Getting Your Hands on Electronic Literature: Exploring Tactile Fictions with the Reading Glove

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

“Interactive narrative” is a loaded phrase that invokes different dreams for different populations of people. For new media theorists like Janet Murray (1) and Brenda (2) Laurel, it elicits visions of participatory stories enacted within immersive simulated “holodecks.” For theorists of hypertext and interactive fiction like Jay David Bolter (3) and Emily Short, (4) it suggests branching textual environments and rhizomatic tangles of linked lexia. For researchers in computer science and AI, it has manifested in simulations of believable human characters (5), and intelligent storytellers that direct the action in a simulated storyworld along desirable narrative paths (6). Within the digital games community, theorists like Henry Jenkins, (7) Celia Pearce, (8) and Jim Bizzocchi (9) suggest broad framings of narrative that allow it to infuse and enhance gameplay. Outside of academic research, interactive narrative conjures images of “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels, role-playing games, and improvisational theater. For the purposes of this article we take a broad perspective on interactive narratives, which we view as stories that afford active participation on the part of the reader. We assert that a robust understanding of the experience of readers and players engaging in interactive stories is crucial to developing this new medium.

While much work has been done to explore the technological boundaries of computational narrative forms, (10) and extensive theory has been written about the poetics of interactive stories, (11) comparatively little research has been done on how readers approach narrative experiences, and how readerly expectations inform the interpretation and reception of an interactive narrative. (12) In this paper we describe an interactive narrative that we have designed that is experienced via a custom tangible embodied user interface called the Reading Glove. We present three important theoretical perspectives on how readers make sense of mediated experiences and apply them as analytical lenses for viewing the experiences of participants interacting with our system. (13) We have previously written about the design of the technology and the interactions in this system and about the authoring process of the narrative content, (14) and so in this paper we will be emphasizing the ways in which readers experienced the narrative elements of the system. Our analysis of the responses of readers using the system allows us to propose three design heuristics for future interactive storytelling systems.

Source: article's introduction

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Our approach provides an important starting point for designers of interactive stories to begin coherently considering the readers of their systems that we believe is essential for the growth of interactive narrative as a medium.

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Patricia Tomaszek