The terms media and media form are employed here to describe the specific set of entities and methods that facilitate a form of communication through the encoding, storage, delivery and consumption of data (Hall 1980). Each media form, be it a journal article such as this one, movie, photograph or game, has internal and inherent affordances that both facilitate and limit how the data can be communicated (Carroll 1985; Gibson 2014; Pinchbeck 2007). To this end, the media form one chooses to create, store or present data or ideas in dictates how the narratives can manifest, thus in turn making the media form reflexively and irrevocably bound to the instance of the narrative under consideration.
The following section will expound the media concepts relevant to this article, detailing internal and external media affordances, active and passive media types, and the difference between digitally native and digitally mimetic. The affordances or limitations of a given media can be either internal or external (Dovey and Kennedy 2006). Internal affordances are tied into the physical capabilities or limitations of the form itself (Carroll 1985). Change in a media form's physicality is required to alter the internal capabilities or limitations of how narratives can be structured (Rollings and Morris 2000, 207-8, 234-36). By contrast, an external affordance is an imposed or constructed convention that dictates how a narrative should manifest in a given media form (Dovey and Kennedy 2006; King and Krzywinska 2006, 3-8).
Another distinction to be made is between active and passive media. For the purposes of this article we adopt a fluid version of flow schema to examine active and passive media (Csikszentmihalyi et al. 1977; Csikszentmihalyi and Csikszentmihalyi 1992). An active media form is taken to mean one in which there is active audience participation to progress, engage or even construct the narrative. In contrast, a passive media form is understood to be one in which the audience consumes information as it is presented, with less effort required to access or consume the narratives and no ability to take a role in the construction of it (Hayles 2008, 35-47).
The final concept of importance here is that implementations of narrative through digital media forms can be either digitally native or digitally mimetic (Bounie et al. 2013). Digital mimesis describes a situation in which the digital media form mimics the conventions and structures of the print or analogue media that preceded it (Landow 2006). The other category, digital native, describes media that can only exist in the digital form on account of the fact that they actively leverage the digital media form's affordances in their construction – for example video-games or generative computing (Aarseth 1997, 16-18; Nolan 2003).
These notions of media will be leveraged in discussing how heritage utilises digital media in its narrative structures. The key issue to be noted here is that even if a media form is digital, the way in which the narrative is structured might not use the specifically digital affordances because of externally imposed limitations (for example, institutional standards or lack of development skills) rather than due to the internal nature of the media itself.
Internet Archaeology is an open access journal. Except where otherwise noted, content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) Unported licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that attribution to the author(s), the title of the work, the Internet Archaeology journal and the relevant URL/DOI are given.