Interactive Narrative

The key take-out of the Douglas chapters for me involved the sequentiality of the interactive novel. Douglas says that although it is sometimes described as non-sequential, it definitely isn’t, because anything that has parts following after other parts is sequential – a box which interactive novels of course ticks.

Interactive writing becoming more prominent seems to make sense when you consider the relationship between interactive novels and conversational realities. Whilst they don’t currently address all the points of conversation that were raised, I guess they are a step in the same direction. But it’s important to note Douglas’ point on the tradition book and interactive novels co-existing, because traditional narratives work in a different way – they involve a total consumption of a created world. There’s a joy in being taken on a journey and not necessary agreeing with every turn.

This, though, assumes that people actually want to read like they converse, which I don’t think is the case a lot of the time. Of course there is a heavy shift to two-way communication in reading material (for example newspaper columns inviting immediate comments in their digital versions, blogs and blog platforms like tumblr allowing people to build on existing content with ease), these mostly rely on a story being told in full first, and expanded on second. One of the newest semi-social writing platforms to take off, Medium (created by one of the founders of Blogger), is dedicated to people taking short amounts of time out to read in a fairly one-way structure (although it claims to be dedicated to collaboration, in essence it’s just write and read). 

However Douglas’ point that interactive novels allow for the reader to decide when the ending is, that the ending comes when the reader is satisfied and that may come at the multitude of times, is very relevant to the reading habits of audiences.

Hypertext and Beginning, Middle and End

Throughout my life on the internet, hypertext has been pretty present. However the thought never appeared to me that hypertext actually enabled a change in the way I experienced reading.

I wasn’t sold on Adrian’s idea that the internet isn’t a story and it has no beginning or end – I thought whilst that might be true for the overall big picture of the internet, the individual components that make it up are still designed to themselves have a beginning and an end. If you look at Wikipedia, one of the best examples of hypertext infiltration, the individual pages are still set up with a story in mind. Wikipedia pages dedicated to people, for instance, have brief overview at the beginning, followed by a chronological description of their life starting with childhood or early career, and ending with death and legacy.

However, I didn’t realise just how often that my reading of a article would change because of hypertext – I have the ability to click on hypertext and read the content from the linked page immediately after coming across it in the article, or clicking on it and saving it for after I’ve finished the first page, or not clicking on it at all. Each way is a different way to consume the content and I am the master of it. And so there it is, the internet with no beginning or end. 

Symposium #3

The copyright Q&A symposium got me thinking about the use of album art, and I came across an interesting case where the creator of a pixel art album cover for the 8-bit reworking of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue was threatened with legal action.

Andy Biao settled, paying photographer Jay Maisel US$32 500, however he believes given his transformation of the photograph, as well as his intentions and effect on the original’s market, he was covered under the American principle of Fair Use. Obviously this doesn’t apply in Australian law, however the principle of ‘fair dealing’ makes room for consideration on the purpose and character of the use as well as the effect on the potential market. Given it was the album art on an 8-bit tribute to an album released over 50 years ago, Biao’s argument still stands up.

Biao said he settled because it was the most financially sensible thing to do. It’s scary how someone who created a jokey tribute album had to pay $32 500 because it was cheaper than voicing his defence in court. I think the main point in this is what Biao concludes with, and what was touched on in the symposium – it can turn out a lot cheaper to seek permission, even for works you believe might fall under the “vague standards” (as Biao called them) of fair use and fair dealing, rather than risking it.

Symposium #2

Symposium #2 started with a small shock – Adrian telling us to put away our laptops took me back to first year, when I refused to take my bulky, half broken black Asus to meet the masses of Macs. His point that it could lead to a much more focussed audience was a good one, I realised that it was the first lecture I paid uninterrupted attention to from start to finish in a long time.

However I don’t have the greatest ability to recall from hour long lecturers without notes, and I remember a couple of occasions in the lecture where I thought “that’s a really nice point”, but here I am a week later and I have no idea what those ideas were about. I also think there’s merit to the view that switching off for small periods of time can lead to greater sustained overall focus.

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I understand where Adrian is coming from, though. These aren’t lectures – they’re symposiums, and symposiums demand, more so than lectures, everyone to be mentally in the room. This week I’ll come armed with a notebook and see if I can get the best of both worlds.