Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 12 Feb 03 12:11
Inkwell.vue welcomes pighed (aka Mark Meadows), who's joining us to discuss his book, _ Pause & Effect, The Art of Interactive Narrative_. Pighed is an American artist and writer, living in Paris. He was most recently Creative Director for a venture of Stanford Research Institute and prior to that held the post of Artist-In-Residence at Xerox-PARC where he conducted research in reading, interactivity, and visual art. He has been a professional writer, artist, and designer for over 14 years, creating works that defy traditional distinctions of "technology", "narrative" and "visual art." His 3D animation and interactive design has impacted companies from Lucasfilm to Microsoft, and he has been exhibiting his mixed media artwork since 1987 in galleries and museums throughout the United States and Europe. Meadows' work has received awards from Ars Electronica, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and the National Information Infrastructure (NII) highest honors, among others. In addition to the recently-completed _Pause & Effect_ (http://pause-effect.com/),.Pighed is working on three new books, shows his artwork at Galerie Machine Simple in Paris (http://machine-simple.com/) and travels around the world putting spare microphones to use. For more information see http://bore.com/, http://boar.com/, or http://boor.com/. Pighed's inkwell discussion will be led by Suzanne Stefanac,. most recently co-founder and senior vice president for creative and production at RespondTV, an interactive television company that built and aired more than 100 interactive campaigns for clients such as Coca-Cola, Ford, PBS, Comedy Central and others. Prior to RespondTV, Stefanac was executive producer for The Site, an hour-long nightly program on MSNBC that explored the influence of technology on day-to-day life. In 1994, Stefanac oversaw the launch of Macworld Online and served as that website's founding editor. Earlier, Stefanac was a journalist covering both technology and entertainment for Macworld, New Media, Wired, Salon, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, East Village Eye, and others. For the past five years, Stefanac has acted as a mentor for the American Film Institute's Enhanced TV Program.She has been a featured speaker at NAB, Western Cable Show, NCTA, American Film Institute, Women in Cable, Macworld Expo, CES, and SXSW, as well as serving on juries for the Society for Professional Journalists, Macworld Expo, The Invision Awards, the NII and GII Awards. She is on the board of directors for La Pocha Nostra, an arts organization that works with MacArther and American Book awardee Guillermo Gomez-Pena. Stefanac, an eleven-year veteran of the WELL, is currently working on a novel and has the beginnings of a website up at http://www.zorca.com.
nape fest (zorca) Thu 13 Feb 03 12:31
greetings, mark. i hope you don't mind if i lapse into calling you pighed here and there throughout this interview. years of habit, after all. before we start talking about the book, i thought it might be interesting to offer our readers a bit of context. i encourage anyone interested in the confluence of traditional artforms (painting, sculpture, photography, comics, writings) with the newer digital forms to check out your three websites (boar.com, bore.com and boor.com). mark exhibits all these and more there. it is unique to find an individual as comfortable with oil paints and blowtorches as with XML or the nascent 3D AI showcased in your upcoming st. elmo project. so many artists seem to feel the need to settle on one or another medium. you have clearly never succombed to that mindset. it is also worth noting that you manage to accomplish all this without a formal studio. you've been largely based in paris recently, but you manage to spend a fair amount of time traveling all over the world. you will, in fact, be on the road while participating in this interview. and you manage to do this on less cash than anyone i know! (oddball patrons, take note.) so, perhaps you'd be willing to talk a bit about how your creative process manages to span this breadth of disciplines and challenges. perhaps with a little history to help set the stage?
