WARNING: No authors were harmed in the making of the blog post.
Have you ever noticed when you’re aimlessly scrolling through Facebook an advertisement randomly pops up, only it’s not random… But instead, you are haunted by that dress you were debating over from Zara or perhaps even something from your Amazon wish list. This is a clear example of the kind of Facebook filter bubble that we are so subconsciously accustomed to that we fail to even notice it’s purpose. In today’s society, almost everything is user-friendly.
Week 8’s lectures focused on Interactive Fiction, Interface and Hypertext. Interface is a device or programme that enables a user to communicate with a computer. Thinking back to my childhood I immediately remembered what I called my favourite primary school computer game – Stig of the Dump. Although to me this had been a ‘game,’ I now realise that this is a prime example of Interactive Fiction. Having various options of routes or actions I was able to explore, progress and get involved within the story.
This experience also reminded me of playing Cluedo on the computer, where I was given clues and able to decide from various options what action I wished to perform. However, what is similar about both of these IFs is the fact that although you are given the ‘idea’ of freedom, every action has a set reaction or consequence already programmed into it.
This might resonate with some ideas of fixity, but ultimately these are very real examples of texts in motion.
Similarly, this week’s readings appeared as works of blended multimodality of digital art with text to challenge both writers and users. This immediately removes the idea of the fixed text or book, again arguing that as time moves on the book has no set rules or regulations. Looking at Device 6 it was clear to see that this was a digital quest narrative, whilst PRY required to the reader to instead open screens, zoom in, zoom out and constantly interact with the screen.
At first, this was interesting and had the appeal of being unique. After around ten minutes the appeal was gone. Maybe this is just my opinion but on a small screen, this is tedious and completely removes the importance of the text. After a few minutes, I had long forgotten the plot and I was completely focused on the various interactions that were required. Perhaps on an IPad or large screen, this would be engaging and appealing, but for now, I’ll stick with my nice hardback paper book.
Interactive fiction originates from Hypertext, however, we have already discussed the rise and fall of hypertext fiction. This has started to fully disappear and instead has been replaced in computer narratives. Gaming, simulation or role-play games have proved popular whether it is The Sims, Call of Duty or even something like Animal Crossing (used to be a personal fave). However, this has all originated from the idea that the ‘user’ is mainly a ‘consumer who needs to be satisfied and kept engaged’ (Ben Shneidermn’s user in Ducker 142).
During around the 1980s the world was divided into those who wanted to look through and those who wanted to look at their displays (Druker 142). Inevitably, consumers were now becoming users who needed to be stimulated and entertained by a realistic product.
Adam Hammond, who discusses the Rise and Fall of Hypertext, argues that “a reader moves through a book by turning pages, these interactive digital forms require direct input from their reader in order to move from one chunk of the text (lexia) to the next (Hammond 154).
Evidently, we are back with this idea of “the death of the author” as this form of the book is completely unbound, unfixed and has no stability. Instead, the freedom lies with the reader. There are options to change chapters, skip moments, focus on interactions over text, or even type in actual commands.
Bolger and Landow state that the two most important changes with this new form of ‘book’ were the interactive engagement of the reader and the elimination of the linear plot (158). Arguing that the text is no longer simply an expression of the author, but instead, the reader is needed to help make the text (although I’m not sure we get any actual profit for book sales).
Overall, it is interesting to discover how far the book has come. From something that was created on papyrus or real human skin, to something that has been digitalised and available on an electronic platform. Removed from a fixed and stable state, and instead disguised under endless options of user-friendly and asethically pleasing apps or digital books. However, can something be said for the iBooks endlessly trying to look like a real book? Are we really ready for a digital world of literature without the author? I know where my preference lies… *sits clutching my hard and paperback books in terror*