Narrating the Archive and Archiving Narrative: The Electronic Book and the Logic of the Index
The book has always existed as both narrative and archive. Contents pages and indexes allow the book to function simultaneously as linear narrative and non- linear, searchable database. As a platform, therefore, the book has more in common with the so-called 'new media' of the 21st century than it does with the dominant 20th century media of film, video and audiotape, whose logic and mode of distribution are resolutely linear. The non-linear logic of new media brings to the fore an aspect of the book - the index - whose potential for the production of narrative is only just beginning to be explored. When a reader/viewer accesses an electronic work - such as a website - via its menu, they simultaneously experience it as narrative and archive. The narrative journey taken is created through the menu choices made. Within the electronic book, therefore, the index (or menu) has the potential to be more than just an analytical or navigational tool. It has the potential to become a creative, structuring device. This opens up new possibilities for the book, particularly as, in its paper based form, the book indexes factual work but not fiction. In the electronic book, however, the index offers as a rich a potential for fictional narrative as it does for factual volumes. My hypermedia work 'Index of Love' explores this potential: telling a love story as an archive of moments, images and objects recollected.
Keywords: Narrative, Archive, Index, Database, Electronic Texts
Lecturer, Department of Creative, Critical and Communication Studies, University of Greenwich