Equations for Interactive Narrative

Here’s another one that started as a comment to this post and ended up as a blog entry of its own. Hooray for my discursiveness.

Some further meditations on narrative, and forgive my messy mathematics:

• Okay, so it seems that we could say that narrative plot is a function of space over time.*
• As well, interactive narrative is narrative in which the reader has some level of control over the plot.
• We could also say that perspective offered through narrative creates conflict with the reader’s existing perspectives; this is the criteria that we use to the relative worth of a narrative: good conflict=good narrative, no conflict=bad narrative**. (Note: I’m not defining conflict in purely agonistic terms here–it could be anywhere in the range from pure confirmatio to pure confutatio.)
• In an interactive narrative, the relationship between author and reader is better understood as a continuum of distances rather than as a pure duality.
• Finally (maybe), opinion=perspective.

So, how does this translate to my homepage? What’s the plot? What’s the space? What’s the conflict? What’s the perspective offered (the opinion, ultimately)?

Let me answer this by returning to the question that inspired the original blog in the first place:

is it possible for a personal web page to be constructed according to the idea of interactive narrative?

At this point, after having worked on my own site, seen the sites of others, participating in class discussions, and done quite a bit of exploration on my own, I can assuredly say Yes. Of course personal web pages can be interactive. Early on, I think that I’d begun to mistakenly equate controlling the plot with generating the plot. While this is certainly one possibility for IN, it’s really at one extreme on the continuum. The reader can be the author in a pure sense, but that’s only one option. That is, interactive narrative is not necessarily about the reader creating the content–that’s still the author’s job.

With my personal homepage, the reader can control the plot in any of the following ways:

• choose whether or not they enter the site
• choose the order in which they view content
• choose whether or not to view certain content at all
• choose their level of personal interaction with the author (they can stay distant and just read contents, or they can move to varying levels of personal knowledge by contacting me, checking out my youtube account, my facebook page, my blog).
• add to the plot (comment on the blog, certainly; request certain content from me, perhaps)
• other ways I’ve not thought of…

Let’s come back (this is becoming disorganized as I think through it; please forgive me) to plot/space/conflict for a moment.

• What is the plot? I’ve got a three-part plot, basically: who I am as an educator, who I am as a “scholar,” and who I am as a person. The story I’m trying to tell isn’t something that I want to take space here writing about, but it should hopefully be evident to those who participate in my homepage–those who take up their time exploring my space.
• What is the space? I’ve used the metaphor of my desk (including a computer, a paper tablet, a photo of my adorable daughter, and other assorted desktop objects) to create a figurative space for the site. All of you guys have responded positively to this, so I’m glad it’s working as a framework for the site!
• What is the conflict? While hopefully it’s not a personal conflict (I hate Mr. Andrews so let’s go see what “dirt” we can dig up), I hope that there are a number of perspectives offered about who I am not only as a professional but also as a human being. The conflict I’d like to create? Some options I’ve considered: a confirmatio of my ethos as an educator and scholar; a confutatio of what the academic homepage ought to be; even some level of conflict over how my students/colleagues understand the discipline we’re learning about and working in. (I seem to remember saying something along these lines in the MOO one evening, actually–it’s stuck with me, even though I haven’t completely worked it into my site yet.) Of course, my own opinions about, well, whatever I blog about or post on my homepage are part of the perspective offered as well.

This is how it makes sense for me. Does it make as much sense to you?

*See my blog for Week 6. I do love giving math equations to my literature students, by the way; they don’t care much for it, but linking texts and maths gives the repressed little math major in me a bit of joy!

**I wonder as well if this can also be translated out to “too much conflict=defensive reader response,” which would make anecdotal sense in the context of my own experiences teaching about texts.