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Blogtalk Downunder » Granular Text

Blogtalk Downunder
   May 19-22, Sydney

Blogtalk Downunder

Granular Text

Text is, by and large, granular. Pragmatically its lowest level of granularity is the letter (we even have a specific word indicating this property), and then it scales to words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and from there into a very wide range of discursive objects.

This is recognised (and taken for granted) in all our digital tools that deal with text - for example in any contemporary operating system there will be a series of default behaviours that apply to words - in OS X I can double click a word in any application and the word will be automatically selected. In Microsoft Word it is a given that letters are a major minimal unit, and so I can add, delete and manipulate them at this relatively fine level of granularity. The same rules more or less scale elegantly to larger constellations, hence I can also work easily on words, sentences, paragraphs and sections in Word.

Exactly the same holds for digital video, where minimal units (called shots) are combined into larger sets (sequences) which in turn are assembled into more complex units. Similarly, within the tools available for digital video production there is an implicit recognition of this granularity so that editing software is able to easily identify, manipulate and operate upon these minimal units. In other words you can split complete shots into smaller shots, address footage to an extremely high degree of accuracy via timecode and there will be tools to manage these shots as they intrinsically recognise shots as a meaningful minimal unit.

The profound difference in our understanding of granularity in text and video lies, however, not in our tools of production, but in our technologies of reception.

note: This page forms a part of a hypertext essay by Adrian Miles. The homepage for this essay is located at:
A long version of this paper (containing some but not all of the text contained in the hypertext version) is available at:

1 Comment

  1. Isn’t the lowest level of granularity in video (as in film) the single frame?

    Comment by Matt — 5/9/2005 @ 1:11 pm

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