Conventions and Traditions in Electronic Literature
Tragedy in Electronic Literature
Resources for Further Reading
Examples of Electronic Literature
Why bother with Tragedy?
More Information
Lecture Segments
Fate, Victor Gijsbers, 2007. (Fate.z8) (synopsis courtesy Emily Short) Synopsis: A queen with powers of witchcraft foresees that those around her plan to kill her and/or her unborn child; she has a number of ways to try to avoid that outcome, but all involve some compromise and sacrifice. The challenge for the player is to decide what she is willing to give up (and how evil she is willing to act) in order to save the life of the child. "I am watching the IF career of Victor Gijsbers with considerable interest. In The Baron and now in Fate, he has created games that are compasses — they point at something larger than themselves... "I'm not exactly sure what this hypothetical game looks like, but it clearly involves choice, consequence, sin, sacrifice, and making the best way you can in a bad situation. "Fate is a better stab at this than The Baron was, but it's still not all the way there. The premise is better-chosen here, easier to relate to and offering more ways for the player to interact with it. But in the current game it's still basically a single continuum where you decide how much X you're willing to trade for how much Y — at some point I think he's going to have to do a game with more than one axis… The piece that's still mostly lacking here is gameplay — like, the thing the player does in between having moral crises. ...unless you are the best writer in the world, there's no way that "You see before you the person you love most in the world. Sacrifice them for your own ambitions? (Y/N)" will ever compare to, say, going through an entire game with a cute robot sidekick and then asking that same question about him. Both The Baron and Fate have very little downtime — even if there's no actual game timer you're still in moral-crisis mode almost all the time." — Dan Shiovitz,, retrieved Sept. 11, 2007.
Rameses, Stephen Bond, 2000. (ramses.zblorb) * There is a reader-operator, but the character will object to certain actions. According to Emily Short, the tension between the commands of the reader and the choices of the character are a powerful way to develop characters in IF. * The operator can change the order of reading * The operator can influence the outcome of the story, if the character complies. * The operator controls pace. (description courtesy Emily Short) Synopsis: An Irish schoolboy with social problems fails to form any meaningful connection with the people around him. Much of this game would play through to its inevitable ending with or without the player's intervention: in fact, it's possible to play almost entirely by typing >WAIT and allowing events to unfold. Critical response: "...much of Rameses consists of conversation (in a menu format)--and for long stretches of the conversation, your character's head is bursting with things to say (as evidenced by the menu), and yet he never says any of the things. There are always explanations, of course, some of them plausible--nasty insults are withdrawn with something akin to "You'd rather not start a fight right now"--but what emerges is a striking portrait of frustration, of a bottled-up character. It's not, exactly, that he's bottled up by circumstances, by the Awful Consequences Of His Oppressive Life; that would push it into melodrama, and this isn't melodramatic. It's more a picture of a highly inarticulate character whose fear of expressing himself borders on the neurotic, and drawing out that inarticulateness by trying a range of conversational options (from the polite to the highly antisocial), only to have the character reject all of them, is a nicely done depiction of the character... To add to the feeling of impotence, there's a scene in which two of his three roommates are picking on the third, and the PC (despite the player's urgings, of course) fails to step in, lamely explaining (internally) that "it's no use."… The scene brings out the ramifications of the PC's repressed nature--by not saying anything he hurts others as well as himself--and prevents the player from feeling too much sympathy for the PC. Nor does the player feel particularly complicit in the PC's cowardice, since the player can try all he or she wants to help out the hapless third roommate; the game trades complicity for imprisonment in the PC's neuroses… the tension between player and PC sets up its own kind of interaction that makes this a surprisingly successful game." — Duncan Stevens,, retrieved Sept. 11, 2007. Italics mine.
Poems that Go
Poems that Go is an electronic journal of Kinetic Poetry. Now defunct after four years of issues, it presents a wide range of experiments in digital poetry-- with varying levels of success. Edward Picot's adaptation of Wallace Stephens's "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" is an interesting recent combination of visual art with poetry, although it's not exactly a kinetic poem in the same tradition of Kendall's work.
