End Matter: Interactive Fiction and a New Linguistic Consciousness

Abstract (in English): 

The possibilities for interaction in electronic literature (e-lit) are heavily shaped by the platforms on which that interaction occurs, yet audiences are rarely aware of the extent to which the digital interface may influence, if not define, their sociality. These limitations take the form of community moderation tools and explicit censorship (such as in the case of profanity filters), but also in the designs of emote systems and content popularity systems, and achievement and reputation systems, and even in gameplay design. Often players, users, and audience members must oscillate rapidly and continually between determining the affordances of the tools available to them and evaluating the capacity of those tools to provide the social aims they desire.

This panel explores the current limitations of contemporary literary and art criticism when applied to interactive narratives in order to build a richer dialogue attentive to sociological factors affecting platform-based literary activity. A diffusion of social and literary perspectives, we argue, is ultimately more appropriate for understanding the complex role networked communication and collaboration plays in the very fabric of these works. Considered together, the presentations on this panel will look deeply into how social media platforms generate increasingly innovative experiments in narrative structure by adapting interpersonal communication and live social exchange to online writing and reading practices. Digital network culture, dating back to the earliest text adventure games and first BBS servers, marked a fascinating conjunction between art works and participatory activity, aligning in the process many established literary and artistic aims with an array of diverse social behaviors and habits. The narrative structure of interactive fiction tends to offer the same points of reference key to any story, beginning with its setup followed by examples of conflict and resolution. Upon migrating to platform-managed media tools, narrative design has continued to sponsor a variety of coordinating behaviors among users, including what we’ve identified as consistent patterns of aggregation, accumulation, and competition. In addition, as critics like Manuel Castells, Lev Manovich, and more recently Manish Mehta have shown, networked media platforms invoke powerful programmable determinisms in the process of managing, and, in some cases, defining our cultural and social interactions.

Aligning these behavioral patterns with new literary guidelines and frameworks, the panel will look critically and, we hope, provocatively at narrative construction as collaborative digital network interaction. As these technologies continue to entwine human agents into increasingly complex actor-network systems, the resulting shift in writing practices and attitudes compares well to the new linguistic consciousness Russian theorist Mikhail Bahktin attributed a century ago to the emergence of the novel within modern literature. Panelists Kirill Azernyi, Stephanie Jennings, Andrew Klobucar, Rebecca Rouse, and Kate Tyrol will contribute presentations covering a variety of perspectives on these considerations, including online conspiracy theory, classroom gamification, player and user experience, interactive sculpture, and the role of debate in public discourse.

The panel will consist of traditional oral presentations, and attendees will also be invited to concurrently experience the panel through a custom-built Twine narrative.


ELO 2021: End Matter: Interactive Fiction and a New Linguistic Consciousness, May 28

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Record posted by: 
Milosz Waskiewicz