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before midterm...

Montfort argues that interactive fiction is distinctively different from hypertext fiction, stating:
"There is ... nothing in the nature of the lexia or the link, those fundamental elements of hypertext, that allows the reader to type and contribute text or provides the computer with the means to parse or understand natural language. [...] Hypertext fiction also does not maintain an intermediate, programmatic representation of the narrative world, as interactive fiction does."

In terms of understanding how these two forms relate to/differ from narrative, is this distinction significant? Or are they more closely related that Montfort would like to admit? Discuss.

Contrary to Montfort, hypertext and IF are closer than we might think. The "preferred" narrative conclusion in IF, out of a few possible endings, is similar to a specific lexia, out a few, that we might wish to end up at in hypertext. Indeed, hypertext, unlike IF, is not a program that can receive input and generate output. But when related to the underlying or overarching narrative, both hypertext and IF are similar. Both offer lexia that is linked; however hypertext makes those links explicit, so the reader can immediately navigate the narrative at hand. For IF, part of the reader's pleasure is first uncovering the links, and then choosing which links to take. The text that the reader of IF contributes(both extradiegetic and diegetic) are part of the process of the reader uncovering the links.

IF gives the appearance of immediacy, for the narrative is in the present-tense and is generated in response to the user's commands. The use of cardinal points to navigate does convey a certain physicality in IF. But hypertext has similar potential to be equally evocative of the narrative universe. In fact, hypertext might possibly have even greater potential to maintain an intermediate representation, for navigating via hyperlinks, in real time, could be quicker than typing out commands into a parser.


Espen Aarseth defines cybertext as a perspective on textuality, which considers a work as a textual machine, and sees the reader as having to make a non-trivial effort to traverse the text. Discuss whether Scott McCloud’s “Carl” comic strip can be considered a cybertext.

McCloud's "Carl" is less of a cybertext, and more of an interesting demonstration of how comics work by having the reader "close the gap" between frames. Does the closing of the gap, the interpretation between frames of each comic panel, on the part of the reader, constitute it to be a cybertext? I think it hinges on the idea of "non-trivial". Aarseth's central notion is that there has to be some substantial effort of the reader to traverse the narrative trajectory.
"Carl" is then merely an expanding unicursal maze(not a labyrinth, for that would convey a kind of insurmountability), that starts out as a straightforward path with the first and last frame that is initially presented. The narrative path has been forged, and the feedback loop has been completed. We know Carl will die from drunk driving. The only question is what other penultimate narrative satellites could have delayed his inexorable destiny. This does constitute a kind of literal riddle or puzzle to uncover, but it is by no means "non-trivial".


Does a potential narrative such as Paul Fournel’s “The Tree Theatre: A Combinatory Play” satisfy Crawford’s definition of interactivity? Could it be considered an example of interactive media? Why/why not?

I don't think it's a valid example. The loop, in Crawford's cyclic process of "listen, think, speak" process as the basis for interactivity, is not completed, for after the audience has watched the preceding scene, thought about what they would like to see next and voted for their choice, there is little "thinking" on the part of the performers, for they merely follow the predetermined branching playscript.

But this observation is only possible in retrospect. During the course of watching the play, the audience does not have perfect knowledge of all the possible events in the tree structure. Thus the illusion that their choice at each point is a pivotal one, that it makes all the difference, is effectively created. Furthermore, given the linear nature of the play, the consequences of each choice takes on greater significance, as there is no possibility of reverting any decision made as the dramaturgical trajectory becomes permanent after each choice. The audience thus feels as if the play is highly interactive, when in truth their control is restricted given the fact that there are limited choices and a limited range of possible endings.

Traditionally, theatre is known to be largely uninteractive. The audience listens and watches a play, unable to meaningfully influence the unfolding drama. The question to ask then is whether the audience wishes to actually influence the dramaturgical flow. Theatrical plays work so powerfully for they sustain the illusion of real-life happening on stage, by maintaining that imaginary fourth wall between audience and performer. To allow for audience interaction is to shatter that wall and puncture any sense of verisimiltude. Thus interactivity in theatre has a stronger effect that in new media.

Perhaps a truer form of interactivity(according to Crawford) onstage, instead of the Tree Theatre, would be improv theatre. Think along the lines of "Whose Line is it Anyway?", where the performers have no script, and are given scenarios and characters by audience members to enact out. The audience can stop the action at anytime and throw in a certain prop, or require the performer to say a particular line, or sing a song. The performer must then consider how to integrate that "audience-suggested" aspect into his performance immediately. The disjunctive effect is often comical, and highly entertaining as well. For the audience is afforded a great deal of control over the dramaturgy, and also because it showcases the improvisational abilities of the performers to act on the fly.

About me

  • I'm lucasho
  • From Singapore, Singapore
  • slow down, hold still
    every crooked line of this sad city.
    down by the river; we'll play awhile,
    looking for that elusive goldmine;
    maybe i'm a little weak to dance.

    it's a beautiful piece of heartache...
    yeah, we're gonna be alright.
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