Emily Short - Interactive Fiction
Examples of Interactive Fiction
Spatial / Exploratory
Readers must keep track of the structure of the story or the information. The first is a space of physical metaphors used in user navigation, whether desktop or dungon. The second refers to the conceptual possibilities within the work. The first is the exploration of the map; the second is the exploration of possibility. * In artifactual fiction, the space is the information space-- the file folder or pile of manuscripts in We Descend. But We Descend also takes place in a setting which is more fully understood as the reader progresses through the work. Readers can choose to review the stack itself or browse through the stack using links which correspond with that reader's understanding of the physical layout of the places described. * Interactive Fiction often presents a space in which the player-character may move and act. There is a tendency to visit each area, which authors sometimes limit by imposing time limitations on characters. * Works which have a model of causality may be read/played numerous times by readers who wish to consider all alternatives.
Electronic texts are not static. There are many ways in which the work can change over time: * "Faith, An Expanding Multiverse in Five Movements" by Robert Kendall is an example of an electronic work which is very procedural-- the text changes frequently-- but which is still highly authored and minimally participatory. * A regular hypertext's lexia (pages, components) remain static at all times. Thus, while users may view lexia in different orders, such works are not very procedural. This is the case in We Descend * Some works of Electronic literature are also Participatory, which implies that the work is procedural. * The examples in this lecture have all been pre-written, but a system like Eliza is generatively procedural; it need not be written by an author. C.F. Ludology. * Facade is also procedural in an Eliza-like way. Although it has predefined scenes, characters, and some text, much of the work is generated by algorithm in response to text input. * A StorySpace hypertext, built with guard fields, has a system of rules which modifies the pages available based on what the reader has already seen. In this sense, the work is procedural. * A StorySpace hypertext, managed through Guard Fields, can give the impression that lexia have changed, even though they are new lexia. Such a work gives the impression of being procedural, and is thus effectively procedural. * Interactive Fiction is, of course, procedural. But it varies in its procedural nature. Some works define the objects, the map, and the world very carefully, and just let things happen. Other works are more explicitly authored. See Adventure vs Montfort's recent work. The IF world at the moment seems to be very interested in systems which allow them to define physical worlds easily.
Electronic works invite user participation. This participation need not be procedural, but it tends to be so. * Participation could involve the clicking of a link to determine where to go next. This happens in Kendall's Faith and in We Descend, and generally in Kinetic Poems and Hypertext. This is not limited to electronic works. See LIterary Machines and the Choose Your Own Adventure series. * Interactive fiction, which invites the reader to enter text is participatory. In interactive fiction, that text modifies the overall story, not just the text, so it is also procedural. * Participation can be textual without being procedural. A simple storytelling system which invites users to write text at each stage and displays them at the end would be participatory but not procedural. * It is thus not necessarily the case that entering text makes a work more participatory. Both CardSharp and StorySpinner are interesting cases of very participatory, procedural works in which users do not enter text. These systems preserve the potential for a wide (but finite) set of stories which are still based on completely pre-written texts arranged by the author.
Readers tend to explore of the available information, which leads to scattered patterns of reading. There is also a corresponding tendency of hypertext writers to structure their works in consonance or opposition to this tendency. Terms which link elsewhere may link to an explanation of the term. Or, it might direct the reader to something very different. Ryman's 253 and Bly's We Descend are good examples of works which embrace the encyclopedic tendencies of Electronic Literature. Ryman includes entries on each passenger, each car, and each outcome. Bly's work is a fictional archive. Both depend on reader interest in considering as much information as possible. Note: consider the Nominative nature of links, esp in relation to Wikipedia. Look at Ryman's trick links which take readers unsuspectingly to the moment of the crash, as a reaction against this nominative tendency.
Tragedy in Electronic Literature
If electronic literature empowers characters and Tragedy disempowers them, can Electronic Literature present Tragedy?

This is supplementary information to a lecture by J. Nathan Matias at Cambridge University on 5 Nov 2007. Students browsed this page using a WIFI network set up just for the lecture.
