Re: [-empyre-] Writing Culture - NEW FICTIONS

thought this might be relevant to this great discussion, thanks all.

Perspective 5 August  2005  - Komninos Zervos

[This is the print version of story]

'Why would an intelligent person like you watch Big Brother?' my little
brother (he's 50) asked the last time I was in Melbourne. I answered
because it is great fiction, yeah great fiction and I like its
unpredictability. The fact is that Australia's most popular 'reality-tv'
show is a fiction, is the first fiction we who watch it accept. The fiction
that this show is reality.

What do I get out of Big Brother that I no longer get out of movies, or
television drama series? Is Big Brother a different form of drama, a
contemporary form of storytelling that has no overall plot, or a very
simple one like the computer games, get to the end and have tea with
princess azaria, or get to the end and win a million dollars? The story of
Big Brother is being told in the sub-plots and parrallel mini-plots. More
concerned with the journey than the arrival? Isn't that post-modern enough
for you? So whatâs new? Neighbours has been doing that for twenty years.
The hyperlinked internet is not the only medium that can claim branching
pathway narratives. Could Big Brother be post-post-modernist? It seems to
be exhibiting all the characteristics attributed to new media art, a
rhizome of mini-plots and pathways, user input via interactive elements, an
element of game and advance through levels, random or chance occurrences or
events, and configurable avatars or characters.

We have to ask who is making this story and how do we read this story. Do I
read Big Brother according to literary theory, or film theory, or media
theory, or performance theory, it seems to contain elements of all the
contemporay theories, perhaps a new theory, a theory of the digital age
like Cybertext Theory postulated in 1997 by Espen Aarseth. The theory was
developed to be able to place new media types like games in the same
theoretical arena as traditional media types like books, they are all

So let me call Big Brother a CyberText. It is an ergodic work, you can't
just sit there and let it happen, you do work to move through this work.
Not all the information is in the one spot. There is no centre, no unity.
Itâ s happening concurrently in the print media, radio, television,
internet, and on mobile phones. There are more BB-related activities
happening outside that house than on the 30 minutes of television each
night on the daily show. It can never be replayed or re-run. It is once
only and of the moment. It is probably the most democratic fiction ever
written or conceived, as the plots are ultimately contributed to by players
and watchers alike.

Espen Aarseth describes a CyberText as an ergodic text that does not have
fixed number of textons and scriptons and fixed sequence of scriptons.
Textons can be words, images, sounds, animations, movie clips, avatars, any
analog or digital object. Scriptons are the groupings of these objects,
like sentences, paragraphs, scenes, shots, choruses, verses, songs,
slideshows, collages, puzzles, etc that form packets of meaning or feeling
or both. In Big Brother the players/housemates are the textons, in fact
they are texton generators, generating new textons all the time in the way
they act in the house. The reporters and media coverage are also texton
generators, with families and lovers also adding to the mix.

The scriptons that form from these fountains of textons are the scenarios
of the Big Brother house; who's on with who, who's fighting with who, who
has a dark dim past, who will be nominated, who will be evicted, how will
tasks be completed etc. etc etc, the stuff of Big Brother. The 37 cameras
recording 24 hours a day for 90 daily half hour shows, and another 10 half
hour specials, and 12 eviction specials and 12 nominations specials, and 8
uncut specials and 10 Friday night games, and 180 hours of up-late and
webchats, and when the evictees start doing the media milk-run, all the
textons that are generated outside the house, but have affect on the
scripton formation inside the house and inside 2 million viewers, long
after the series has finished. This is a huge fiction event, where not
everyone is privy to all the textons at any time, and as Gretel Killeen
pointed out one night, "everyone's interpretation is just as valid as
anyone elses." And no one person can control all that, not even Big

Guests on this program:

    Komninos Zervos
    Cyber Poet

    School of Arts
    Griffith University

Further information:

    Espen Aarseth's (old) Web site


Producer: Sue Clark

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