José Augusto Mourão



Text is dead

The artificial and the natural


Reconfiguring narrative

Hypertextual organisation


The artificial and the natural

With literature, the visual arts, cinema, theatre, opera and ballet are being translated or transformed into "new" media environments. Traditional media of human expression and communication (writing, visual arts, theatre, ballet, music) and the more recently developed "mass-media" technologies (the book, the press and television media and the Internet) continue to influence in significant ways the development of these hybrid forms of expression in the "new media" technologies at present under development. It is also clear that new forms of expression and communication made possible by new media technologies are continually challenging our emotional, physical and conceptual limits and borders and pushing traditional media of expression in new directions. In the present time each of these supposed categories or clusters of technologies and practices is destined to remain "parasitic" on the other.

Maybe one can say that technology has surpassed art: "The greatest hypertext is the Web itself, because it is more complex, unpredictable and dynamic than any novel that could have been written by a single human writer, even James Joyce." (1). Technology structures literature. As support. As device. Nevertheless, the tools are not accessories we manipulate to serve our purposes, but they conform and shape the range of our directions and expressions (Andrews, 2000). Its exposure to the numerical risk is real. Today everything seems connected; everything seems to work as an interface. Nevertheless, the tendency is taking interfaces to be subsumed by objects and images, becoming more user-friendly and enshrining its existence in virtual hypermedia, thus disguising all its materiality through the processes of invisibility. The result meets the eye: "the most artificial blends in with the most vital"(2). In other words: "as everything becomes interface, the border line between what was real from what (yet) wasn't, is held together, more and more, by technique and is manifested only aesthetically" ( Ibidem ). The category of design is, in this context, essential in assuring that the technological program performs much more than its pure efficiency, but can also hybridize with the human being, conjugating the immaterialization of all works of art with a perceptive numerical experience and the integration of users. "De toutes les hybridations vers lesquelles le numérique incline, c'est l'hybridation du sujet et de la machine, à travers les interfaces, qui est la plus violente et la plus décisive." (3)

Diogo de Sá, a Portuguese humanist of the XVIth century, in his Tratado dos Estados Eclasiásticos e Seculares (1557), mentioning the greatness of the things made by God and the existence of only One God, agrees with the Apostle Paul and says there is no idol in the world (4). ( Epílogo da Fé : 186). And goes on to point out three reasons: firstly because "among the creatures God has made, no idol created and nurtured by Him shall be found". And since the idol is created with the matters that God has made, whether of gold, silver or similar things, a form created by the folly of men, it is nothing. Secondly because it is made by the hands of men, craftsmen, and as Jeremiah said, every artifice in the idol is fake because the idol is a fake. There is no spirit in it. Thirdly because it displays no resemblance to anything in the world. Between the idol and the simulacrum there is no difference, says St. Thomas , the idol is what has no resemblance to what is natural. But indeed, what is an artifact? An artifact is "something" made with a specific cultural function in mind. In a sense, human cultures are museums of the artifacts built by the gifted animal. Technology is a term used to describe the process through which human beings model the objects in order to understand, and control them better. The issue of the interface is crucial. First because the access to cyberspace demands the opening of "windows", that on a multi-sensorial level allow the integration of the subject on a domain coded by binary language and accelerated to the speed of light; secondly, because, as Manovich stresses on his text From Borges to Html , it is the area of G raphic User Interface (GUI). It is the latter that has been changing culture more deeply, in the organization of symbolic representation of experience, leading to the redefinition of current interaction with History. Generally, interfaces represent the technical appropriation of a metaphysical operation, itself also an interface with the divine. Current interfaces, in the end, imitate what every culture practices: the passage from a visible world to an invisible one.


(1) In From Borges to Html , Manovich argues that present day technique is in itself the great work of art of our time.

(2) Miranda, J. A. Bragança de, s.d. hipertexto.

(3) Yvonne Spielmann quotes Couchot in La Technologie dans l'art .

(4) Tratado dos Estados Eclasiásticos e Seculares (1557), elements for a crytical edition, by Ana Cristina Costa Gomes, pg. 186