Reacting to Marie-Laure Ryan’s narrative as Virtual Reality

“It is the ability to tell stories that will decide whether hypertext will secure a durable and reasonably visible niche on the cultural scene or linger on for a while as a genre consumed mostly by prospective authors and academic critics” — chapter 8, Can Coherence Be Saved?

One element of hypertext that gets thrown in the storytelling mix which I find most interesting is how the reader can quickly become the author, imbuing new facets to a story, or creating an altogether new meta-story. I’m thinking specifically of electronic hypertexts (which Ryan makes a point of distinguishing between) — and not just the story that is created through the choice of links and pathways that a reader takes, but in the ability for the reader to contribute directly. It’s almost mundane now, through blogs, forums, etc, but the tendency for readers not only to participate, but to describe their participation, to tell the story of their involvement, brings another level to the narrative. I read a great interview with Sean Stewart about his role in creating Alternative-Reality Games for Microsoft and others, and one thing that struck me was this comment:

“What people do on the web is they look for things and they gossip. We found a way of storytelling that has a lot to do with looking for things and gossiping about them.”

There’s a fusion between the story being told, and the story being told about the story being told. I think that there is a lot of promise in this style of storytelling, and I think that the success of these ARGs can put to rest any doubts of interactive narrative and hypertext being solely the domain of academia.

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