June 29, 2012

Narrative and Hypertext 2012

Just back from an exciting workshop on Narrative and Hypertext. Some fascinating work.

Geoffrey Draper from BYU-Hawaii led off with a discussion of hypertext fiction for mobile devices. They have interesting influences and they’re interested in Choose Your Own Adventure and they’ve built a clever mobile system called Jarnaby. And they’re using Little Red Riding Hood (Arne-Thomson 301) for their sample document.

Kevin McGee from NUS described HypeDyn, a Storyspace-inflected hypertext system which explored procedural links with elaborate guard fields. They’s identified some interesting problems familiar from Storyspace, especially visualizing and debugging complex networks of dynamic links.

From Southampton, Heather Packer described Memory Book, which attempts to make sense of “lifelogs” – continuous flows of text and image and biotelemetry generated during the course of a day — into narratives in order to make sense of the mass of information. An interesting side issue here is the narrator’s voice: is it a magisterial third person

Between 12:30 and 1:00 was spent in the company of Jon and Dave. The weather was fair.

or might we address the notional reader:

Then you spent a sunny half-hour outside with Jon and Dave.

I think of this as the Siri question: what sort of personality should our agents and robots project? Also central to the project are questions of what one includes and what one elides.

Carolyn Hill is looking into rhizomatic hypertext for self-presentation in social work and therapy. Reminscent of Pamela Taylor’s work on hypertext art portfolios. Also, nice connections to Theory, especially in these post-theoretical days.

Charlie Hargood and David Millard, both Southampton, are exploring hypertext documentary video as a way of using footage more extensively. Broadcast documentaries leave behind them vast quantities of film that was not used in the final cut; how can we take this material and automatically edit them into custom-made films that adapt to individual reader interests?

I spoke about Spuyboek’s idea of the Digital Gothic, based on a paper written as a dramatic dialogue in counterpoint to David Kolb’s important dialog Story/Story. In the talk, I teased out the economic argument a bit more emphatically than was possible in the dialog; designing a new media economy becomes more urgent, I think, in view of the ghastly and prolonged depression we may be facing.

Suw: Are you sure it’s safe? It’s past midnight. My guidebook warns travellers to be especially careful after dark.

Lou: The moon is full. Yes, there are some clouds, but...

Suw: It is a dark and stormy night. Try to remember: winter [25]. And if on a winter night a traveller... [11]. The book says specifically to stay out of the Hypertext Gardens [29] after dark.

Dru: Your guidebook was published in 1987.

Then Stacey Mason (Eastgate) wrapped up with a bravura discussion of glitch art and its connection to literature (through manipulation of image files) and narrative (through process). (RE)PRESENTATION AND RE(PRE)SENT(I)MENT and $/¢=>This is the way/The world ends: theory and practice. Not bad for a computer science conference.

One misgiving I do have about the workshop, or rather about the entire field, is that we’re no longer as familiar as I think we might be with existing work and theory. I wonder how much the shift from print Proceedings to those cute little USB sticks and the digital library play into this. It’s one thing to reject Narratology and its terminological tangles, but I fear we’re continually forgetting it and then rediscovering it with newly tangled terms. The discussion of systems is always great, but time could be saved if everyone were more familiar with the literature.