pighed (pighed) Thu 13 Feb 03 16:09
whoo. thats a doozy. history AND creative process, hu? yeah, i'm sitting in paris now. i've got a laptop and a bottle of bordeaux and no physical address... but i'll start at december 12, 2000: i was sitting in an office with a celphone jammed into my left ear and a realphone basting the right listening to two conference calls at once. there were three people orbiting at my desk, and i had been booked for 8 weeks solid at 13 hours a day. my life was grievously wrong and i felt like eating my hands. so i unplugged, walked outside, and had a smoke. i stood there on the corner of 2nd and harrison (or something like there). defining moment #1: i was acting like an e-hole; i was being stupid. the next afternoon i bought a ticket to bethlehem (for christmas and bullets) and the arctic circle (for new years). when i got back to california i couldnt get off my feet. since the world is large and life is short i figured it was time for me to leave the states. but first i had to give the USA a nice, long, kiss goodbye. the whole thing involved a dead guy's truck, 3 months, several cops, and 8,000 miles. for details see http://boar.com/days/. while doing all this on-the-road livin i wrote a book. i lived out of the pickup and wrote down what i think the internet is good for. so there i was, writing the book, sitting in a pickup next to a lake in alabama, whistling dixie. july 2001. defining moment #2: i decided i liked writing and drawing while living on the road better than being an e-hole. i've spent most of my life travelling (my first time hitch-hiking was with my mother, when i was 7). so i decided to condense my warehouse and its 2,000 squarefoot multi-media hi-fi writing & painting & photo studio into a laptop i could carry under my arm. these days i have the situation logistically under control. i do watercolors (which are small) digital photography (which is small) and writing (which is small) here in france (which is, also, psychologically, very small). i'm working on 8 projects. its a good thing i dont have a job. i'm too fucking busy. on the other hand its too bad i dont have a job since my retirement pension is looking a little geriatric. but that's okay cause if i die poor it will amount to as much as if i die rich. and i figure the contributions we make to other people's lives matter more anyway. comparing our perceptions is what *It* is all about. we're each nerve endings attached to a central nervous system. and we report back with writing and art and mathematics and music. so my job is to travel around and collect perceptions. but perception, without context, is sort of flat, like data. so i need a context, and i think narrative is key in providing that. and, with something like the internet, we now have a clear shot at combining perspectives and get some depth perception on The Big Picture; Death, Love, Lonliness, Happiness, etc. the internet could have a lot more stories (and a lot fewer ads) and this seems worthy. but when i went looking for a book on this - on how to write and illustrate stories that are reactive - i didnt find it. so i wrote it. you're writing a book now, yerself. and if i understand right its a story - not a treatise or a proof - right? why, after so many years of journalism, did you decide to write a story.story? why not something Objective and Formulaic?
nape fest (zorca) Fri 14 Feb 03 03:15
jeez. we're only one question into the interview and you're already trying to turn the tables... to the degree that it's applicable here, i'll say that despite fifteen years as a journalist, writing narrative fiction is the HARDEST THING I'VE EVER DONE! the truth is that i never wanted to write fiction. writing a novel seemed way too self-revelatory. and mebbe even frivolous. and journalism always was so, i dunno, comforting. all about Truths and Objectivity. a girl could keep a nice distance. but this damn storyline wouldn't go away. for years, the characters haunted me. and so finally, a combo of guilt and fear drove me to it. guilt that i'd spent a lifetime reveling in the narratives of others without ever attempting to give back. and a fear that my clever arguments against writing the novel were actually masking a fear of failure. and i still might fail. but i'm learning to relax into the terror i feel when teasing out narrative rhythms. even when they embarrass me. and i'm getting better at playing whack-a-mole with the damn editor within. the whole process is making me more human. so but if writing a straight, linear narrative is this daunting, if there has only been one shakespeare so far, how much more intimidating to contemplate the creation of interactive narrative that sustains dramatic tension and the suspension of disbelief throughout various and forking storylines. you've written linear stories and graphic novels and you've designed and implemented full-blown interactive narratives. what mindsets do you think we need to adopt/discard in order to make the leap to truly engaging interactive narrative that isn't just another game play?
