straight up
"As these two life forms – human and machine – begin to merge a little bit, we're talking about technology really as a kind of new nature, something to measure ourselves against, to make rules from, to investigate. " – Laurie Anderson
Laurie Anderson from a work by Nam June Paik



Many critics of today's multimedia shy away from attempts to identify a dominant theme behind the emergence of this new medium. They say that the subject is too various, that it resists a neat historical frame. In fact, there is a tendency among critics to celebrate the elusive nature of the subject. Multimedia, by its very nature, is open, democratic, non-hierarchical, fluid, varied, inclusive – a slippery domain that evades the critic's grasp just on the verge of definition. But these qualities did not evolve by happenstance. They were the product of deliberate intent on the part of multimedia's pioneers, who were aiming for quite coherent goals.

Just as there are many possible paths through a network, there are many potential readings of multimedia's history. In ours, the key concepts intrinsic to digital forms of multimedia are defined as: integration, interactivity, hypermedia, immersion and narrativity. These five characteristics determine the scope of multimedia's capabilities for expression; they establish its full potential. Follow these definitions to see how their characteristics evolved more or less simultaneously, each following its own tradition and trajectory and yet inextricably interwoven with the others in a web of mutual influence.