Inkwell: Authors and Artists
pighed (pighed) Sat 22 Feb 03 09:53
whats going to be really fascinating will be to see how it learns and how smart it gets from talking to other people. guiding that interactivity, and chiseling out a personality from a pile of internet goo will be odd. i'd like to ask - there are a lot of writers in here - how we anticipate the reader? in other words every book has an "audience" and even as we sit around fires and tell stories there is still an implied interaction with the listener. there is ALWAYS some interaction with the reader, regardless of whether it is inside-the-skull (as with literature) or outside-the-skull (as with video games). as a writer how do you consider a reader? how do you make something that can be interesting for many people, yet still preserve an inherent "design" as jukevox, i think, put it? in short, how do we consider readers when we write (let's start with simple text, for now, then move towards consideration of reactives). ??
nape fest (zorca) Sat 22 Feb 03 09:55
haha. slip! so many questions...
pighed (pighed) Sat 22 Feb 03 09:55
slip! two questions.
The Fucked-Up Piano Chicks (magdalen) Sat 22 Feb 03 22:36
he keeps turning the tables on us and asking questions so's he can slip away... i find myself in lots o' conversations about the reader (whom i always call the "alleged reader" of my work -- i'm sure that means something, like, deep and everything). i write stuff that's just for me, but i *work on* stuff that's for other people. i don't know who the fuck they are or what kinds of words they like, but they're floating around out there... that's part of the charm and the mystery. i love that i don't know them, that i can't know them. but as i get older, i find myself having more and more respect for the alleged reader. hello, dear person reading my words, i am indeed honoured that you would bring your brain and emotions up to bat and let me lob a softball of tighly-tangled words at you.
nape fest (zorca) Mon 24 Feb 03 14:39
sorry. i was out of touch myself over the weekend. so but pighed asks: as a writer how do you consider a reader? how do you make something that can be interesting for many people, yet still preserve an inherent "design" i'll take a stab at that. for more than a dozen years, i wrote journalism, which is only occasionally narrative. but still, it was important to write in a way that engaged readers and gave them confidence in the information. sometimes i had a good sense of who the readers were, particularly when writing about certain technology advances or issues. i could employ specific language that allowed shortcuts and inferences. i could make jokes or references that enriched without bogging the text down with too much explanation. but the simpler the story, the more difficult it can be to write in a way that is universally appropriate. for general interest writing, i would often imagine my mother as the reader. she is intelligent, well-read and broad- minded, but has little pop culture knowledge and has rarely left the small town i grew up in. i would try to anticipate her questions and knit in a little more background info and overall context. these were straitjackets, in a way, but they taught me a great deal about writing effectively and for broad audiences. this all came into play a few years later when i was writing text for websites and scripts for interactive television. in both cases, the primary goal was to inspire the reader/viewer to respond. in the case of interactive television, the feedback was immediate and sometimes maddening. people used to ask, 'will the viewer click?' the response rates were amazing. almost always double digits. sometimes as high as thirty or forty percent. people WANTED to vote in polls and see the overall totals on the next screen. they WANTED to collect trivia and take quizzes. they even wanted to sign up for mailing lists and buy things. i believe that these numbers will come down over time, that it was the novelty that drove a lot of the response, but they still amazed and confounded. the maddening part was that to get these response rates, you had to dumb everything down to a remarkable extent. the middle of the bell curve is a stark and cartoonish place. on rare occasions -- writing trivia for a scifi series, for instance -- one could afford to play a little more. but the larger the audience, the flatter the content had to be to see real numbers. consequently, i think it becomes increasingly important to identify your audience before any 'design' takes place. if the project is aimed at a smaller, more distinct audience with an already established fan base and argot, you can present some truly wonderful designs that explore the most exciting fringes of these emerging disciplines. if, on the other hand, you actually expect to make money at it, then it would seem that for some long while yet, you have to level off the sophistication and depth to get the kinds of response rates that warrant investment. i feel kind of weird saying this. and yet, some years in the field have battered the message home again and again. which is, i guess why i brought up my only half jocular question about whether sex (and i could easily have added the other two members of the guaranteed $$$ troika, violence and gambling) might be the 'killer app' that actually gets the hardware and expertise in the, um, hands of the participants. now that i'm attempting actual fiction, i think about the issue a lot. it's probably why i'm arguing here and there for the co-existence of straight linear narrative. i still sometimes wanna read a novel beginning to end or watch a movie that transports me. any successful narrative is reactive, even if not really participatory. in the best cases, i walk away amused, charmed, piqued or troubled. but i suspect that my own future will include more interactive design and i am anxious that it evolve in ways that support the richest, most engaging and rewarding interactions. which is why i'm glad people like mark are working their way through the miasma and beaming back reports from the front. sheesh. i've raved on here. and only touched the surface. it would be great to hear from some others on the topic...
