A media author is like a traditional text-based author except a media author creates, edits, converts, designs, and sometimes mangles traditional text, image, video, audio, and interactive elements to produce new forms of art and information.
A “traditional” author creates a story by illuminating the mind with a sequence of words that elicit a mental response from the reader. With words the reader cannot escape the engagement of the story as long as they are reading. This is a unique and powerful quality of the written word that is difficult to equal with less participatory media like video, where the temporal nature of the information proceeds whether our minds are engaged or not.
One of the most challenging tasks for a media author is to find practical ways to take advantage of what non text media has to offer, and ensnare the reader’s mind with carefully crafted sensory stimulus. Images, for example, are powerful. Adding apparent motion to images makes them potentially more efficacious. Yet how can any amount of multi-million dollar visual and audio stimulus compete with the spark that comes from the mind of the reader when the reader is deep into the text-spawned world of a great work of fiction? That’s a tough one.
So how do I deal with it? I go to the greenhouse of my creative muse and work the soil any way I can, and any way I see fit. I sew seeds from which only a few plants will survive, but I water those plants, taste the fruit they bear, and hoe the weeds that the strongest plants may grow further. Okay, that’s just a metaphorical way of saying that I try to think of as many ideas as I can, but I am willing to let go of the ones that don’t seem to have the potential to make it past the idea stage.
I find it helpful to study my own perception of the world and try to understand how other people process information, and what makes things compelling and enriching. Of course I create my share of failed experiments, but sometimes one has to create a Frankenstein from what stuff they have, even if it is a poor substitute for something genuine and naturally functional.
For anyone who may read this I invite you to consider what it is about various media that makes it work for you, and even how the synergy of multimedia can enhance or augment a traditional text-based publication. What can video do that a text-only story can’t? What colors feel more emotional than others, and why? How is it that audio alone brings us into a world in a way that silent movies and video cannot? The short answer is synergy, and synergy is the only way that media can come close to matching the engaging power of the written or spoken word.
Fortunately for the media author, the creative palette includes not just words, but images, sounds, smells, and this newer thing called interactivity, that few seem to really understand, but for which all can attest to its capability to keep people engaged. Interactivity is engaging because by virtue of interacting, even if it is only with a web browser, it is as though we are exercising a newly discovered limb, and by using that limb we are participating in a form of exercise that couples us to the content.