Of the three projects, A Bronx Family Album utilizes most fully the multimedia potentials of its technology.Yet it is still not hard to imagine it converted to book form. Indeed, soundtracks aside, none of these three projects achieves much that a printed book could not. available. The virtual humans in the latest demo footage from this work-in-progress are somewhat blocky three-dimensional figures requiring tremendous suspension of disbelief. Artist/academic Britton doesn’t mind:”It’s the Veil of Isis’-the idea that any representation of the truth by humans has to be imperfect. Like a classic statue of the goddess Isis in Egypt, all you can do is make the veil as thin as possible, and make it
What bets are missed? To begin with, the designers of these projects don’t utilize image-mapping creatively, to create links to and from various elements within an image. And, in the case of Hart’s work, mostly photographed inside the family’s apartment, there was no apparent effort to establish coherently the physical space that the family inhabits, or to move you through it imaginatively. These CDs neither propose nor allow any sequencing of their pictures other than a set chronological order. Hart’s CD, for example, gives you no way to view on one screen a cluster of all the images of any one of the individual protagonists. None of the CDs investigate hypertextual possibilities-lacking, for example, highlighted keywords to link you to particular images. And all this material is I-talk-you-listen-no questions posed, no space for the viewer’s articulated response. This is interactivity lite.
I realize that we’re still in the first decade of the interactive CD-ROM, and I don’t expect definitive pieces at this point. Indeed, I consider all three of these works successes on various levels; each offers numerous insights and satisfactions. But they could have done so as books or exhibitions; they don’t need CD-ROM.
The new medium’s capacity for a more idiosyncratic, complex, intuitive and participatory approach to narrative structure-of the sort that’s commonplace in kids’ entertainment software, and that computer users of all ages today expect as a matter of course-has been almost entirely neglected.
Why, ten years on, don’t we have a whole slew of exciting experiments-even provocative failed experiments-in documentary photography and photojournalistic CD-ROMs? When I imagine what Dorothea Lange or Margaret Bourke-White would have done with this new medium, my mouth waters. If this technology is to revitalize photojournalism and documentary photography and entice new audiences, such investigation is imperative, and the time is surely now.