The Theatre of the Micro-Narrative.

One of the points of interest covered in my Master’s research will be micro narratives and their relationship with conventional cinematic narratives. The research is intended to provide an overview of mobile media, examples of formats, screen sizes, resolution, etc. I will also discuss the target audience and how location and expectation affect the nature of mobile content. So what is the optimum duration for mobile content? At what point does the viewer turn off? How should mobile content look and sound? Does mobile content need to be interactive to be engaging?

These are some of the key issues that need to be addressed in the research paper.
How do these micro narratives differ from and/ or extend the traditional cinematic or television viewer experience?
Can old visual paradigms be reshaped to fit the design parameters of the mobile device, and if not, who will decide the codes and aesthetics of this burgeoning media format.

The small screen offers great opportunities for artists and writers to explore an intimate screen space that is shared by a variety of formal and non-formal content. So how can the space that exists between the viewer and the screen be effectively used to add value to micro narratives? In the world of theatre, the space between the performer and the audience is commonly referred to as the “fourth wall”.

cell phone

The mobile film “Cellphone” by Anthony Wong, screened on the http://www.mobifest.ca website uses the mobile screen as a dividing wall between the content and the viewer. The film traps the protagonist behind the mobile screen, arguably illustrating the existence of a physical fourth wall. The content is playful, but alludes to to a darker side of media convergence and a technology that is perhaps oblivious to the human condition.

Up until now, I have perhaps given more thought to the viewers experience with the content and have not acknowledged the existence of the screen wall. If the screen or fourth wall can add value to both the viewer experience and the narrative, I have yet to determine. The thought of someone looking out from within the screen differs greatly from the passive viewer looking into the small screen.

Research on the socialisation of the mobile device can tell artists working in mobile media much about the relationship that has developed amongst users and the mobile device. It would appear that much less is known about the expectations the mobile audience has of content delivered to the mobile device. The viewer experience with content screened on mobile and/ or wireless devices such as ipods, etc, differs greatly from the cinematic or television experience. So does this mean that new content will need to be produced specifically for the mobile device or can existing t.v. content be altered to fit the mobile format?
It’s fair to say that the jury is out when it comes to guidelines for designing and creating content for the mobile device.

The mobile landscape is littered with the debris of mobile narratives that have played some part in helping to shape the emeging mobile genre. Just think of where the internet was 10 years ago, and how recent developments have enabled the internet to become more than a tool to distribute data. The convergence of new media applications with the wireless device makes it possible to access networked content outside of the home environment, once the traditional space for the viewing and communication of narratives. The mobile device, which has arguably become a “remote control for your lifestyle”, is perhaps driving a greater convergence of the human self with the mediated self.

Micro-narratives can be consumed on the run, and do not require a prescribed space to authenticate the viewer experience. But how does the portability of the mobile device alter the viewer relationship with the content? Is mobile content less valued than the cinematic experience. I constantly ask myself, what are the emerging aesthetic codes that that are driving micro-narratives? I suppose that is a question that I share with many other artists and mobile content developers who are trying to crack the nut in a constantly changing mobile landscape.

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~ by Dean on April 10, 2006.

One Response to “The Theatre of the Micro-Narrative.”

  1. Hi Dean,
    I’m the guy who made the mobile short “cellphone”. When making cellphone, i did indeed intend to use the “fourth wall” as a way to engage the viewer. I am making Cellphone into a mobisode. Part of the experiment will be to exploit a mobile phone’s ability to surf the internet, send SMS/MMS, make phone calls, and leave voice messages. Both the user and the story’s characters will use these functions to communicate with one another to further the story. I actually hope to break down the fourth wall and mix the distinction between user and character.

    FWIW: The original idea was to capture a user’s mobile number when they download the video and then call them back with a prerecorded sound effect or voice message the would imply they are next.

    I look forward to following your research.

    -Anthony Wong

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