why I object.
I object because multimedia is a transitional term. It says that something is not 'itself' but a conglomeration of other things.
It is not unusual to go through transitional terms like these. Movies, for example, were called moving pictures originally, suggesting that they were a combination of movement and image, which of course they are, but we don't call them moving pictures any more, they have their own name. The word cinema is actually quite like the word 'movie' in that it draws on the Greek word 'kine' meaning movement. Like "Movie" though, cinema is its own word now, it describes a particular thing which we think of as being a synthesized experience, not a combination of separate arts that are multiply making up an experience.
So why can't 'multimedia' become its own word describing its own art? Well, first of all because it has been used too many times before to describe too many kinds of experience. Mike refers to the CD-Rom, but misses out on the stage shows that combine, for example, dance, text, lighting projections etc. These were big in the 70s, and they are big again now, but the lighting projections are computer generated rather than cued and focused by hand. And what about those free love 'happenings' in the 60s where projections of food dyes dropped onto glass slides were hazily synchronized with the acid driven music and writhing. The good old days of "multimedia".
But more importantly, "multimedia" can't become its own word because it blocks synthesis. It demands that the media stay multiple rather than being an entity, what the Germans might call a Gesamtkunstwerk . Sorry to quote from wikipedia, but they basically have this one right:
"A Gesamtkunstwerk (translated as total work of art, ideal work of art, universal artwork, synthesis of the arts, comprehensive artwork, all-embracing art form or total artwork) is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms "
The term is one that Wagner used to describe Opera. But just as we don't call Opera 'sung drama' we shouldn't call an ipad app that uses a few things we are familiar with from other places a 'multimedia' work. And I firmly believe that this tablet based beast, which we can touch and move and read and watch but cannot yet name is well on its way to becoming as legit a form as Opera.
Finally, in addition to being a played out slut of a name, and to blocking synthesis, multimedia as a name blocks something else. Something that Mike himself writes about a few posts later: "normalisation". By continuing to call things 'multimedia' instead of giving them their own name, we continue to say they are not 'normal' media they are new, unnamed, and unnameable combinations of normal media.
I for one, would rather give them a name and move on to being creative within then, maturing them, experiencing them as part of my richly mediated life. It is tempting to suggest something flippant, say "Frankenstein", for these unnamed genetic hybrids, but I would rather have something that speaks of and to my experience. So what to call these apps that bring together social, personal, textual, visual, aural and interactive sensations into one? What is most salient about my experience of these, what distinguishes them from the gesamtkunstwerk of, for example, movies or operas, is that I touch them to make them move. I am in charge of time with my touch, and time is the real media in which they unfold.
So here's a list of touch based names to start with, make your arguments for and against!
1. Touchtold stories
2. Haptic narratives
3. Tactile media
4. Boovies or Mooks (just kidding here folks, though my partner Richard James Allen and I are working on "a book you can watch and a movie you can play with"
5. Touch Media (and my guess is this one will shorten down to one word. Any bets onwhat that will be? Touchies? Touchms?)
and the winner is?