pighed (pighed) Fri 14 Feb 03 14:23
hah.. really really schizophrenic. its about simultaneously maintaining 1) multiple character perspectives (and activities) in 2) an ongoing world context. imagine something complicated like brothers karamazov. there are three main brothers; alyosha, ivan, and dmitri. these are our protagonists. ok. then, as with any novel, there's all the other characters like father fyodor the hohlakovs, lizaveta, smerdyakov, father zossima, and on and on. there's an army of charactes crawling out of dostoevsky's brain. the list is enormous and each character has their own thing going. and they're all doing their own things at the same time. its the same with lord of the rings, too. now imagine that the book, rather than being a book, is a world - like ours, only imaginary - with a single camera. dostoevsky's job is to put the camera in the right place at the right time and show the reader what is happening at that specific instance/place from a specific perspective. since the reader can't be everywhere at once dostoevsky lifts them, like a kitten, and places them at the part of the world they need to be at so that they can get a sense of the overall metaphoric context AND the specific events that drive the plot. both. okay, so this is what a writer does. he puts the reader in the best place at the best time. but reactives are different because the reader has the ability to move the camera. and the actions and events in that world still have to be able to form a cohesive story. there still has to be specific events and a general context and things like character and intrigue and mystery and resolution. but the difference with a reactive is that the reader has to move themselves and decide when and where to be (rather than letting the author do it). this idea frightens me. ... it means that all traditional literature is a subset of reactives. it means that a piece of linear, written story is, potentially, just a part - just one reader's choice - of a reactive. dostoevsky's choices of how and when to move the camera in that conceptual world-database of his was his art. and he did a damn good job, too. but his choices of where and when to move it were only ONE way to see ONE part of ONE of the stories that were happening in that broad world of his imagination. thousands and thousands could exist, if he had only written code instead of russian. so the mindset of a good reactive author is schizophrenic. i tried to point this out in my book. i even went so far as to interview myself on what i think is probly the only real reactive i've written (www.boar.com/stories/crutch/). anyway the mindset (and its author!) has to allow people to manipulate the story. its built more like a japanese garden than a road - you let people traverse and walk where they want and you have to make sure that from ANY place in that garden, if they decide to stop, they get to see a composed image in front of them, like a painting. and then when they leave, they can put the story together. myst is a good example of this kind of thing. its a small example, and it lacks characters, but you get the idea. for me its a complicated problem space. to allow readers freedom and still engage them artistically.
caldron farouche (humdog) Fri 14 Feb 03 15:15
hello piggie & zorca. piggie please say more about reactives.
pighed (pighed) Sat 15 Feb 03 03:50
well, as far as lit.history goes, its interesting to me to consider video games as a form of reactive. checkitout: in occidental history we've watched literature get increasingly more complicated. i mean socially. we started out with epics (battle scenes like the iliad, or odyssey for example); go kill, collect shiny stuff, get home before youre caught. then we switched to a christian, philosophic, writing (chaps like anselm, aquinas, etc) in which there was a relationship with a larger power (like god) being considered. then, after the renaissance, romance genres appeared (king arthur and these 'tales of courtly love'); stories of more complicated social interaction in a world that contained larger powers at work (like magic). that was a great period of literature because symbolism in social interaction really took hold of people's imaginations. okay, then .. THEN! in the last hundred years or so monsters like dostoevsky and hugo start to show up and at the same time we have weirdos like joyce and montaigne writing personal essays. so it seems like authors, from homer on down the line, have been layering interaction into stories. it's getting increasingly complex. and its also, at the same time, getting increasingly personal. more interaction + more personal. ! most video games smell suspiciously like greek epics: Kill, Grab shiny thing, Run home. video games are functioning at some of the lowest levels of interaction in history... "KILL! GRAB! RUN!" is the 'low-lying fruit' of interaction design. this indicates that we're at the early stages of a literary artform of interactive representation. i cant blame videogame authors - they've got a lot on their minds: they have to solve problems like >17fps rendering speeds over 128k modem lines and a couple million hungry users sucking off the same server.... but, as far as story goes, reactives are so fucking complicated to write that authors dont have the long arms needed to get to the higher fruit of social interaction. yet. but this morning i was looking at "A Tale In The Desert"[http://www.atitd.com] - a MMORPG or whateverthehelltheyrecallednow - which isn't based on "KILL! NAB! RUN!" ... it's based on politics; complicated; & possibly richer. so reactives seem to be evolving. ATITD and Banja [http://www.banja.com] are the state of the art. of course, that will probly change in a month or two. by comparison traditional literature seems dead. its out in the backyard with grass growing around it. painting may be there, too. and sculpture and theatre. but these artforms, despite pulserates, still have things to tell us. meanwhile the art form of reactives is like an infant; its alive and kicking, but it doesnt have a lot to say yet because its still just trying to figure out how to function. bah. long posts. i could write a book on this stuff. but does that make sense?
nape fest (zorca) Sat 15 Feb 03 10:26
haha. the book, by the way, is gorgeous to look at, thumb thru, hell, there's even a flipbook narrative running both frontwise and backwise! so, but to play devil's advocate here for a moment, i'm all for the evolution of a rich, deep, subtle interactive literature. i think it's both necessary and inevitable. but... but, i'm not at all convinced that that will signal the death of traditional narrative. to go back to my trope about humans sitting around fires for the past several thousand years happily submitting to a well-told storyline. i think it's a deeply human trait, the desire to be told a great story. do you really believe that 'traditional literature seems dead?'