How to Use this Document
Don't read this until after the lecture
I want you to listen, and it might be too interesting
Using This Document
Each of these boxes is called a "note" and contains text, data fields, and links. Some of these notes contain other notes, which is shown by a square, white-ish button at the top right. Click on a note to read it, or click on the corner button to step inside that note's contents. For more information, click on "How to use this Document".
The ideas and encouragement of many colleagues have gone into this lecture. Here is a short list: * Professor Adrian Poole, chair of the Faculty of English at Cambridge University, whose interest and encouragement provided the opportunity to lecture and sustained me through it. * Mark Bernstein, chief scientist at Eastgate Systems, who encouraged me to organise the panel which led to this lecture. Mark has been a patient and insightful guide in my efforts within hypertext & electronic literature. He also designed Tinderbox, which was used in conjunction with my own software to author this page. * Michael Bywater, my supervisor on "Moral Dilemmas in Interactive Fiction", who recommended I take a closer look at the literary possibilities of Interactive Fiction. * Nick Lowe, participant in the panel and the author of The Classical Plot and the Invention of Western Narrative. Nick is the source of my interest in historical narratology, and a direct source of some of the lecture material. * Emily Short, IF author, classicist, and participant in a panel I chaired. Her work on moral/ethical IF is key to the latter parts of this lecture. I can't thank her enough. * Clare Hooper, fellow-collaborator and encourager. Clare's StorySpinner opened my interest in electronic storytelling. I still owe her a version 2.0. * Bill Bly, author of We Descend. His suggestion that we work on a sequel has been very instrumental in my thinking.
J. Nathan Matias
Tragedy in Electronic Literature, a panel at the 2007 ACM Conference on Hypertext
Lecture Slides
The Classical Plot and the Invention of Western Narrative
Ideas on innovation, the development of convention, and Aristotle are courtesy of Nick Lowe, a professor of classics at Royal Holloway. His book, The Classical Plot and the Invention of Western Narrative makes tall but interesting and convincing claims about how the brain processes story, and how those cognitive tendencies can be seen in the historical development of form, particularly in Homer, 5th century Tragedy, Comedy, New Comedy, and the Greek novel. Nick also spoke at a panel on Tragedy in Electronic Literature which I chaired in August 2007.
Murray's Distinctions
Kendall & Kinetic Poetry
Faith: An expanding multiverse in 5 movements.
In "Faith", Kendall presents 5 approaches to an opposition set up between the word "faith" and the word "logic". * There is no reader-operated character * The operator cannot change the order of reading * The operator cannot influence the outcome of the poem * The operator controls pace. * Successive colors sometimes distinguish successive movements. Color is subtle: movement four, the ironic movement of self-convincing enthusiasm is colored grey. * The typeface follows the implied nature of this opposition; faith is ornate, while logic is sans-serif, stripped of all ornamentation. * The opposition described in the poem and presented by the typeface is reversed by the end, however, when the framework of logic accumulates so much that the poem falls into a mess on the floor, and the ornate faith descends slowly in simplicity, "just to sum up". * The poem is highly procedural. Animation adds to the poetic palette and controls pace. * The single links do not present alternatives, but they do permit the reader some control over the pace. The arrows next to statements such as "so..." and "and yet..." also set up a dialogue between the reader and the poem's movements. The clicked text is implcitly associated with the reader. The dialogue between reader and poem to be a pivot for the poem's dialogue with itself; each response to the reader is also a response to the previous movements.
Where are the Hypertext Poets?
In this extract, Rosenberg discusses the market forces of poetry in relation to the technological possibilities. He suggests that software and potential aren't enough, but that social movements must hold these things together (for context, consider the submission advice for SALT)...
Perhaps the single most exasperating thing I have faced in my career as a poet is the reaction to inherently non-linear work: "Well, I can't believe there's not some way to perform this!" I get this all the time, from people who should know better. The urge is just too strong, the sense that the community comes together at readings is too overpowering for most poets to face the idea of work that is unrecitable. I believe that this is one area where only the technology itself will improve the situation. Yes, this is an area where the lack of venue for non-linear writing hurts. It will take the emergence of a network community of writers to overcome this problem. And when it does come about, there will be an acute problem of making sure there aren't two communities, separated from one another, the networkers ghettoized from the oral poets.