Call Out Research Hook #1 (kadrey) Tue 25 Feb 03 00:55
criminals and artists are always the first ones to make use of new tech like the one pighed's talking about (the military sometimes sneaks in through the backdoor). i expect the smut biz will be all over interactive narrative when, like the rest of us, they figure out a workable model for it. my worry with developingtheform is figuring out a way to make it robust and intense enough to keep people engaged for the long haul. i'm afraid that it could too easily become pet-rock technology--a novelty item people don't take seriously. part of the development will not be developing the form, but the restrictions on the form. i think art is shaped more by its restrictions than anything else. haiku isn't like a sonnet, even though they use the same tools. interative narrative will have to develop some interestign restictions to keep it from being a parlor game. me, i look forward to finding out the rules and restrictions. and, of course, crushing them under my heel. but respectfully.
pighed (pighed) Tue 25 Feb 03 09:07
greetings from the snowy hinterlands of umea, sweden. its sunny and white here. the people seem like bunnies. next week i head to sri lanka.. and my kuwaiti visa just passed so i can head over to the middle east and do a little investigative imaging. > i expect the smut biz will be all over interactive narrative mr K; i actually already sell just that. its not a terribly high valence of interactivity but each month i send off a 10-page flash hoohaw with tits, a little story, and a patch of pink for erotica sights. its nice to do, cause it pushes me to write and draw and shoot material i might not normally bother with. but what i like about it is that we know who the readers are and what they want. its a lot like video games - you're hunting around for a specific response; as the author you're working to get a certain secretion from a special gland (for both the porn and the vid.game). and that's a nice convenience, to have that gland as a target. but isnt all writing a process of personalizing what you write specifically for the reader? it seems that this happens both when we write about Important Issues (love, death, friendship, loss, etc - these things that apply to everyone, so an author is safe to bring them up as questions) and also when we write about Everyday issues (stephen king is particularly good at this - conveying the sense of smell, the sounds, the sights, all of the visceral and tiny items that often escape unnoticed but, when read, draw you into the story - again, things that everyone experiences) .. or even things like camera cuts from first person to third (which it seems to me we're continually doing on a cognitive level, anyway). in short; i think all narrative tools that authors use serve to bring a reader somehow closer to the story. for myself, and with my websites, i'm trying to make the story as personal as i know how. in my case it's to photograph and paint and write about what i do. i've gotten into a bit of a pickle, however, because its SO personal to me that its hard to make it interactive. which tells me that my approach is off somehow. i've tried to appeal to readers by asking them to send me questions to ask (SEX.Q photos project) or buildings to climb (hedspace photo project) but it always feels a bit taped on, as if i'm doing it for the novelty rather than the grace. but either way, it seems that stories are in the process of getting more and more personal. i think this is what a reactive is all about; personalization. when people were talking about "interactive television" back in the day it was all about how many channels and choices. which is a kind of primitive personalization. 5000 channels of porn; personalize your fantasy. ... bleh. why is that such a revolting thought?
