I’m working on a v 2.0 of my rationale, but thought I’d post this second version for the sake of posterity/transparency.
I’ve opted with the 1.1, as though it dose contain some substantial changes, I don’t feel as though it is necessarily more than a small departure from the first draft. Mostly, I’ve added some explication and connections.
In the upcoming (in a few days) v 2.0, I’ll largely try to do the opposite: discretize these blended areas in order to more clearly define them. I’ll also be following up with a reorganization of my booklist, which is currently on Evernote. I’ve been reluctant to match the list to my areas, as I personally cannot not see many texts applying to more than a single area. Alas, it is time to try!
Rationale after the break… And, as always, comments welcome!
Multi-players, -media, -paths, and -genres in game-stories
My major area of focus is on the production, aesthetics, and analysis of transmedia narratives, with a specific focus on Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). In Henry Jenkins’s Convergence Culture, he explores transmedia storytelling–“entertainment for the age of media convergence, integrating multiple texts to create a narrative so large that it cannot be contained within a single medium”–in terms of the eponymous media convergence, which “represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections amongst dispersed media content” (97, 3). Therefore, in order to explore transmedia, my foci will concentrate on media studies, with a specific focus on “new media” aesthetics and production, as well as transmedia narratives and traditional narratives that explore the notion of “alternate reality.” Some of these texts include: Lev Manovich’s The Language of New Media, Waldrip-Fruin and Montfort’s New Media Reader, and Mitchell and Hansen’s Critical Terms for Media Studies for media studies; texts, message boards, and other paratexts from ARGs, such as The Beast, I Love Bees, The Lost Experience, Year Zero, and Push, Nevada; narratives that represent “alternate realities” of a dystopian, science fictional, and magical realist variety, such as the works of Borges, Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and VALIS trilogy, Robinson’s The Wild Shore, Chesterton’s The Club of Queer Trades, and Link’s Magic for Beginners.
Complicit with Jenkins’s understanding of transmedia narrative–and perhaps new media, at large–is the engaged reader/viewer, or, in Jenkins’s words, “participants who interact with each other according to a new set of rules that none of us fully understands” (3). As such, I’m interested in exploring the boundary between reader and author as found in metafiction, an area with which my own creative work often intersects. In metafiction, the reader becomes hyper-aware of the artifice of the narrative (both as idea and as object) and the suspension of disbelief is cast aside. Most notably, the metafiction of Argentinian authors Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Macedonio Fernandez focuses on drawing awareness to genre, such as fantasy, and form, such as the novel and the short story. As a result, the authors use the aesthetics of genre and form as a type of dynamic system of rules for the reader to simulate their own version of the text–albeit in a manner controlled by the words the author commits to the page. I’m also interested in exploring the breakdown of this author-reader boundary as a print medium example of the superimposition of the virtual and the non-virtual (or “real”) in order to create a different (or “alternate”) experience of reality, what Virilio refers to in Information Bomb as a “field effect” view of reality that is a result of the collapse of time and distance facilitated by light-speed digital networked communication technology (43). Texts that explore this metafictional boundary include many short works of Borges, Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler, and Fernandez’s The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel). To explore the boundaries between the virtual and the non-virtual, two exemplar texts are Javier Marias’s All Souls and Dark Back of Time. Individually, these two novels blur the border between fiction and nonfiction; taken together, they further destabilize the real and the alternate by intertwining themselves within in each other’s (sometimes unmanufactured) reality.
My first minor area, ergodic literature, is both an extension of my interest in transmedia narrative as well as a reflection of the desire in my own creative work to incorporate a more active, participatory reader. In Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, Espen Aarseth defines ergodic literature as a form which requires the reader to “[effectuate] a semiotic sequence,” or order the text in a nontrivial, self-selected manner. This active role for the reader can also be seen in what Manovich describes as the “database logic” of new media, which requires a reader to sort narrative elements, much like players in ARGs sort narrative clues in to a narrative. Some representative examples I will explore include both non-electronic ergodic literature, such as Cortazar’s Hopscotch and Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and the electronic, including Michael Joyce’s afternoon, Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern’s Façade, and Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl.
My remaining minor area of interest, which is, again, related to my main interest in transmedia, is ludology and simulation and how each is positioned realtive to narrative. The theoretical intersection of ludology and narratology is a turbulent space, as evidenced in Waldrip-Fruin and Harrigan’s First Person. Transmedia narratives that incorporate video games, such as Star Wars or The Matrix, blur this boundary; moreover, ARGs are definitionally positioned as games, yet are frequently presented as transmedia stories, as they lack the interface of the screen and controller and purposely confuse gamespace with “real,” everyday spaces. Similar to the murky overlap of ludology and narratology, Aarseth asserts, in “Nonlinearity and Literary Theory,” that “simulations are somewhere in between reality and fiction” (79). In Gonzalo Frasca’s “Simulation versus Narrative,” he discusses the concept of “simauthors”–a type of simulation user that generates unique sequences of signs that can shift across multiple iterations (223). I will explore this transliminal space between reality and fiction in terms of “alternate realities” and as a dominant form of representation in post-modernity, through the visual representation of computational and dynamic rules. Some texts that will be applicable to this area include Margaret Atwood’s novel Oryx & Crake, the films Run Lola Run and The War Game, the television show The Colony, and the critical texts The Order of Things, by Michel Foucault, and Suspensions of Perception, by Jonathan Crary.
I envision the relationship between my major area and minor areas as a cohesive, generative, and iterative system: my main interest in transmedia is rooted in its multimedia forms and aesthetics, as well as its ability to exist in liminal spaces–between author and reader, real and virtual, static and dynamic. For instance, I see the tension between the virtual and the real as being important to simulation, metafiction, and ARGs at any given instance. The same applies to the tension between author and reader, producer and consumer. Therefore, some of the epistemological nesting of these areas is at best nonlinear, at worst circular. [This might be too much of an apologia…]