The Personal Homepage and The (Im?)Possibility of Interactivity

Note: I’m mostly asking questions here, rather than positing answers; this is something I’d like some input on before I blog some more on it.

While commenting on Monica’s blog for this week, I was struck by the following question: is it possible for a personal web page to be constructed according to the idea of interactive narrative? Here’s the question as it initially emerged to me:

I wonder if truly interactive narrative is even possible (rather than simply inappropriate) in the professional homepage genre, as it’s usually some sort of first-person narrative that has a specific representation that we’re fully intending to control, as you pointed out. Is true interactivity–in the sense that Meadows describes it–even possible here in anything other than a superficial navigational manner?

For my own purposes, I’d like to focus more on the academic homepage and generic personal homepage (rather than the sales/consumer-oriented homepage, the fanpage, the celebrity homepage, or other subgenres) Briefly, let me define Interactive Narrative and the Personal Web Page:

Interactive Narrative: “a time-based representation of character and action in which a reader can affect, choose, or change the plot. The first-, second-, or third-person characters may actually be the reader. Opinion and perspective are inherent. Image is not necessary, but likely” (Meadows 62). Essentially, in an interactive narrative, the reader has some amount of choice over the direction the plot takes and thus can have varying levels of influence on the perspective or meaning of the narrative. Choose-your-own Adventure novels have been touted by a couple of us as rudimentary examples; RPGs (both p&p; and cRPG) operate at assorted levels of interactive sophistication; MMORPGs and sandbox-type games (like Morrowind) are among the more truly interactive in the genre.

Personal Web Page/Website: “World Wide Web pages created by an individual to contain content of a personal nature” (“Personal Web Page,” Wikipedia) The personal page is inherently a first-person genre, one focused largely on providing an outlet for the ideas and perspectives of the author (including those the author agrees with or deems worthy of dialogue with). This outlet may be intended toward a very specific audience (friends, family, colleagues) or may be directed toward consumers, readers with similar interests, or the completely random web surfer who lands on the page at random. Personal pages have in recent years tended toward the blog format, while academic pages tend toward some mixture of the blog format and a standard HTML curriculum vitae and portfolio.

Essential but problematic to understanding interactivity in web design (according to what I’ve laid out above) is the notion of plot. Questions I’m asking include:

  • What is (or counts as) the plot in a website or homepage? (How do we define plot?)
  • With that in mind, how does the reader change that plot?
  • What is the connection between plot and perspective?
  • Or, how does plot provide perspective in this genre?

Also a complicating factor: Have Social Networking and Blogger Killed the Personal Homepage?
(See The vanishing personal site; Social Times; The Death of the Home Page.)


4 thoughts on “The Personal Homepage and The (Im?)Possibility of Interactivity

  1. As I state in my posting for this week, I am struggling with how to incorporate interactivity in my homepage. I think that providing links that allow the reader to access different parts of the story may provide at least a basic interactivity, but whether that truly makes the page and interactive narrative, I do not know.

  2. I think your own homepage provides a LOT more possibilities for interactivity. In presenting your own story and inviting others to change their own stories (maybe even become part of a community of changed stories), you are definitely asking readers to interact–how exactly you manifest their participation on your homepage then becomes a technical question. Do you provide forums? Compare data? Allow recipe submissions? Have readers add their own narratives to yours? I think you’ve got some cool possibilities, Jessica.

  3. In a way tools like blogs and wiki’s (anything 2.0), leads to interactivity. Opinion is perspective, ultimately. If you were to provide a “plot” for your homepage, what would it be?

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