(humdog) Tue 25 Feb 03 13:22
piggie requests that i add the following text to this discussion: and i quote: "the interactive model right now reminds me of french fiction, of the french view of time and plot. i talked about this with someone a while back, relative to french criticism and analytics. we were saying that there is something in the french language that permits more access to the dream-time. then i read in a book: "english is too precise". "i think it is extremely sigificant that the book's view of interactive appears to be primarily visual rather than traditionally narrative. the visual POV would assume a beholder, an "all-at-once" or at least at minimum a not-necessarily-linear approach to perception. "the genius of crutch was that there were branches and all the branches were interesting and valid and all the branches added weight to each of the other branches, like botticelli's evocation of the figures around venus add weight to the mystery of venus. venus remains a mystery although we feel able to call her by a name. "we are happy that no one, so far, is able to satisfactorily perform the academic e-visceration of Venus. "the so-called 'writer' (not a good name in this medium) consciously or unconsciously assumes a level of knowledge in the reader(s), both the "model" reader and the "empirical" reader (definitions supplied upon request). the "writer" to be symmetrical must have i think an analogy: ie "model" writer, "empirical" writer, both of which are names for strategies. "in interactive/reactive i believe the book suggests the opportunity to name the strategies/writers: ie humdog will write X strategy or it is assumed that humdog would write X strategy, so that it is possible to name a "model" or "strategy" of humdogian plot where "text"= "strategy". "in a reactive reading of gone with the wind for example (and i mention this because it is a comment i have heard nearly every time somebody mentions gone with the wind,there is an alternate desired version of the work where rhett MUST give a damn even though giving a damn destroys the tension and sense of the work. -humdog 24 feb 2003
The Fucked-Up Piano Chicks (magdalen) Tue 25 Feb 03 18:58
letting all of everyone's thoughts soak in... my comment is going to be just sideways to it. i'm thinking about identity and the act of putting on someone else's skin. that's part of what we love about a story, i think. we -- *i* -- don't just want the "narrative" per se, the structure and the plot and the who did what when. i want to mindmeld with the storyteller around the campfire. i want to *become* the character(s) i'm reading about in the novel. this identity-fuck was the first thing that attracted me to the idea of being online, when i first read about it in the late 1980s. what little i've played of modern (post-Donkey Kong) video games leads me to believe i fall into a classic gender category with that. the boys want to have their glands activated or wahtever Pighed said; here is the girl, do this, do that, wank, splatter, be done with it. here are the Orcs, here is your sword, kill kill jump twist slash kill kill defend kill kill, be done with it. frankly i find it hopelessly tedious. but i do like putting the clothes on the Barbies and setting up the Sims in their house and i guess sort of imagining that i am whatever character i'm playing with.
nape fest (zorca) Wed 26 Feb 03 09:36
interesting, tiff. watching how this all plays out around gender roles and cultural vectors should be fun. pighed has been on the road a lot the past year or so. i wonder if you'd be willing to talk a little about how you see interactive media, particularly narrative, evolving globally. is there any hope for a rich bed of varied approaches seeded by all these social differences? sometimes it seems that television and corporatized pop culture are dooming us to a homogenization, but this seems an arena that might spawn unique scenarios. thoughts?
(humdog) Thu 27 Feb 03 07:30
history shows us that many interesting and meaningful tech innovations (and i mean the USEFUL ones) begin their lives as toys. i would tend to strip the gender thing out because the gender business is mutable and subject to social and cultural forces that the gender business itself does not control. gender-as-cultural-force is something that is acted upon, it reacts more acts. there is nothing in western european middle/middle upper class gender identity construction that contains anything that would resonate as "oppression" or "categorization" anywhere except within western circles of certain economic and social beliefs. as a cultural force, gender is the sand down near the bottom of the cultural rock pile. gender is a construction of the academic social science Phd factory. the only thing that works is "exotic other" and that can be ANYBODY to ANYBODY. exotic other is in the eye of the beholder.