The Fucked-Up Piano Chicks (magdalen) Sun 16 Feb 03 02:08
Mr.Meadows, i do like your comparison of the video game's Grab Shiny Stuff level of early evolution to early western literature. but when i think of early narrative, i think of the campfire stories Suzanne's talking about... and i really think of theatre more than forms like the epic poem. (i also have no idea which ones happened when, chronologically.) but there was more to Greek drama, for example, than Grab Shiny Stuff and Kill. you had your Lysistratas refusing to fuck their menfolk 'til the idiots stopped fighting wars. you had Medeas killing their children and Oedipus doin' his mom. you had great choruses of exposition, commentary, morality, and denouement. you mentioned Lord of the Rings -- well, the book form of LOTR has all that great big epicy Greek stuff in it, in addition to the basic Grab Shiny Stuff/throw Shiny Stuff in the big mountain theme. but when my nephews showed me the video game of LOTR the other night, it was all Knock Down Ladders And Kill Orcs. there's so much more room for something interesting. how do you think we can let these things evolve, or help evolve them, in a market like this? at least with traditional literature, if you don't like it you can sit down and write a book. i can't make a flying 3-D animated whatever-the-heck and i can't program it to do something fancy. that requires technical skill, software, and hardware beyond me. so i'm going to write some traditional narratives and hope they're reasonably good. who knows? maybe i'd be good at this interactive narrative thing. but i and thousands like me are unlikely to find out as long as the barriers to entry are so high. who's keeping them that way? why?
pighed (pighed) Sun 16 Feb 03 04:15
zorca, yer right; no artform is ever REALLY dead. they're all partly dead. i should probly speak of them in terms of potency or vivacity. maybe artforms are like languages; some are more dead than others. for example, i know two people down the street that are translating ancient hebrew into old french. what WEIRDOS! what the hell!? i mean, who does THAT?? meanwhile i know hundreds of people translating languages like java into XML (or english into french, if you get jumpy calling java a 'language'). so there are some languages that we're really excited about - and reliant on - and others that just dont get us off. we have hte major antique languages (i.e, sanskrit, latin, attic greek), major contemporary languages (i.e, english, mandarin, hindi, french, spanish, and arabic), and minor contemporary languages nobody gives a shit about like acehnese, or yi. some are more powerful and more living simply because they've been circulated more frequently and for longer by various parties (,,, uh and, to be clean, we also have minor antique, too. sorry.). it's like blood. the circulation determines its livliness (or how less dead it is, to be more specific). so let's consider artforms this way... you can take an EKG reading on any artform by asking yourself how often you hear about it and from whom. example: i hear a lot more about music than i do about sculpture. when was the last time someone said "you've GOT to go see this sculpture exhibit!" but stuff on the internet?? this morning i got an email "you've GOT to go see www.tokyoplastic.com" ... and it was the third time this week. for my own EKG (and it will be different from yours), reactives are alive and well. i hear about music and film alot, too, but not as much. sometimes i hear about music from posters in the metro, sometimes from a friend. so the frequency, source, and duration are the EKG axes. these tell me how dead the artform is. if i'm not explaining that well enough here's a diagram i'm presenting to a museum in umea, sweden next week: http://bore.com/prz/inkwell/ekg.jpg (digression: you can use this method for things like English or Sanskrit.. and it gets doublePlusGood when you consider Politics as an artform with this method, too.) so okay, zorca,,, i'll back off on the really dead statement, and say instead that nothing is 100% living. artforms are living only insomuch as we depend on them andasmuch as they circulate on a quotidian basis (like language, again, right?). for myself, i'm much more of a traditionalist, so