Antigone as Protest Tactic
According to Mr. Fugard, performing ''Antigone'' in South Africa was just as dangerous as performing ''The Island.'' '' 'Antigone' is the most powerful political play ever written,'' Mr. Fugard said by telephone from what he calls his ''home away from home'' in San Diego. ''It is the first play that raised the issue of standing up and being counted in a situation that involved oppression and injustice. The entire time we were working on it, the government was harassing us, barging into rehearsals and confiscating manuscripts. Several members of the group were arrested and sent to Robben Island on trumped-up charges.'' The central action of ''The Island'' is the effort by two prisoners to stage ''Antigone'' as a form of protest in prison. The story of a grieving woman forbidden to give her brother an honorable burial, the play has always resonated with political dissidents, as has Antigone's choice to sacrifice her life in a challenge to the unjust laws of Thebes. ''The Island'' works on three different levels that heighten its universality: Antigone's burial of her brother defies the repressive state, just as the characters in ''The Island'' denounce apartheid by performing ''Antigone'' for their guards and fellow inmates on Robben Island, at the same time that Mr. Kani, Mr. Ntshona and Mr. Fugard were risking arrest by staging a play that challenged the government. Mr. Fugard remarked on the parallels to another performance of the play in a different time and place. ''During the German occupation of France,'' he said, ''Jean Anouilh produced a version of 'Antigone' in Paris. In an exact parallel to the situation on Robben Island, the first five rows of German jackbooted officers admired what they thought was a straightforward piece of classical culture, but the French audience behind them knew what it was about.'' Speaking of the actor Shark's performance of ''Antigone'' at Robben Island, Mr. Fugard continued, ''the Boers were in the first row and enjoyed it, but the prisoners were the ones who got the real message.''
Eastgate Systems
Hypertext Software
You're using hypertext software right now as you view this web page. Web browsers employ a small set of hypertext features. Others, such as the ability to create, organise, and annotate documents, are left to specialised software. This document itself is the combined product of the hypertext software Tinderbox and a software project developed by J. Nathan Matias, who gave this lecture. * Storyspace is a hypertext writing environment that is especially well suited to large, complex, and challenging hypertexts. Storyspace focuses on the process of writing, making it easy and pleasant to link, revise, and reorganize. (from the Eastgate site) Bly's We Descend was written using Storyspace. * Tinderbox is a personal content manager, designed more for organising ideas and writing than for publishing and distributing literary hypertexts. However, it has powerful web publishing capabilities and is often used for web-based projects. This document was authored in Tinderbox and is displayed using the Spatial Map Viewer developed by J. Nathan Matias.
Nelson's Inform
The XYZZY Award
Lowe's Diagram of the Poetics
Modern criticism of Tragedy
Hamlet on the Holodeck
In Hamlet on the Holodeck, Janet Murray describes a large selection of electronic literature, defines a set of commonalities, and speculates on theoretical possibilities of electronic literature. Her list of properties appears in the marginal notes to this lecture.
from Card Sharp & Thespis
Even if we could experience Hamlet on the Holodeck, it wouldn't work. Tragedy requires that the characters be blind (as we ourselves, at times, are blind). If you let a sane and sensible reader-protagonist into the room, everything is bound to collapse. Take Hamlet: it's absolutely obvious that he should go back to school, get roaring drunk, get laid, and await his opportunity. He knows this. Horatio knows this. Ophelia knows this. Even Claudius and Gertrude know -- why else send for his college pals? Nobody can bring themselves to say the words -- that's the tragedy. But, if you're the sane and sensible character with Hamlet on the Holodeck, what's to stop you? Only brute force and error messages ("You can't do that") that call attention to the arbitrary boundaries of the world. If you make Hamlet a game, it has to be rigged so that actions taken by a reasonable and sane reader-protagonist -- not to mention a wildly inventive one -- do not derail the train of events that must ensue if this is to be Hamlet and not, say, Timon of Athens or A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's not just Hamlet. Oedipus needs to get out of town and change his name, to enter the Foreign Legion or the Witness Protection Program. Antigone needs a long talk with her rabbi. Juliet needs to tell her parents exactly what she did last night. She can't, of course, but what's to stop you? This game is rigged and, more importantly, the game constantly calls our attention to the fact that it is rigged. Whenever we struggle against the bonds of fate (and the boundaries of the system), we're told, "I don't understand." The more we struggle -- the more conviction and intelligence be bring to the action -- the greater the likelihood that the system will find no appropriate response. The artist's struggle to convey difficult truths is inevitably superceded by the reader-protagonist's struggle to do difficult or at least interesting things with a necessarily recalcitrant world-model.
