Brian Kim Stefans shares a handout discussing the tropes we see in literature. The talk serves as both an overview of criticism and as a survey of the horizon of our current vision. The “Holy Grails” of Electronic Literature he identifies struck me as particularly apt:

1. Writing Without the “Author”: To write a piece that can be read several different ways – none predetermined by the “author” – which will provide distinctive, compelling reading experiences each time – that is, displacement of the “author” onto the algorithm.
2. Reading Beyond the “Page”: To write text for an environment that serves a textual function at nearly all times while maintaining the illusion of a dynamic, three-dimensional, processed space that is moving as far away from the “page” as possible.
3. Writing/Reading as Gameplay: To create a programmed object that serves equally as a piece of literature and which also serves as a “game” with all the “fun” implied in such a title — that is, to in­corporate the user completely into the world of algorithm and the world of the screenspace.

Stefans also includes 7 “crises,” including crisis of signification i(n which the word becomes split from it’s meaning), crisis of eschatology (in which we don’t know where we are in the story), and crisis of subjectivity (in which point of view is skewed)

If one 16-year-old boy’s story is any indication, questions of digital archiving are plaguing more aspects of our life than just the archives of digital literature. The young author fears that indeed much of his personal history has been carried out through a digital medium and will consequently be lost.

What happens if, in three years, I want to go back through all my communications with my girlfriend? I may not be using an iPhone in three years, so all of my messages on Whatsapp Messenger will be gone. I definitely won't be using the same mobile phone, so all of my SMS's will be gone. My Gmail storage will have filled up, so I won't have any of our emails any more. I doubt I'll even still be using Facebook - there's all of that communication gone.

This kind of thinking is provocative, but realistically the personal historical records we used to have in the good old days were letters. We didn’t record phone conversations or face-to-face talks. Much of this anxiety seems to stem from the fact that so much of our communication now can be archived in ways that were never before possible.

Leave history to the historians. Save as much as you care to, but don’t stress about losing those conversations, kid. You’ll still have the memories, and your writing will endure whether it’s on paper or not.

Almost every serious gamer I know has at one point flirted with the idea of working for a game development company. Game Dev Story capitalizes on this desire with a loose story about starting a small company and making it larger. The player controls all aspects of game production from concept through production and sales and marketing.

Tom Armitage explains that the game "boiled down, is nothing more than a tarted-up spreadsheet," but that it suggests an interesting case of player-generated story. Though there is little direct narrative, there is (necessarily) an underlying narrative framework without which the real narrative would not be possible. The game offers suggestive bits that imply a greater story world beyond that with which the player directly interacts.

Players do create narrative through the small amounts of input:

In that little flight of creativity, the game opens up: the player starts writing their own story. The player isn't just typing names into boxes. They're saying the words aloud in your head - and that conjures images of box-art, screengrabs, scathing magazine reviews; cardboard standees packed full of buggy, terrible, detective puzzle games, waiting to be flogged.
Game Dev Story exemplifies a kind of mechanical storytelling: stories told not through text or voice-acting, but through coherent systems that cannot help but generate stories. I'm not waving my hands in my air here and making an excuse - "Oh, it has emergent narrative"; my point is that, in good mechanical storytelling, narrative cannot help but emerge. It's designed into the system.

Volkswagen ran several cool experiments to test whether they can change behavior by making things more “fun.”

In one example, they installed response mechanisms in subway stairs to make them look and sound like pianos when people walked up them. The results were that way more people took the stairs; judging by the videos, they had a blast doing it. A second example involved making garbage cans emit a cartoonish falling noise when trash is thrown in. Clearly there is some inherent response to haptic experiences and agency at play here.

The "Fun Theory" experiments were later turned into an online and television ad campaigns.

Lori Emerson issues a Call for Papers for ‘Electronic Literature and the “Interface Free”’at next year”s MLA convention Jan 5-8, 2012.

Given that, as Lisa Gitelman puts it, “media represent and delimit representing,” this special session seeks papers on how electronic literature creates, responds to, or reworks reading/writing interfaces; papers may also explore the relationship between electronic literature and the recent turn to the “interface-free.”

300 word abstracts and a brief bio due to Emerson by March 15, 2011.

Propect Magazine reveals their 10 most influential minds of the digital future. Many of the names will be familiar to scholars of digital technologies, but some may not be. The list also contains influential runners-up, including author Neal Stephenson, Chris “M00t” Poole of 4chan fame , and Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

(I would be surprised if more than two of the ten nominees have written significant code or designed meaningful hardware in the last decade--MB)

The Boy With Nails for Eyes is an inspired digital serial comic from Shaun Gardiner. Each panel is revealed slowly, utilizing time as well as space to tell the story and control the narrative pacing in real time. The sound and art design complement each other perfectly to capture a very dark and gritty mood. The audio is not intrusive (except where it's supposed to be), and the artwork is fantastic.