i shouldnt be saying ANY of this stuff, but at the same time it seems true; most artforms are mostly dead, many languages are largely dying, and its all because relying on them is no longer critical to living our lives. we migrate through ideas too easily these days. combining artforms - as we're doing with reactives and as we've already done, long ago, with english - is the contemporary result. you asked about my creative process; it hinges on the same thing. work like frankenstein, glue pieces together, find parts that match, stitch it up, hit it with jumper cables and see if it twitches. ~~ magtif, i think the barriers to entry for digital reactives are being kept high by marketers and corporates that want cash; upgrade the software, convince people to consume disposable items, convince them that consuming disposibility is in their interest, collect the shiny thing, run home. for myself, as 3d modeler, i'm fucked. it takes me months to get used to the new release, so i've just stopped upgrading. its a waste of my money and my time. so yeah, its a problem. in pause & effect i put a little reactive in the corners. its a story that loops in on itself and can be read in different directions. not a lot of interaction, but its print-based. and i tried to point out, through the whole book, that there's a lot of different kinds of reactives other than video games. so you CAN still write a book. the choose your own adventures were cool at the time, and they changed our thinking about books, and while they're not necessarily high-valence immersive hi-fi super warp speed reactives, they do have a quality that engages you in them. so maybe sitting down and writing a book is the answer. > how do you think we can let these things evolve, > or help evolve them, in a market like this? i dont know. sometimes i think it will emerge on its own and we'll learn the craft of it all. maybe there will be a few key authors that will point out some path through the brambles. i think, more than anything, we need more authors. and i dont know how to do that. i dont know how to inspire more people to try to invent more things. i just keep experimenting, myself.
the notional subject (humdog) Sun 16 Feb 03 05:09
there is a difference though between sitting around the fire and hearing the story, and participating in a story that requires a large cost of entry for participation. it seems to me that the high cost of entry for movies (as an example) has led to a situation of exquisitely institutionalized triviality and stupidity relative to the message carried by high-cost forms, because the content (due to financial risk) has a perceived requirement for high mediation in order to mitigate the failure-risk to the commodity. i am saying this to suggest that i do not think that "sitting around the fire" and engaging in highly mediated forms of machine-based communication are equivalent. Xbox, for example, charges a monthly fee in addition to the cost of entry and still carries advertisement. the WELL is littered with personal commercial/promotional messages in the form of "posts". the discussion of product placement advertising in film is well-known and abundant. in 1995 my email consisted of messages from friends. nowadays, because i have bought books online, i sometimes accidentally delete messages from friends because i get so many messages from advertisers. so it seems to me that the highest achievements of electronically-mediated communication appear in the end to center around development and delivery of the literary genre called the advertisement. now i understand that this is not a particularly new tendency, (i am thinking of the medieval model of production relative to works of the imagination) but there seems to me that with the increasing ability to tailor messages to smaller and smaller clumps of interests, there is no air, so to speak. is there a way out, or are we doomed to become the creatures that our demographic profiles want us to be?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 16 Feb 03 09:10
(pighed, you should mention to that lady named magdalen that the University of Texas at Austin is creating a degree program in game design. Bet she'd be a great candidate, if she wanted to fly south for the winter!)