The Arden Project
Arden: The World of William Shakespeare attempted to create some kind of visual Shakespearean world in which multiple characters could interact. In my lecture, I identified a number of challenges presented by such a project: * What is "The world of William Shakespeare"? The sets of the plays? Elizabethan England? * If you set them in the "play locations", to what degree is this Shakespeare? Stage sets are often the most flexible part of a production. Any historical stage would be extremely limiting. * How does the language of Shakespeare transfer into a digital environment where anything can happen, and in which reader-operators are expected to speak to one another using their own language? In-between the lecture and the publication of this page, Castranova has announced the project to have been a failure: "Virtual Labor Lost" (MIT Technology Review, 5 Dec. 2007)
253: A Novel in Seven Cars and a Crash
In 253, the reader observes the passengers of an entire London Tube train just before a devastating crash. * There is no reader-operated character * The operator can choose the order of reading, following either the layout of the tube cars, or the relationships of the passengers * The operator cannot influence the outcome * The operator controls pace. Pay careful attention to the location and wording of links which point to Elephant and Castle.
We Descend
Based on the story of Pygmalion, the reader converses with a lifelike statue. Galatea won "Best of Show" at the 2002 annual XYZZY interactive fiction awards. * The reader-operator controls a character * Operator inputs influence the text that is produced * Operator-character actions influence the outcome * Example of Interactive fiction, in which the reader types commands to the story and receives input in return. * Multilinear plot presents many reader choices and many outcomes. Galatea may be downloaded and played free of charge( download). It uses the Inform Interactive Fiction system, so you will have to download an InForm interpreter. Emily Short recommends these three interpreters: * Gargoyle (Linux) (Windows) * Spatterlight (OS X)
Who is the Reader?
In many interactive fiction works, the reader-operator plays a character in the story. This raises the question, "who is that character?" This information must be suppled to create the situation of role-playing (described in more detail in Emily Short's notes on Tragedy in Interactive Fiction). The following is a short list of ways this has been done. * When The Hithchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy commences, Arthur Dent, the player character, wakes up with a massive hangover. The first moves in the story involve clearing his mind so he can remember what is what. Even that is inaccurate, he finds, for Ford Prefect is from the vicinity of Beteljuice and the Vogons are about to destroy the Earth. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy can be played * In Amnesia, by Thomas Disch, the player character begins with amnesia and must discover his identity. * In Myst III Exile, the player character is unwittingly dropped into a revenge plot in a case of mistaken identity. Thus, the identity of the player is less important to the story than the identity of the person for whom the player is mistaken. * In Galatea, the main character is Galatea, not the player character. The text provides the adequate cues. According to Short, the role-playing element of Interactive Fiction is not explored very far in Galatea, since the character of interest is a third person.
