Project Brief 3
‘Type I Error’ is a project about perspective. Stories are about perspectives on a series of events. They give us a certain rationality to explain the chaos of our world. In ‘Type I Error’ the protagonist, an extension of the user, must explore and explain the series of events that unfold on the day Flinders Street Station is destroyed by a terrorist attack. The government has used its extensive public surveillance powers to charge a man via his metadata. Bilal Haram professes his innocence and the evidence isn’t conclusive, just a few digital finger prints here and there. No eye-witness accounts, no DNA, nothing compelling. The user, via their avatar the protagonist, must decide what to make of this evidence. Did Bilal really do it or was it simply a coincidence? A ghost in the machine? ‘Type I Error’ touches on issues of surveillance, morality, digital lives and the compact we make with the government via the social contract. Multiple perspectives are available to the user and they must choose between them as they navigate the narrative.
Twine will be the primary medium for creating ‘Type I Error’. Twine is an interactive, text based software implemented through HTML and CSS. It allows users to follow hyperlinks between discrete sections of narrative called ‘passages’. These passages can also contain pictures and audio recordings. Twine is a digitally native medium, able to encompass multimedia within its design and structure. Twine epitomizes the ‘database narrative’ coined by Lev Manovich (2001). Foregoing ties to linearity, Twine enables authors to present a narrative where the user is able to explore in a way they choose and at their own pace.
My role within the ‘Type I Error’ project team is to create the environment for the narrative to emerge and then to adapt that narrative to a hyper-textual medium. In everyday terms this means that Max and I design the plot, characters and story arcs and scopes together. Max then takes these sets of plot criteria that each of the passages requires and writes the dialogue and most of what the user will actually read. I take this text and enter it into Twine, creating each of the passages and the links between them. This is how I design how the story will be accessed; when each of the plot points will reveal itself as the user is able to navigate to them. This type of authorship is similar to video game design where the programmer must decide how much choice to give the player. Are they able to roam at will or navigate a limited dungeon? Agency as Janet Murray (1997) defines it becomes about balance. Tweaking the game mechanics and authoring the ludological elements requires going through the project as a player would; balancing challenge against reward. Rewards take the form of media items, such as a picture of the actual explosion depicted in the text, or a website or video located on the actual internet. Another of my roles is to create and edit these pictures and sound bites. Shaping the plot and synthesizing the typescript and multimedia into a hyper-textual medium creates a new project entirely that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Manovich, L (2001). ‘The database.’ In The language of new media. Cambridge, USA: The MIT Press, pp. 218-243.
Murray, J (1997). ‘Chapter 5: Agency.’ In Hamlet on the Holodeck. Cambridge, USA: The MIT Press.