Cinema in Full Circle, According to Manovich

In Lev Manovich’s book “The Language of New Media”, Chapter 6: What is Cinema; Manovich describes the relationship between cinema and new media. He describes this relationship as being two vectors.

The first vector relates to the process of cinema to new media and second, from computers to cinema.

Manovich summarizes the effects of computerization on cinema as:

  • The use of computer techniques in traditional filmmaking, such as, 3-D computer animation, digital painting, virtual sets and actors, and motion capture.
  • The new forms of computer-based cinema, such as, location-based entertainment, motion graphics, net.cinema which is films that have been designed specifically for Internet distribution, hypermedia interfaces, interactive movies and games that are structured around film-like sequences, and animated, filmed, and simulated sequences.

Manovich also mentions that the effects do not include new distribution technologies like digital film projection.

Manovich discusses cinema and the possibility of interactive narrative and states that computer media is not exactly narrative. Manovich makes known that computer media has redefined cinema because the old characteristics of cinema have become default options.

Manovich elaborates on this idea in that the new techniques that are being used to solve technical problems and traditional cinema is still preserved. So, even though computers are used as a tool for production, cinema is dependent on a narrative form and reality effect.

Throughout this book Manovich has concentrated on visual culture and media, but mainly on cinema. Throughout this book Manovich also has concentrated on using the history and theory of cinema so that he could provide the reader with a map for understanding how logic drives both the technical and stylistic development of new media. He also traced out the role cinematic language has on new media interfaces. He calls this “cultural interfaces” which are the interfaces between the user and cultural data.

Lastly, the effect of computerization provides one with an opportunity to see the world in new ways, which were not available to the man who simply had a movie camera.

The Database and Narrative, According to Lev Manovich.

In Lev Manovich’s book “The Language of New Media”, Chapter 5: The Database, Manovich describes the relationship between the database and narrative.

Photo retrieved from
Photo retrieved from

The database, per Manovich is a collection of items used to perform various operations Manovich tells us that the use of these computerized collections is distinct from reading a narrative in that if over time new elements are added to then collections are formed, not a story. Further one finds that a narrative becomes a method of accessing data.

When discussing Data and Algorithm, Manovich mentions that not all new objects are openly databases. He says, a narrative to computer games is a result that can be experienced by users. The narrative is formed when gamers are given a task and reach the last level or the highest score.

In Database and Narrative Manovich tells us that the database and narrative are natural enemies. A narrative creates a cause and effect trajectory and the database as a cultural form simply represents the world as a list of items.

One also finds that Manovich does find that narratives and games are similar because the user must identify the underlying logic when proceeding through them. He tells us that data structures (CD-ROMs and Websites) and algorithms drive different forms of computer culture. So, databases correspond to data structure and narratives and games correspond to algorithm. So the ‘user’ of a narrative transverses a database by following links as established by the database creator. Thus one has an interactive narrative or ‘hypernarrative’ as described by Manovich. However, this does not mean that a random order of database records is a narrative. Manovich elaborates by stating that to qualify as a narrative, a cultural object (not all cultural objects are narratives) must placate a number of measures. It must contain an actor and narrator, three levels of text; the story and fabula (the chronological order of the events contained in the story), and the contents need to be a series of connected events that are either experienced or caused by the actor.

According to Manovich, database and narrative do not have the same status in computer culture. While a database can support a narrative it cannot foster the generation of a narrative.