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Themesicon: navigation pathOverview of Media Articon: navigation pathNarration
Virtual Narrations
From the crisis of storytelling to new narration as a mental potentiality
Söke Dinkla


During the twentieth century the art of storytelling has undergone drastic changes and weathered many a crisis, in the course of which its death was prophesied more than once. Through the centuries, the narrative craft—traditionally understood as describing the course of actual or imagined events[1]—has not only looked to societal and political changes for inspiration, but, through formal modifications, has also signaled and itself become an expression of these societal developments. Despite all of the intervening caesuras and interruptions, narration as a cultural practice seems to have experienced a virtual Renaissance at the end of the twentieth century.[2] Strikingly, this can be felt not only in literature and film, but with particular intensity in the electronic media. The Internet as a new mode of communication has achieved the status of a mass medium and now requires adequate ways of communicating content. But even the well-established medium of video is once again drawing on narrative strategies and establishing a form of storytelling that raises a variety of questions: Do these narrative practices really constitute a Renaissance of


storytelling, i.e. do they represent the hope that,after the collapse of the great utopias in the seventies, a new form can be found with which to render narratives viable once again? Is this change in attitude eclectic, i.e. does it represent a step back in time to the era prior to post-modern criticism and before widespread questioning of representation as an acceptable means of reflecting social reality? Or, rather, is a new narrative form emerging, one that is in a position to reflect on the history and stories of the modern era and make an incisive statement on the state of our reality?

In order to pursue these questions, I will first outline the historical conditions and functional changes in literary narrative, using James Joyce as an example, and then describe the transformation in its forms of expression in interactive media and web-based art in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as in video works from the 1990s. I will also examine the aesthetic methodology behind these narrative strategies, with which they work on (re)formulating our understanding of reality. In various phases and across diverse media

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