Interactive narrative(s)

What’s the story with interactive narrative?

First of all, I believe it should have an ‘s’ i.e. ‘interactive narratives’ as there isn’t really a single ‘thing’ that is an interactive narrative. Also there are many different takes and theories on what interactive narratives are, which are also narratives in themselves, so making it plural serves multiple purposes.

Second, to explore what IN includes and to examine the state of the art in theory and practice, the following book is a good primer:
Hartmut Koenitz / Gabriele Ferri / Mads Haahr / Digdem Sezen / Tonguc Ibrahim Sezen (Eds.): Interactive Digital Narrative: History, Theory and Practice. New York: Routledge 2015 (= Routledge Studies in European Communication Research and Design 7

My review of it was published by Diegesis: Interdisciplinary E-Journal for Narrative Research in 2016 – here’s an excerpt :

“The history of IDN reflects 25 years of rapid technological change problematised by the tensions between technological determinism and social construction of the technologies involved in producing interactive digital narratives. Have the rapidly changing platforms and structures of digital media shaped the narratives being produced and consumed? Has IDN been able to evolve at a pace that allows for reflection and critique where researchers and producers benefit from accumulated knowledge and expertise in narrative creation? The first two essays in the book coolly illustrate the histories of two very different progenitors of IDN, hypertext fiction (by Scott Rettberg) and interactive cinema (by Chris Hales), as providing the basis for experimentation in narrative structure and reception that accelerated with the advance of digital media. However, in the third essay, Noam Knoller and Udie Ben-Arie argue more heatedly that the advance through different contextual ‘dispositifs’ has undermined relations between author and audience, offering a dystopian view of what ubiquitous and pervasive media could do to narrative structure.

This conflictive vision for the future sets the tone for an unsettled tour through the ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ sections in the rest of the book. Indeed, the three-strand outline belies the fact that several essays successfully mix perspectives. For example, prominent narratologist Marie-Laure Ryan merges history and theory in a useful analysis of how space and place are experienced differently in digital and non-IDN narratives, while Mads Haahr offers a history of practice in a highly pragmatic account of location-based media. Like the subject of IDN itself, the book structure allows for and rewards non-linear reading, encouraging readers to follow threads that link contributions in one section to another. For example, Rettberg’s two contributions to the ‘history’ and ‘practice’ sections read as a complementary pair outlining a chronological account of hypertext fictional genres but also revealing a self-conscious literary form where IDN ‘authors’ experiment with structures that depict and comment on the unfolding history of IDN at the same time.”

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