sleek, streamlined art missile (jukevox) Sun 16 Feb 03 11:04
hello pig. I like your metaphor about the japanese garden for reactives. Particularly because they are designed with a kind of narrative: the paths and vistas are set up for you to discover and explore. They are almost always a limited world that loops back on itself:paths lead to a vista and then you loop back. There are gateways and entrances but rarely are they totally scripted to be viewed in one way only. If we are at the early stage of reactives (lumiere bros, running horses, magic lanterns), then we are probably learned/writing the rules of grammar right now. What are some of those rules? How can we parse reactive so we can teach ourselves to create them? (by the way, Grand Theft Auto may be one of the strongest candidates for advancing the narrative properties of video games. Still a lot of the run, kill, collect shiny things but character development and motivations are becoming richer in these games now)
pighed (pighed) Sun 16 Feb 03 14:24
believe it or not i think you and humdog are ultimately asking the same question. i think there's an intense relationship between Author and Authority. this is why people are nervous about something like encarta or AOL - too much authorial power leads my little sheepish brain down the washboard of ruin, and its no coincidence that things like the OED and translations of the bible happened at times of political rupture. so if, to be conservative, theres a relationship between them, and if, in reactives, theres something peculiar about the relationship of the author and the reader (and i can promise you there is), then i would ask us to think a little more about why we need more authors and if this is, in fact, a financial issue as well as an artistic one. simply put; changing the author changes the type of story and it changes how its sold. by having more authors - and by building systems that allow multiple authors to work together - we start to break down the commodification of users that we see places like AOL (and, uh, others) running wild with. and i think this is REALLY one of - if not the single most important - grammatical chunk of a reactive. multiple people run it. again, simply put: multiple authors, therefore, changes the type of story and how its sold. of course jack valenti is running around with blood on his lips; the man's terrified he'll lose authorial control. and he should be. he's an animal on the verge of extinction (and i'll be happy to play the taxidermist). i hear that ATITD is going to offer a linux client and, potentially, a p2p client as well. THAT's badass cause it means that one of the fundamental grammatical aspects of a reactive is being exercised: distributed authors. it also, to note back to humdog, we'll see changes in financial models coming up soon. and i'm with you, hummie, the ads suck. this distributed authority/authorship thing is interesting to me... its this idea of multiple perspectives, all looking in on the same point, each generating a new set of collaborative laws that get reflected out.... i think it's really a key piece of reactive grammar. i was going to call the book "Parallax" as a way of indicating how important this is. i'm glad i didnt (but the idea is still important). ok. another way to think about reactives is music. bach (or whoever) composes something, then there's a slew of people that interpret it. and their act of working together, each simultaneously interpreting it - and PLAYING - creates something unique. but i dont know if a piece of music is a story any more than driving a car around bends is a story. i mean... what MAKES a story is still a snag for me. ... is a rugby game a story? what if there's a narrator? what if you're the player? what's the difference between a game and a story? does it have to do with investment? does it have to do with reward? is it when we're done that we think we've gotten something valuable out of it? so i'd like someone to answer that for me - what is the difference, now, between a game and a story (i'm NOT being rhetorical, by the way).
sleek, streamlined art missile (jukevox) Sun 16 Feb 03 14:53
in your distributed author scenario, there are some pitfalls for me one is lowest common denominator narrative. Too many cooks. You are going for a balance of flavors and textures and yet too much spoils the mix. You start with dreams of Bach and you get a bad Phish Jam Band with no pleasure but for those who create it. Somebody or something has to edit. Something needs to guide a narrative. Even a brillian jazz improvisor starts with a fakebook or a structure to tear apart or filigree. My collaborative, hippie-brain loves multiple authors. My editor, elitist brain doesn't. It's why some people love Fan Fic and some people will only watch the original source material. That's why I was asking about the grammar or the rules, going with your game concept. What's going to turn out the best creative works? I suspect it's authors or editors who can set down an infrastructure and then gently balance the subauthors (those collaborators or players) who fill it out.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 16 Feb 03 18:29
pighedski, I'm wondering how distributed authorship relates to complexity and emergence? (My question's influenced by Joi Ito's evolving paper on emergency and democracy (http://joi.ito.com/static/emergentdemocracy.html), which is not narrative fiction but which does have distributed authorship).
pighed (pighed) Mon 17 Feb 03 06:49
jukevox, i definitely agree with you - there's a definite need for design. (see http://www.paulgraham.com/taste.html for some good read) if youre referring to specific rules i think that those are decided by the type of content that's used in the reactive. so, for example, ATITD has very different set of rules for interacting with other people than does quake tournament than does banja. i think that eventually, with larger narratives that involve more people the folks that have invested the most time will have the most to lose. so those folks, since they've already proven their interest in the story, end up with more control over the story (traditionally called "Wizards" in MUDs). then there's the person or people that have developed the architecture of the system and they have a different role. sometimes that role is held by the same person as one of these "wizards" (for lacking a better term) but i think it works best when they're different people. a third more authorial role is the role of the people that introduce new players/readers to the story. these folks end up doing a lot for suspension of impatience, but i think their role is lesser than the other two. then there's the readers/players of the story. in sum i tend to divide it into people that deal with the architecture + tech and people that deal with the metaphor + story. both roles are important and should work together (part of the reason why you cant design the interaction without the story and vice versa .. not for a good reactive, anyway). jonl, i took a look at joi's paper. in short, i can't parse your question. maybe if you could be more specific? .. and even then i'm not sure i'll be able to answer.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 17 Feb 03 08:30
If you have distributed authorship (therefore a more complex and decentralized model), how do you shape the narrative or how does it emerge from the collective authorship? How do you handle the author-side editorial stuff - via backchannels?
