4 genres of Narrative in Digital Media

Ryan, M. 2001. Beyond Myth and Metaphor: Narrative in Digital Media.
http://www.gamestudies.org/0101/ryan/

Definition of “Narrative”

Ryan (2001) defined narrative as “mental representation that can be evoked by many media and many types of signs”.  It is not limited to story telling, literature, fiction or novels.  Moreover, he pointed out four elements which compose of narrative;  a world (setting), populated by individuals (characters), who participate in actions and happenings (events, plot), through which they undergo change (temporal dimension)(p.583).

-Narrative is not coextensive with literature, fiction, or the novel.
-Narrativity is independent of tellability.
-Narrative is not limited to written or oral storytelling.  It is a mental representation that can be evoked by many media and many types of signs.
-Narrativity is a matter of degree: postmodern novels are not nearly so narrative as those of the nineteenth century.
-As a mental representation, narrative consists of a world (setting), populated by individuals (characters), who participate in actions and happenings (events, plot), through which they undergo change (temporal dimension).

4 genres of Narrative in digital media

In terms of digital narrative, most significant element is “interactivity”, which means “the ability to respond to changing conditions in the global state of the computer”.  The resource of interactivity is users’ input.  Ryan categorized interactivity of digital media narrative as 4 types.

  • internal interactivity
  • external interactivity
  • exploratory interactivity
  • ontological interactivity

internal / external interactivity

Internal interactivity allowed users to project themselves as members of the stories.  On the other hand, external interactivity places users  outside the fictional world even though they can interact with characters in the story.

exploratory  / ontological interactivity

In exploratory narrative, users explore the fictional world to looking for information or new tasks.  Ontological narrative sends  users to the history of the virtual world on different forking paths such as parallel world.

 

Reading note

1. The metaphor of the Narrative Interface

Brenda Laurel. 1990. The Art of Human Computer Interface Design.
Abbe Don 1990.

Oral storytelling is an inherently interactive situation.
question by audience.

2. Hypertext and the Myth of the Aleph

“Aleph ” a short story by Jorge Luis Borges
Aleph : small, bound object that expands into an infinity of spectacles.
ex: Michale Joyce .1995.
George Landow. 1997. Hypertext 2.0

narrative
-narrative discourse
-mental representation

hypertext : “reconfigure narrative”
-no dramatic difference from traditional narrative patterns.
-plot is different: plot changes all the time, but it has constant parameters.
-hypertext does not destroy narrative.

“Hypertext is like a construction kit”

Wolfgang Iser. 1980 “fill in the blanks”
fragments are implicitly ordered by relations
jigsaw puzzle

3. Virtual Reality Narrative, and the Myth of the Holodeck

Janet Murray. 1997. “Hamlet on the Holodeck”
VR technology Michael Heim. 1993.

Star Trek “The plot of this novel is generated “live”, through the interaction between the human participant and the computer-created virtual characters.

Holodeck model is questionable: technological, algorithmic, psychological.

4. Narrativity and Interactivity

Q. Which types of stories are suitable for digital media?
it depends on “the ability to respond to changing conditions in the global state of the computer”

the resource interactivity
-user’s input
-responsiveness of the system to the actions of the user.

4 interactivity types
-internal / external
-exploratory / ontological
by Espen Aarseth typology .1997.

internal mode: users project themselves as members of the fictional world.
external mode: users are situated outside the visual world.
-personal and impersonal perspective

exploratory mode: users navigate the display, move to new observation points, alter their perspective, or examine new objects in order to learn more about the virtual world.
ontological mode: the decisions of the users send the history of the virtual world on different forking paths.

1. External-exploratory interactivity
novels of Michael Joyce, Stuart Moulthrop, Mark Amerika
-freedom to choose route across a textual space

2. Internal-exploratory interactivity
Brenda Laurel
-mystery plot
-computer game Myst (exploring island and solve puzzles)
-spatial narrative, main theme is travel and exploration
-narrative of place (ex: Marble Springs by Deena Larsen)

3. External-ontological interactivity
Holding the strings of the characters, from a position external to bothe the time and the space of the fictional world.
-I’m your man. 1998.
-“virtual history narratives” “If Cleopatra’s nose had been shorter”
-small random events that lead to large-scale differences (butterfly principle chaos theory)
-narrative coherence is impossible to maintain in a truly complex system of links.
-ex: Choose Your Own Adventure.

4. Internal-ontological interactivity
computer games of the action and adventure
-Doom, Quake, Hali-life

Conclusion
3 forms of digital narrative
-largely virtual genre of VR
-holodeck narrative
computer games and literary hypertext

Point
1. The truly distinctive feature of digital media is interactivity.  This feature enables the user to choose her or his way through the text at run time.
2. Interactivity does not make it easy to tell stories, because a an narrative interpretation is a response to a linear structure that is built into the text, not a type of meaning freely created by the reader out of any set of data.
3. Yet without some degree of narrativity, digital media cannot become a major presence on the arts and entertainment scene.

References
Ryan, M. 2002. Beyond Myth and Metaphor: Narrative in Digital Media. Poetics Today. Volume 23. Issue 4. p.581-609.

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