Webmaster Borges
WEB master Borges The greatest influence on the Argentine writer was a phenomenon invented after his death. - - - - - - - - - - - - By Douglas Wolk Dec. 6, 1999 | It was Borges, Borges himself, who provided the key. Once I discovered it, of course, I realized that the clues are everywhere in the three volumes of the great Argentine writer's collected works recently published -- on the occasion of his centenary and in new English translations -- by Viking Press. Borges was fascinated by the idea of a hidden truth only accessible to the most dedicated reader; for instance, in a 1938 book review, and again in 1941's "A Study of the Works of Herbert Quain," he proposes a mystery novel whose true solution is not the one presented by the detective, but hinted at by a single casual phrase. It was in the story "Pierre Menard, Author of the 'Quixote,'" that I found just such a phrase, a tip-off that the greatest inspiration for Borges' work was a phenomenon that wasn't invented until four years after his death in 1986: the World Wide Web. Borges writes that his fictional author "has (perhaps unwittingly) enriched the slow and rudimentary art of reading by means of a new technique -- the technique of deliberate anachronism and fallacious attribution. That technique, requiring infinite patience and concentration ... fills the calmest books with adventure." Of course! Nothing could be more Borgesian than ignoring linear time; in the meticulously perverse logic of his stories, essays and poems, it's only natural that an author would be influenced by events yet to occur. With the patience and concentration Borges demands, it can be seen that his understanding of the Internet was absolute -- we who are merely its contemporaries can't possibly enjoy his perspective. And reading Borges' cryptic, deadpan paradoxes as commentary on the wired world does, indeed, deliver a jolt of recognition. I am not the first to point out that Borges' great invention, the Library of Babel, that immense, honeycombed labyrinth containing every possible text -- true, false and gibberish -- is a fanciful metaphor for the Web. As we become more familiar with the Internet's applications and idiosyncracies, the parallels planted in Borges' work become more clear. What are the "infinite stories, infinitely branching" of his character Herbert Quain's book "April March," if not hypertext? What is the purpose of Ireneo Funes, the paralyzed young man unable to forget any aspect of anything he has ever seen, if he is not to represent search engines burdened with memories of long-inactive links? What is Tlön, the virtual world in "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" that gradually overtakes the real one, if not the cyberspace for which the physical world is rapidly becoming a quaintly antiquated sketch? Canny Borges never names the Web, of course: As "The Garden of Forking Paths" points out, in a riddle whose answer is chess, the only word that cannot be used is "chess." But the meaning of his parables is specific and undeniable. The Aleph in the fiction of the same title, the portal through which one can see every point in the universe, is Netscape Navigator in all but name. The Zahir, an object that changes its form over time but monopolizes its owner's attention forever, is none other than Microsoft Internet Explorer, as anyone who's tried to unstick it from a computer's operating system only to click fatally on an innocuous icon will tell you. (Consider, in fact, the alphabetical remove of Borges' names for the browsers, his subtle jest on the Alpha and Omega of his new world.) "The Lottery In Babylon" -- in which all people in a society change their stations constantly, power and wealth springing up instantly and evaporating immediately, in ways dictated by blind chance -- is an idle fantasy if one ascribes no other meaning to it. Read as Borges no doubt intended, as a precise allegory of the dot-com IPO market and internal Web commerce, it becomes a scathing satire, and far more severe and elegant. For that matter, Borges' fictions, poems and articles are liberally hyperlinked to each other: His motifs of labyrinths and tigers and Dante appear again and again, coyly alluding to their sister pages. The learned allusions he loved so well are links to outside pages; it is one of his finest jokes that his reviews of imaginary volumes and quotations from imaginary authors are, quite simply, dead links. It's not yet certain what relevance all of Borges' works have to the Web, of course; it's too new a technology for some of his meanings to become clear. I look forward, for instance, to the events that will allow us to fully comprehend "The South," the curious tale of a traveler who gets in a knife fight, the tale that Borges thought might be his best story. "It is possible to read it both as a forthright narration of novelistic events and in quite another way, as well," he introduced it, practically shouting for it to receive an interpretation that can only be revealed as the Web evolves. Through Borges' technique of anachronism, we can see the real meanings of other authors' work as well. Anne Rice's "Interview With the Vampire" is a darkly wry, knowing discourse on AIDS, a disease unknown at the time of its publication. Mikhail Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita" is far more convincing as a commentary on post-Soviet Russia than as a fantasia of the Soviet era in which it was composed. I am reliably informed that the hidden purpose of one of Rex Stout's sturdy detective novels (the title escapes me), concerning orchid-sniffing detective Nero Wolfe, unfolded (orchid-like itself) only recently when it was revealed to be a commentary on certain private machinations at a large software company. It is possible that every book contains within itself a second, secret book, whose true meaning is invisible to its contemporary readers and even (perhaps) its author. Postscript: After several weeks of considering Borges' commentary on the Web, I am obsessed by it, like the Zahir; its hold on me is stronger than the hold Microsoft has on my hard drive. I am filled with trembling at the thought of his revelations -- not waiting for them to "come true," but waiting to understand their truth. As Borges' greatest and most invisible labyrinth expands around me, I can console myself only with his words, fittingly also from "Pierre Menard": "There is no intellectual exercise that is not ultimately pointless." | Dec. 6, 1999
Communities and Software
How Does the Mind Process Electronic Literature?