nape fest (zorca) Tue 18 Feb 03 09:56
i believe that pighed is on the road right now. he has quite an itinerary planned during the course of this interview. but i'm interested in what some of you think about the future of narrative. it seems inevitable that we will see a great flurry of interactive narratives, particularly now that game boxes can so easily connect to the internet. i look forward to a few shakespeares, hell, or even o'henrys coming to the fore on that front. so but how do some of you feel about the fate of traditional linear narrative. assuming that interactive forms become inexpensive and ubiquitous, will there still be a desire for single plotline stories?
Call Out Research Hook #1 (kadrey) Tue 18 Feb 03 10:35
i don't believe that one will replace the other any more than i believe that digital photogrpahy will replace film photography. each sits nicely next to the other and performs a unique, though similar, task. in the end, each can enhance the other.
sleek, streamlined art missile (jukevox) Tue 18 Feb 03 12:48
I agree with Kadrey. i think the traditional single plotline narrative has a lot of juice left. Movies, books, pop songs are generally focused on a single narrative and there is a lot of life left in them. I do think it is interesting that for the new forms that it does require more authors and more collaborators. You need a lot of people to make a video game. There are more vectors (technical, plot, character, visual) to consider and the "author" has to start wearing a lot of hats or delegate like a motherfucker.
nape fest (zorca) Tue 18 Feb 03 12:55
the author becomes more of a wrangler, really! i very much look forward to watching how these narratives evolve, but i think it will be quite a challenge to sustain creative tension and compelling story arc. many will devolve into flat game scenarios, bound by rules and the imagination of the lowest common denominator. i wonder if it be the case that single individuals or cadres of arbiters end up controlling the storyline. there is great potential for cults of personality to grow up.
pighed (pighed) Tue 18 Feb 03 13:04
(yeh, i'm in amstedam now, at www.waag.org, a research center of sorts. thanks zorc.) > [kadrey] each can enhance the other. right, definitely; i'm all about enhancements (i mean, uh, yeh). about 90% of my image production time these days is spent digitally integrating 3D models, photos, and paint. .... http://boar.com/paints/02-09-04/ this was a painting exhibit i had last summer; every one of these was a story of a catholic saint. i used as many media at once as possible. 3d models, photos (digital and film), paint, ink, paper, watercolor, oils, sculpture, photoshop, soup, chickens, cars, gravel.... EVERYTHING. but back to zorca's question: i dont think anything will go away, not really, but i do wonder why it is we are moving towards more personal forms of storyline? this idea of the cult of personality seems key. i think the story that the individual person has is what we want more of anyway. as for creative tension, i think these MUDs or MMUORPGs things will go away once we get good solid AI that has some spunk to it built into games. we need AIs with personality instead so that players dont have to bring as much to it. automated soul, yknow?
sleek, streamlined art missile (jukevox) Tue 18 Feb 03 13:13
which I think Mark alludes to in his mention of "wizards" in muds. These primary authors grok the rules early and often. They become world-runners and they start playing king or god. Sometimes you get a benvolent god, sometimes you get george bush. you can get conflicting storylines, which can create good tension, where the struggle becomes the plot. Or sometimes bad tension where nothing coheres and everyone's interest wanes. So the notion of narrative as a competitive sport or game is apt. There's a reason we watch professional athletes more often than amateurs. But it may still be that we humans prefer to listen rather than become authors or subauthors. That the author we like best is the Author-ity because the best stories are those with a coherant plot from a single mind. I do rather like the idea of that single mind needing to be a bit skitzo to write good reactives, tho.
Call Out Research Hook #1 (kadrey) Tue 18 Feb 03 13:25
>we need AIs with personality instead so that players dont have >to bring as much to it. is that the point or is it that we still need something outside of our own brains to tell us stories? we still need variety and surprise. my worry with personalization taken to an extreme is that we end up with a world of navel- gazing fan fiction.
Call Out Research Hook #1 (kadrey) Tue 18 Feb 03 13:26
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