Week 1 Reflection

My head is spinning a bit, getting back into the swing of teaching (a lot) and writing about what I’m reading–and, moreover, creating more abstract representations of thoughts (i.e. diagrams). Thus, I’m going to be quick about this reflection and address my interests, concerns, and thoughts on media, culture, media culture, and how any of those might intersect with this class.

ARGs/transmedia (I don’t like the second term for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into at the moment) have steadily become my focus over the last year. I see this assertion of interest as a growth from long-time interests in authorship/interactivity, participatory texts, artifice and the intersection of realism and fantasy, transgeneric writing, and digital media. My interest in media, therefore, is expansive, in that I’m interested in multimedia/transmedia. Knowing more about many media is a goal. Culturally, I’m interested in the positioning between writer/reader–relationships of agency, power, collaboration, and interactivity populate this space for me. As far as media culture is concerned, participation and interactivity certainly apply, perhaps through less traditional approaches, such as hacking and circuit-bending, but certainly through remix (of multiple media).

I also have a growing interest in simulation, which I have tried (unsuccessfully? unconvincingly?) to explore in conjunction with my interest in metafiction. I see both as being conscious of rules–and willing to make those rules dynamic. For simulation, this is a “feature”; for metafiction, this can often be subversive to literary expectations. So, video games (as games, as simulations, as interactive narratives) have become an interest, as well.

2 thoughts on “Week 1 Reflection

  1. anne

    I’m wondering if there’s a connection between “trans”media and the possibilities of interaction and participation (and experimentation), Jay — and it has to do with our (learned and/or naturalized) expectations of what media can do, perhaps. What the “trans” part might do here (as obnoxious as you find the term?) is to make it possible for authors to *not* have to meet the (fixed through familiarity or genre) expectations of audiences, yes? And, when expectations or familiarity are confounded, then audiences have to be more engaged, if they are to figure out what is not familiar. Is this making sense, or am I misunderstanding you?

    I suppose it would help me to have a better understanding, too, of how you use “interactivity”…?

  2. jay Post author


    To me, there is most definitely a connection between “transmedia” and the possibilities for interaction and participation. And, in this specific case that “interaction” takes at least two forms.

    The first, which applies directly to what I hold for a definition of “transmedia”—one that fits with Jenkins’s take on this subject, I believe—as a narrative that is constructed and spread over multiple media. By spreading a narrative over multiple media, it emphasizes, I think, complex hermeneutic exchanges amongst “active” or “engaged” viewers; the “trans” nature of the narrative (also understood as a narrative world that is spread across media) encourages the sharing of interpretation, as a single viewer might not be as comfortable conversing in/about one specific genre (due to generic expectations, taste, experience, for instance). The expansiveness of the narrative world also can create conditions wherein active or engaged viewers might not have experienced all media/parts of the narrative. Thus, negotiation on message boards, for example, form communities based on hermeneutic acts. Some of Jenkins’s examples of this phenomenon—from “Convergence Culture”—are the Matrix films, video games, comics, animated shorts, as well as various paratexts. Personally, the television show Lost and its various transmedia narrative segments also serve as an important contemporary example.

    The second form of interaction that might specifically resonate here is through ARGs, which some also call “transmedia”—whereas I see ARGs as an example of one kind of transmedia “narrative” (it’s also a game—I don’t think games and narratives are necessarily the same, based on my readings, especially Espen Aarseth’s and Gonsalvo Frasca’s work in First Person from MIT Press). Due to the puzzle/game aspects of ARGs, interactivity can exist in the players solving clues, for one. More interesting to me is how players—and their solutions to puzzles and interpretations of narrative and game events—have influenced the direction of the ARG. Specifically, Sean Stewart and Elan Lee, who were both integral in creating “The Beast,” the ARG for Warner Bros.’/Kubrick’s/Spielberg’s film AI for Microsoft (later 4orty 2wo Entertainment), reflect in a few articles on how the direction of that game—considered by some as the first and best ARG, certainly a canonical example—was heavily influenced by the actions and ideas of the players. Thus, I see the ARG as an exciting opportunity for collaborative creation and one founded on multimodal/multimedia composition. The production of the “players” (quoted due to the distinctions between creators/puppetmasters and players become blurred in the form) in this game—and many other ARGs—has been the focus of some great work, by Jane McGonigal for one, both in the context of the concept of Pierre Levy’s collective intelligence and in the potential for player agency.

    All that written, you might have a better sense of these two uses of interactivity. A third way that I use it might also be through interactive interfaces—like video games and Flash animations—that are used in narrative dissemination. In this third case, interaction becomes governed by rules in a more specific way than hermeneutics might be governed by rules/expectations of a social, economic, gendered variety: a Flash animation or a video game repsond to user input in a more structured way, in that, while the outcome may be uncertain or variable, the code allows for only certain moves or actions and reactions. (I acknowledge the following statement clearly ignores the real possibilities for transgressive play—hacks, quirks in programming, cheats—that are both well-documented [the Halo car jump or the Tiger Woods Jesus code, for two examples] and offer significant insights into the culture of media and games.)

    Additionally, I’ve got my own ideas, as a “writer,” on how to blur the standard, static relationship between author, text, and reader—and how composing (and collaborating) via multiple media, some of which focus on the ability for collaborative work (wikis, fora, even building interactive writing machines that generate text/strings in response to user action). But, those are longer than the expectations for form in blog post comments. 🙂


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