This is a question which is still being answered. One one hand, computer scientists conduct HCI (human computer interaction) research to discover ways that people process certain kinds of things on screen. On the other hand, researchers in psycholinguistics and psychonarratology have been trying to understand ways that people process ideas about characters, their objectives, relationships, and actions. Nick Lowe has prepared a handout on this topic (download). Very little empirical work has been done to bridge these areas with electronic literature. This lecture originally contained information in this area, but limitations on lecture length made it impractical.
Introduction: Innovation in Ancient Greece, Tragedy in Electronic Literature
(Quicktime Movie, 6.2mb, 4:12) You may also wish to look at "The Audience of Greek Tragedy" by Simon Goldhill, found in the Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy.
Kinetic Poetry: "Faith", by Robert Kendall
Hypertext Fiction: "We Descend", by Bill Bly
(Quicktime Movie, 57.1mb, 5:00) (note: first minute has no visual, and there is an editing glitch)
Please try to listen on (Youtube), since it's a large file.
Interactive Fiction: "Galatea" by Emily Short
Community & Convention in Electronic Literature
Why Write Tragedy?
Conclusion: Tragedy in Electronic Literature
Bernstein's Challenge
Let me try a probe, just to make a little tsimmes. Take the last twenty years of computer games -- the whole kit and kaboodle. Put them on a shelf. (Yeah, it's a big shelf) Now look over the shelf, and tell me everything we learn about, say, sexuality. (House rules: no arguments from silence, no metaphors, cigars are just cigars unless it's apparent to players who aren't Professors that they aren't. Chatroom romances don't count; I'm looking for what's in the game, not what the audience brings to the table, and yes, I see the theoretical shortcomings of the previous clause. You understand what I'm getting at. Play along at home; it's that kind of movie )
Listen Online
Stern Responds to Bernstein
( from "Stern's Response To Bernstein and Greco") Bernstein and Greco’s proposed systems, Card Shark and Thespis, push interactive narrative in a direction similar to the design goals of Façade, my current collaboration with Michael Mateas [4, this volume]. This convergence is exciting and interesting to me because Bernstein and Greco’s jumping-off point is hypertext literature [2], whereas I am building upon work on AI-based animated virtual characters [6, 7]. [....] With Façade we are experimenting, walking up closely to this edge. By carefully choosing the context of our story, an apartment, we implicitly limit the interface to a finite number of objects and gestures. But, because we leave language wide open -- the player can type any dialog they want -- we are putting a lot of effort into “recovery” from situations where the system does not understand or have a specific authored response for what the player is saying. (Characters will never literally say, “I don’t understand.”) We feel there is a lot of room to experiment with scripting the interactor [5] to allow for the experience of freedom for the player, when the actual number of responses is necessarily finite. “I don’t understand” is an inevitable position for the system to be in, but not an inevitable response. “Even if we could experience Hamlet on the holodeck, it wouldn't work. Tragedy requires that the characters be blind...” I agree, it seems likely that certain types of stories such as traditional tragedy may not work as an interactive story, for the reasons Bernstein and Greco describe. Instead authors will need to tell the kinds of stories that do work interactively. Façade is a more open-ended, explorative, psychological situation. Is this drama anymore? We hope to understand this better once we get a chance to play with the finished work.
A Rape in Cyberspace
Hypertext Technology and Ideology
Tragedy & Electronic Literature