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Nam June Paik video-synthesized image of Laurie Anderson

Just as there are many possible paths through a network, there are many potential readings of multimedia's history. In ours, the key concepts intrinsic to digital forms of multimedia are defined as:

Integration The combining of artistic forms and technology into a hybrid form of expression.
   
Interactivity The ability of the user to directly manipulate and effect her experience of media, and to communicate with others through media.
   
Hypermedia The linking of separate media elements to one another to create a trail of personal association.
   
Immersion The experience of entering into the simulation or suggestion of a three-dimensional environment.
   
Narrativity

Aesthetic and formal strategies that derive from the above concepts, which result in non-linear story forms and media presentation.


Many critics of today's multimedia shy away from attempts to identify a dominant theme behind the emergence of this new medium. They say that the subject is too various, that it resists a neat historical frame. In fact, there is a tendency among critics to celebrate the elusive nature of the subject. Multimedia, by its very nature, is open, democratic, non-hierarchical, fluid, varied, inclusive – a slippery domain that evades the critic's grasp just on the verge of definition. But these qualities did not evolve by happenstance. They were the product of deliberate intent on the part of multimedia's pioneers, who were aiming for quite coherent goals.

These five characteristics determine the scope of multimedia's capabilities for expression; they establish its full potential. Follow the definitions through the Pioneers timeline to show how these characteristics evolved more or less simultaneously, each following its own tradition and trajectory and yet inextricably interwoven with the others in a web of mutual influence.