The Fucked-Up Piano Chicks (magdalen) Thu 27 Feb 03 15:34
well, back when i bothered to read a bunch of academic hoo-hah about this kind of stuff (early-mid-1990s), girls and games were a big topic. girls and computers in general. cuz girls weren't doing it as much as boys were. now women are 50% of the online world (as opposed to the estimated 15% when i first got online). looks like that bit of bad gender programming sorted itself out pretty darned quickly. the point is merely that i reserve the right to refer to patterns that have appeared to relate to gender. specifically, so that it can be understood properly should i mention such a thing again in this topic: American, Western, modern, current-day. personally i am white middle class West Coast and all those usual boring liberal things. so there you have it. context. they did studies. girls liked to dress up barbies. girls liked to be involved in ther *relationship* aspect of interactive digital games. (please see Brenda Laurel's stuff for more on this.) boys liked to shoot stuff. these are generalizations, but they happened to be true. i'm not sure what the exotic other has to do with any of this. i'm just sayin': my reaction to certain video game stuff matches up to some gender patterns that have been scientifically observed in the past. maybe we can find something meaningful there as we consider what can be done with "interactive narrative."
pighed (pighed) Fri 28 Feb 03 11:02
so what do the girls like to read? i spent most of today helping design a system - a real, physical system - in which kids walk up to it and they can explore the globe through this form of interactive narrative that takes place a ffew years in the future. it was designed for girls around the age of 14. i, of cours, said we should have nekkit chix and guns. but now you're making me wonder.. nekkit boys and guns?
nape fest (zorca) Fri 28 Feb 03 11:20
ha. nekkit always good! and props just add to the fun. and not to chide our charming interviewee for asking questions, i'm hoping that a few of our fine readers choose to answer, but i believe that the official time for this exchange is nearly up. perhaps pighed would be willing to leave us with a few words about how he thinks interactive narrative might actually manifest in the next few years? what can we look forward to? how can we help?
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 28 Feb 03 11:42
Girls do like adventure books, of course, but osme of the adventure is social, and some of the suspense has to do with relationships. Female protagonists help! Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden are two girl detective series popular forever -- Little House on the Prairie was such an enduring series of girl's faves that it was a natural for a TV series. Island of the Blue Dolphins was an award-winning survival tale. I googled "girls book list popular reading" and grabbed these pages quickly -- take a look at the plot synopses on these for a start: http://www.bookloversden.com/gseries.html http://www.randomhouse.com/BB/promos/greatbooks/booklist.html Samples: Wrede, Patricia. Dealing with Dragons. 1990. Harcourt Brace. Ages 10-13. Cimorene finds being a princess so boring that she takes a job working for a dragon! The first in a popular, funny series. Avi. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. 1990. Orchard. Ages 10-14. "Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty," opens this thrilling tale of a proper young lady who changes when she gets caught up in a mutiny. A top-notch adventure. Or seen on this Teen Angst reading site: http://www.grouchy.com/angst/reviews.html >Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging >Confessions of Georgia Nicolson >by Louise Rennison >Imagine if Harriet (from Harriet the Spy) grew >up, became obsessed with boys, was a fan of >Claire Danes and that old television series "My >So-Called Life," and lived in England... Or, >imagine a younger, more naive version of >Bridget Jones (from B. J.'s Diary)... well, then >you'd have a bit of an idea what Georgia >Nicolson is like. She's sharp and smart-assed, >pouty, and as melodramatic as an opera diva. Also, there's an old topic from the WELL sex conf about this subject, with a lot of interesting comments, from almost ten years ago.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 28 Feb 03 11:43
Can't find that one now... but this may be interesting too: <muchomedia.266>
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 28 Feb 03 11:45
Oops, mucho slippage. Zorca's call for a summary is totally timely. The time has flown!