My only complaint would be that the text's font requires the reader to zoom in on the text. In such a complete multimedia experience, one that does not otherwise require clicking the text, the zooming feels superficial and slows down what is otherwise a wonderfully immersive experience.


The 10-minute rule in movies states that a movie should hook the viewer in 10 minutes. Video games require a greater investment than movies in terms of both time and money. How do we convince players that they have invested wisely?

Leanne C. Taylor explores ways that games go about hooking players Many offer an opening cinematic episode as well as tutorial gameplay to entice players. By the time players have finished the first objective, they have a pretty good idea of the what the game is about.

Taylor argues that successful games tend to leave the player asking one of three questions (or some combination thereof) at the end of the introduction:

  • What has happened? (History)
  • What's happening now? (Mystery)
  • What's going to happen? (Story)

Though she does acknowledge the importance of gameplay in a brief sentence, I think it's worth noting that when she says "successful," what she means is "narratively successful." Certainly, Rock Band doesn't grip me with it's opening cinematic; I’m initially drawn to it because the controller looks like a drum set and gives me a very good idea of what the gameplay will be about.

There are several good comments .

Echo Bazaar creator Failbetter Games hosted guest blogger and game designer Elizabeth Shoemaker Sampat for a series on narrative development in gaming. Sampat argues that all games are simulations, falling into different categories —for example physically-simulative in which the focus is the physics engine (like Pong) or narratively-simulative.

Sampat also discussion two distinct narrative development styles: Right to Dream is the style in which the goal is primarily world-exploration, the style of Echo Bazaar. Sampat writes, “The experience isn’t about changing anything; instead, it’s about learning what more is there, as opposed to changing the things you’ve already discovered.” The other play style is the “Story Now” concept in which the player is just thrown into the middle of a situation and the action tells the story. This style requires less world-building but more attention to the narrative action, for which Sampat provides a well-explained diagram.

The series is interesting—particularly the second post —in relating the player’s actions and game mechanics to narrative exposition. Agency must lead to narrative escalation in order for the game to succeed narratively and for the player to feel she has affected that narrative.

Steve Schildwachter is a marketing professional and self-proclaimed “Renaissance practitioner.” He’s also a student of Hyper Island, and shares some of his insights on the program.

Hyper Island really isn’t about “digital”, it’s about change. ....We didn’t just increase knowledge, we increased our ability to embrace the changes going on in our industry. The change is so swift we can’t even predict the terminology we’ll use in 2011. […]
“Digital” isn’t just a change for our industry, it’s a harbinger of change. The changes and challenges will keep coming and always cause discomfort. Rather than trying to feel comfortable, the smart strategy is to embrace discomfort.

The embrace of change seems to be a running theme in institutions right now. We’re seeing more and more programs that emphasize digital practice and focus on the ability to understand change and innovation rather than just teaching the literature.

Strange Rain is a new interactive experience for the iPhone and iPad. It combines elements of animation, music, and touch interaction to create a visual and narrative experience. Opertoon, the app’s creator, seems serious and interested in redefining literature. Watch for these folks; they have another app that looks interesting.

Strange Rain Preview from Erik Loyer on Vimeo.

H. G. Wells proposed a global, collaborative encyclopedia in The World Brain. He presented a series of BBC radio broadcasts in the 1930s and ‘40s, some which are now available online in the BBC archives. Wells discusses a number of topics, ranging from politics to the history of the printing press. You can also browse an archive of his letters.

A quick glance at Tokyo-based Web Designer Ono Takehiko’s portfolio reveals talented visual design and some really fun javascript toys. Great for an afternoon of play and finding inspiration.

Dreaming Methods' blog on writing and new media examines the idea of "the written word" changing over time to become a performative art, the very definition of which is art that takes place in time, like music or theater.

Animated literature may be so alien to readers' habits of a steady flow of pages, and the reader’s ability to control their reading pace, that the immediate reaction is often disruption and frustration. For many, there is something highly unsettling about the physical movement or transformation of writing.

While this may be true, does this reaction arise from o the words changing over time, or from the experience of approaching a new form of art? These reactions echo the familiar responses to first encounters with literary hypertext, particularly "disruption and frustration." Still, the post also points to a few interesting-looking Dreaming Methods pieces that exemplify this type of work and this idea of the written word becoming a performative object as time plays out is an interesting approach to new media.