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Hypertext syntagmas: cinematic narration with links

This essay was originally published (and is freely available) in the Journal of Digital Information, Volume 1, Issue 7, (December 2000), and is reproduced here with permission.

Reader's Introduction

Dear reader

This essay is an experiment in academic writing that I tend to think of as a performative hypertext. This simply means that it does what it describes.

It contains a simple series of nodes that contain the major argument, this is its canonical text, and while it can be read serially, it is densely interlinked.

In addition various quotes, some with attached commentary, are available, each providing the introductory reading and some ideas around the key, related, themes that this essay relies upon. At times the distinction between the 'canonical' essay and the commentary will appear arbitrary. It is, the canonical text simply represents the kernel of the argument but any assumption that it is privileged in relation to the commentary can only be an assumption.

The writing recognises no particular distinctions between disciplines or concepts, moving from hypertext to film as easily as it moves from abstract academic argument to personal comment.

The essay includes some film examples to illustrate some basic concepts, and resists what we might think of as closure.

Once within the essay, links to the canonical text are blue, links to quotations are green, links to additional commentary are red and links to the references page are black. Visited links will appear as lighter in tone than unvisited links.

No table of contents or menu bar is provided as the essay is not intended to be read exhaustively (it consists of approximately 200 pages and 29,000 words) but by what might once have been called fancy. It is, however, a work where ambition outstrips ability. It is also about noise.

For those anxious to make sure they've read the 'important' bits the list of contents contains all the canonical nodes of the essay.


Christian Metz's semiotic analysis of cinema is described in relation to hypertext narrative. Connections between film narrative syntagmas, and hypertextual syntagmas are explored, with an emphasis on the contextual and pragmatic nature of these structures.

Author details

Adrian Miles has taught hypertext theory and practice since 1995 at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He has an MA in film theory from Monash University (Melbourne), and is currently researching a PhD exploring the theoretical relations of hypermedia and cinema. He has presented and published material on cinema and hypertext internationally, and has authored numerous academic hypertexts. He currently teaches at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and the Institutt for medievitenskap at the University of Bergen, Norway.

A brief statement about the essay's technical assumptions is also provided.