May 11, 2003
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eNarrative 5 Notes

My notes on eNarrative 5 are, of course, a mess. Here, more or less, are a few things I heard that caught my ear. (Apologies in advance for mistakes and misquotations)

There is no multimedia. There is only one. George Fifield said this, introducing eNarrative and tying it admirably into the cyberarts world. After the bubble, new media has grown up. It needs to, and can, achieve; promise and youth aren't enough. Also from Fifield: "Sculptors were the last artists to cross the analog/digital threshold." But they're across now, we can all load up and start hiking again.

Cynthia Baron observed that We are accustomed to think most about the point of view of the person creating the work. This theme appeared again and again, in different guises. Jessica Hammer, for example, is interested in rhetorics for constructive hypertext narrative, in elucidating ways to build what Joyce used to call "a framework for what is becoming". Those aren't the words Hammer would have chosen, I suspect, but the underlying theme seems the same.

It stops being play when someone tells you to do it, Scot Osterweil observed. Negotiating work and play in new media narrative is going to be hard work. We'll sort it out, but it'll take some doing.

No instructor will use another instructor's course site, but everyone is delighted to use a resource for the entire field. This was Landow's passing observation on the failure of so many course sites that are crafted, used by a few people for weeks or months, and then lie mouldering until they're freshened for next year or get turned off by the school's sysadmin. Meanwhile, the Victorian Web gets millions of hits a month. We know other reasons that Landow's webs are important, but here's a key I'd not heard before: they aren't a syllabus. It's the paradigm, Landow reminds us, not the purchase.

Finally, my ad-libbed closing remark, a surprise: There are happy faces here. Two solid days of animated discussion of the craft and criticism of new kinds of narrative. People from ad agencies and nonprofits, from high schools and colleges. Researchers and storytellers, philosophers and arists, Flash animators and Storyspace writers and Java programmers. Blogger and Tinderbox and Radio Userland bloggers. But everyone was busy, and eager to get back to work and get their ideas down, and nobody was much worried about whether they had a job, or might lose one, or if their funding would be cut. That stuff is important, sure, but there's work to do. We're here for the work.