Narrative structures hold a recursive relationship with the media forms one chooses to craft them in, the digital creativity one exerts upon the construction and the theoretical paradigms that inform how a given narrative about the past should manifest. We have reached an age where heritage applications can be designed, developed and implemented entirely through diital media, yet the narrative structures that are employed do not necessarily leverage the full array of digital affordances, nor do they necessarily reflect the current theoretical concerns or content discussed at the level of narrative structure. There are a number of reasons why this might be the case – the relative youth of digital implementations in the heritage sector, the long-standing traditions of using particular media forms and narrative structures or even the lack of knowledge or skills to implement digital native narrative structures effectively. The move beyond the narrative structures that we are most familiar and comfortable with requires more than just shifting to a digital media form, it requires engaging with how information can be structured within that space. Ultimately all narrative structures have a place in heritage or archaeological discourse - be they active, passive, digitally native or digitally mimetic – the most important thing is that the potential, impact and relationship between media form, message and narrative structure is explored and examined closely, given that how a narrative is structured affects what can be presented and how it can be engaged with. Narrative structure is therefore more than just the way in which information can be organised, it is the way in which we can think about, engage with, construct and understand the past as whole.
Our work has explored the foundational and theoretical underpinnings of the relationship between narrative, narrative structure and heritage from which further vital explorations, challenges and understandings can be developed.
Further exploration into how audiences understand and navigate these narrative structures and spaces would extend the observations made in this article, adding a practical and embedded insight of the relationship between these entities. This concerns not only how audiences perceive linear and multilinear presentations, but also their relationship with the relatively new active texts. This would require a collection of data from audiences and these heritage presentations to examine the audiences' reception, as well as the creation of active heritage presentations.
Our exploration has focused on the underlying structures embedded within the narratives and through doing this it has noted that these are inextricably entwined with the physical environment that they take place in, though exploration of this physical space was not conducted here. This complex relationship of physical space and heritage presentation can be further researched to see how the audience's movement informs their experiences of narrative. Further research into how and why audiences navigate these spaces (both physical and intangible), how their prior engagement with heritage narrative structures influences their expectations and whether new narrative structures are desirable – all are topics that warrant significant further investigation.
Narrative structures have undoubtedly played a role - whether conscious or not - in shaping how we think about and communicate the human past. Moving forward we hope that the media experiences of heritage practitioners, both digital and analogue, can be used to explore different approaches to the past. Through studying the audience, we can come to understand the impact that this has on how the past is interpreted. This article is only a very small subset of structures, embedded in a very particular approach. Experimentation with additional perspectives and approaches will be a welcome challenge to these findings.
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.