Politics and Interactivity

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

Interactivity is an interesting and volatile issue. I’m excited because Chris Crawford’s Storytronics seems close to realization and hopefully some revelations along with it. My connection to the idea of an interactive story–where resolutions may be affected by reader protagonists–is spatial in the sense that people can arrange their world at small and large scales. We interact with the world at several levels: psychologically, cognitively, emotively, and kinetically. Some experiences are passive, others more agressive in terms of imprinting ourselves onto surfaces. I consider building a wall as an intensely un-interactive, whereas building a conversation, exchanging gifts, or sharing an experience are highly interactive because in these three cases I am in the presence of agency with which I must negociate.

If the stones fall, they don’t laugh at my broken fingers. How about being chased by hornets? They have minds of their own, right? Obviously a person can’t stand their ground and reason with them. These are really passive or reactive situations in a context of interactivity as a means of describing the affective quality of experience. But this may also be a distinction among technologies. A book-based novel can be manipulated, but it’s protagonist, Arthur, for example, cannot be undone from the book. In the book, we experience the story by exploring it, and that’s exactly what we should be doing with it. The right novel can change the reader. In this case, the meaning of the book or its interpretive depth (our cognitive interactions) has nothing to do with its proportional interactivity. Does interpretative depth depend upon the apparatus?

I wonder if this has anything to do with systems of politics and governing. Democracy, broadly speaking, would appear to have a high degreee of interactivity since people can directly shape its outcome, whereas a totalitarian system would have low degree if confined to the definition offered above.

8 responses to “Politics and Interactivity”

  1. susan says:

    Have you downloaded it and played around in it yet? Storytron, I mean; you lost me towards the end with the politics.

  2. Steve says:

    I have yet to play with the development environment. I’m just trying to conceptualize at the moment. Storytron makes sense. You build possibilities, rather than plots or lines of narrative, much like Second life, only with an emphasis on story. We should come at this together like we did with Facade.

  3. susan says:

    Yes, I was rather intrigued by what it promises. I’m going to download and check it out.

  4. susan says:

    In rereading your post, it brings back a thought of a couple days ago and a post I wrote about the nature of interactivity in hyperfiction. I’m not so sure it’s reader choice but rather guesswork or curiosity that takes (and thus makes) the paths. The reader makes a decision to click on a link knowing that it will bring him elsewhere out of the immediate reading environment, but he does not know where it leads. So the choice is to select to move, or take door number 3, without knowing where he is going–just away.

    Of course too, the writer himself often does not know where the story is leading. In writing or planning hyperfiction, more concern need be given to this instead of letting the character meander at will.

  5. Steve says:

    The cool thing about Storytron, however, is that paths don’t play a role in the experience, at least paths as conceived in hypertext. In this post the idea came together in the form of a reactive program that listens and builds on the fly.

    In Storytron, the designer creates a world full of potential webs of verbs, addresses roles for actors. In this sense, paths come together as they are made, unlike in Facade where the outcome is still fixed and scripted. It’s a great concept I think.

    Tell me how things go. This is definitely a presentation thing for sharing.

  6. susan says:

    Haven’t downloaded it yet–it almost appears as if IE as a browser isn’t compatible for the program. Have to check it out later tonight.

    It is different. What I like thinking about lately is the natural pattern of thinking, probably started up by reading Faulkner and now some books such as Landow’s Hypertext 3.0 that make me more aware of the associations the brain makes, whether reading, writing or just sitting there looking at the sky.

  7. Josh says:

    It is an interesting program. Too bad the tutorial just ends since I’m not sure how to actually see the results of all the definition setting.

    As a writer, I find a program such as this (potentally) very useful as a tool. Sometimes I can’t figure out how a character might react to a situation. So I’d build my character into a program such as this, then try different situations to see how he’d react, and finally write the result that I liked best from what I saw. Or perhaos I wasn’t comfortable with how the character reacted at all, which would lead me to redefine my character’s attributes.

  8. susan says:

    Josh, that would be an interesting use of the program because it would allow less of ourselves into the reaction and more of the character’s own personality (as created by the writer, of course). Then again, it just allows a true/false prearranged trait, and people don’t always do what’s predictable or natural to them. Interesting question that you’ve brought up here, since one of the fine dramatic points of story is the element of surprise in finding a character doesn’t react as expected.