Excerpt from Jessica Helfand, "Television Did It First: Ten Myths of New Media." Eye, 6:26 (Autumn 1997) 8-9.

Myth #7:
Hyperlinked storytelling allows for interconnected narratives.

Fact: Television (and radio) Soap Operas did it first.

The dramatic genre known broadly as the Soap Opera depends on a formula of serialized storytelling that has its own pace, unfolding steadily over weeks and months, spawning iterative, obstreporous links to other characters, stories and occasionally to entire other shows. Serial writers speak of developing memorable characters with 'rooting' value: character-driven rather than plot-based, the programs they create become hyperlinked mini-orbits of interconnected people and places, threaded narratives and stories with no endings.
These programs (EastEnders, Guiding Light) succeed largely for two reasons: first, because they build viewer interest steadily over time and across multiple plot lines (if you don't like one story you're sure to like another) and second, because the cumulative effect of this kind of viewing has a kind of residual emotional value: it succeeds not because it is physically interactive (click that mouse!) but because it is behaviorally interactive (tune in tomorrow!). Unlike the mathematically-plotted hyperlinks in many digital narratives where the emphasis is on action, (think Myst) soaps succeed precisely because of this underlying emotional pull.


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