Time is linear, I mean there are some fringe arguments against that of course. But for all intents and purposes we experience a forward march through time and there's nothing we can do to stop it.
Media however is not necessarily, from the obvious idea of the algorithmic non-linear 'timeline' that we see on social media websites we can see that media often breaks the idea of time moving purely forwards. They present content as if it were chronological but break the pattern.
Many types of media are grounded in a temporality. In a video a sequence of images is shown, always moving forwards. The format that a video takes is one of progression; but also the idea that the images and sound in a video are there for a fixed amount of time. When you make a video you choose: do you show an image for 30 seconds or 2 hours? Do you play music in the background? For how long? When does the music start and end with relation to the images? We are not afforded this control in writing, for example in this blog post there is no 'set temporality' in that you could if you so choose to read 5 paragraphs ahead at will and come back to this one later. I could attach an image below and you can choose to look at it for 5 seconds or 10 seconds or 30 seconds and so on.
This leads to a difference in how we can use these mediums. Of course, if I wanted to I could reveal text a paragraph at a time, or people could skip forwards and backwards in videos but the core idea is that a video is a sequence of image moving forwards linearly and text is a static and unmoving canvas.
An obvious example would be taking the viewer by surprise, the jump-scare is a common technique in sequential media but could you imagine how lame a jump-scare would be in writing?
Similarly non-sequential media can be used to convey information at a pace much more comfortable to the reader. Many people prefer information to be conveyed by text and images since they can skip around and work out each step in their own time; videos may move too fast or too slow. However since text is non-linear important information can be missed.
Breaking the Mould
One frustration I've seen a lot with creative types is the inability to break out of the temporality of the medium they are working on. This is pretty obvious if you've been on a website with a scroll-hijacking, the designers want to turn the static format of the webpage into a dynamic experience much less suited to the medium, this can cause frustration as control is removed from the user. Video games for example have used cut-scenes to advance story and change away from the non-linear user-controlled aspect of the game to a linear video, essentially; game developers added quick time events as a way to keep the player involved. But largely these are linear at least in terms of progression of time throughout, even if the outcome branches the idea that time moves forwards is not broken.
Brian Eno challenged this notion of temporality in music in an interesting way, ambient music.
For me the idea of ambient music was as much about the way we listen as the music we actually make. Ambient music suggests a stillness and receptiveness in the listening process, a different set of expectations about what music is supposed to do. I wanted Ambient to mean 'a music without a clear distinction between foreground and background' and 'a music without clear beginning or end'. Removing those boundary conditions from the music opens it up to a kind of mental wandering, a sort of exploratory walk through a field of sound.
When you remove the idea of a beginning or end of media, there are interesting possibilities for where and when you can use it, and what it means. There's an automatic motion towards creating spaces with music rather than using music, as it was often used traditionally, as a narrative work (not to say all music pre-Eno was this, just that there are more options for it within this framework). The idea of exploration and freedom through removing constraints is powerful but so is the idea of adding constraints, this is much talked about in the sense of technical (or in music using compositional techniques).
Adding sequentiality to a medium that has traditionally existed in a non-sequential form can also access more expression, for example the burgeoning idea of a video essay allows for a different type of emphasis on points (both through vocal delivery and how long you might spend on a point). Of course moving 'up' a media dimension (visual + audio + text) so on will have removed some constraints being lifted, but the idea is that you can constrain an audience to look at something or hear something for a period of time rather than letting them skip over it or view it at their own will. You can reveal something quickly and leave people guessing or show them the whole image slowly. As in the last blog post, Berger talks about this idea in depth in his documentary, with examples.
I think this thought has lead me to thinking more about how I create and what I can and can't do within a medium and possibilities to remove, or at least mitigate some of these constraints that media sets when I need to. But also being able to recognise the power in some media is useful, and the techniques others use implicitly.
Further, more can be done to manipulate these ideas, the reader's eye is drawn by flashy images and watcher's attention sharpened by audio cues. It is important to be aware of how you can create engagement through these means.