pighed (pighed) Mon 3 Mar 03 09:42
> willing to leave us with a few words about how he thinks > interactive narrative might actually manifest in the next > few years? what can we look forward to? how can we help? i think about this more than i'd like and its a tricky thing to talk about cause the possibilities seem infinite and, finally, dependant on the increasing imagination of authors (+ tech). which seem limited only by their historic foundation and preceding ideas. if my theory that interaction in literary forms has increased and personal perspectives have becoming increasingly rich from greek epics on down to modern essays, then i dont see why other forms of narrative wouldnt follow the trend. my suspicion is that over the next decade i suspect we'll see an emergence of increasingly political/social forms of reactives and a gradual decrease of violence as the sole reason for player motivation. A Tale In The Desert and Banja being two examples. but dont get me wrong; i think violence will always hold an important role - as will sex - because they're important to how we live and, let's face it, they sell. i imagine it being a tree. right now we're only at the point where the roots meet the trunk. over the coming decades the artform would improve, solidify, find its direction, and once that has been established then it will branch out, with primary trends appearing. since interaction isnt based in digital media, and since there are thousands of different literary and visual art forms, genres, trends, etc then i expect things to diversify in a couple of decades based, largely, on the combinations of existing technologies and techniques. examples: ubiquitous.computing+architecture, print+audio, AI+vid.games, VR+video, mobile+everything... after a few decades i have a hard time imagining limits. what happens when we see something like diamond age, in which narrative realities overlap our actual realities, and 'ractors are paid on an individual level? who isnt an actor or author then? when VR and SMME are so neatly stitched into our daily lives we see walkmans replaced by interactive books? sci.fi and so on. i wonder if hollywood will be displaced by some other center that's being steered by people more receptive to reactives than folks like Valenti and Eisner. i wonder if a center will appear at all. i wonder if there is a chance to invent financial models for art that are based on profitable trade rather than monetary sales. i wonder how to get media companies like AOL off their ass and to take notice of the potential they have to improve what they do. i wonder about university programs adopting new ideas and definitions of narrative. i also wonder about what the hell we should call it all (reactives or interactive narrative or narrative intelligence systems, just movies). for myself, i'm spending my time focusing on the integration of AI technologies with narratives and art. i think this will be a fruitful branch to follow. its at least more interactive and has a strong character (hopefully). then, if that's interactive, i'm also concentrating on increasingly personal forms of authorship (such as my work at http://www.boar.com/days/). once these personal forms of narrative can be folded into interactive authorship where the reader can affect the plot of, essentially, the author's life, my guess is we'll see a whole new set of work drop off of those spliced branches. as authors, we're lucky to be alive these days. we have the chance to watch something new being born, to help it grow, and to throw out own ideas into the pile. everything seems to be exploding, and we all have a can of gas we can can throw.
nape fest (zorca) Mon 3 Mar 03 12:38
thanks, mark. lovely summing up. i very much look forward to a more interactive future and am glad that individuals like yourself are committing this much intelligence and effort toward its evolution.i encourage anyone with an interest in this emerging area to check out mark's three websites now and then for updates. http://www.boar.com http://www.bore.com http://www.boor.com i believe mark is right now winging his way to sri lanka for a bit more, um, research. and while this interview is officially over, i hope that anyone wishing to contribute to an ongoing conversation on the topic will feel free to do so here. cheers...
The Phantom of the Arts Center (tinymonster) Mon 3 Mar 03 18:55
Gail -- Wow! Somebody remembers Trixie Belden! > Girls do like adventure books, of course,... > Female protagonists help! This made Neil Gaiman's _Coraline_ leap to my mind....
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 4 Mar 03 09:10
That would be an interesting project!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 4 Mar 03 09:49
I want to thank <pighed>, <zorca>, et al for this fascinating conversation about the present and future of interactive narrative. Please feel free to continue posting, though the designated two weeks has passed.
pighed (pighed) Fri 7 Mar 03 00:55
in sri lanka now... the trip out was a, well, trip. our flight out of italy got canned due to US troops hogging the rnuway, so we go reroutede through to kuwait. i'm in sri lanka now and meeting with a local here on how they have some interesting local forms of indian narratives - will post again in a couple weeks..
The Fucked-Up Piano Chicks (magdalen) Fri 7 Mar 03 16:22
have phun piggie.
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