Janet H. Murray
From MIT Press December 2011
From Inventing the Medium: The Book
- Ch 0 Introduction
- Design Exercises
- I Changing Technologies, Lasting Innovations
- II Expressive Procedural Design
- III Spatial Design Strategies
- IV Encyclopedic Resources
- V Scripting the Interactor
- VI Onward with Invention!
Hamlet on the Holodeck
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Georgia Tech PhD candidate Andy Quitmeyer came up with another way of representing the affordance gird described in Chapter 3 of Inventing the Medium, using the framework of a radar chart. Here is his example, and the downloadable vector file is here.
The folks at TED have kindly dug up for me my 1998 talk which I still stand behind and which predicts the future well, but is also still timely. It is longer than the current crop, and more spontaneous. It falls into 4 segments and it references other talks, some of which are on the TED website but most of which are not.
Here is a summary:
1.PREAMBLE: WE NEED EVERY MEDIUM TO EXPRESS OUR HUMANITY (first 5 minutes) I take issue with Julie Taymor who spoke disparagingly of screen-based experiences, and offered the rituals of Bali dancers ( invoked again in her 20** TED Talk) as the superior paradigm for art that addresses the human condition. I also take issue with John Warnock, founder of Adobe and a rare book collector who described his meticulously prepared facsimile book series as purposely avoiding interactivity, such as searching by text, which makes it much less useful. I would still consider both positions examples of a fetishism for legacy forms of representation. (first 5 minutes).
2. ELIZA IS OUR CREATION MYTH (5:00 – 17:00) I compare the amazement at the birth of film (the legend of the Ciotat Train showing) to the amazement at the birth of procedural storytelling (the legend of Eliza at MIT), as I do in Chapter 3 ofHamlet on the Holodeck, and as I have done with my students pretty much every semester for the past 20 years.
3. PROTOTYPE OF A MULTISEQUENTIAL STORY WORLD STILL AHEAD OF ITS TIME 17:00- 2500) show an MIT project I created with Freedom Baird, sponsored by IBM and based on Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy, The Norman Conquest. The TV dramas are also now on YouTube. They were meant to be seen on three successive nights in any order, and each one is complete in itself but an exit in one play is an entrance in another play. This makes a nice comparison with Mitch Horowitz’s recent work on the Netflix version of Arrested Development, as I discussed in another post. (timecode: )
4. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? (last 30 seconds) I sum up as I do in Hamlet on the Holodeck, by comparing the development of conventions of interaction with the invention of the soliloquy in Shakespeare’s time.
Other references: John Warnock is the founder of Adobe and a rare book collector. At 1998 TED he presented a facsimile book series that purposely avoids interactivity, such as searching by text, which makes it much less useful. This is a good example of what I would now call legacy media fetishism.
Brenda Laurel, feminist game designer and pioneer of interactive storytelling, whose talk on her wonderful but short-lived series Purple Moon, is on the TED site.
Marvin Minsky, one of the seminal theorists of the field of Artificial Intelligence, who has a notorious blind spot for humanistic discourse. In the corridor between sessions Ben Shneiderman and argued with him. Minsky took the position that fictional stories were a waste of time because they were not true. Ben and I were appropriately outraged.
Here are the slides for our presentation from ACM SIGCHI TVX 2014 .
Companion Apps for Long Arc TV Series
Companion Apps for Long Arc TV Series
Supporting New Viewers in Complex Storyworlds with Tightly Synchronized Context-Sensitive Annotations
Abhishek Nandakumar, Janet MurrayThere are two relevant project pages with videos of eTV Lab projects: Story Map (for Justified) and Game of Thrones. The paper is available on the ACM Digital Library
In chapter 12 of ITM I talk about the companion model of the computer, the persistent fantasy that a computing machine can become our ideal personal companion, anticipating our needs even before we can articulate them. Spike Jonze’s new movie Her (2014) takes this wished for merger of computation and consciousness as his starting point, creating a richly imagined love story between Theodore, a relatively normal human being, and Samantha, a disembodied operating system. It is a smart movie and an elegant corrective to our fantasies of the totally responsive system.
Samantha, is a self-aware and evolving artificial intelligence, an instantiation of a new product called OS1 that Theodore meets when she is installed on his desktop machine. Samantha starts out as the perfect Siri+Google Glass assistant, offering reminders, retrieving information, tidying-email, proofreading documents, and even remembering which of the maze routes have already been tried in Theodore’s holographic video game. She is voiced with great charm by Scarlet Johansson, and given a sense of humor, a talent for cartooning and music composition, and verbal expressive qualities, such as breathlessness, that usually come from having a body. Samantha is also playful, “intuitively” sensing Theodore’s need for cheering up, she uses her navigational mode to send him spinning around madly; and she tricks him into approaching a pizza window and speaking out an order before he even knows he is hungry. This is Siri as the ideal playmate and mom for one’s inner, neglected 7 year old.
In order for this film to work we have to be able to sympathize with Theodore, who is alone on screen for much of the movie, communicating with Samantha through a wireless earbud and a mobile device which is often in his shirt pocket, pointed outward to share what he sees as he moves around the world. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance positions Theodore as a depressed but resilient person, who is unhappy but not desperate. His relationship with Samantha takes the form of an office romance – she is the perky and perfectly attentive assistant who understands him better and asks less of him than the embodied people in his life.
The film prevents us from dismissing the relationship by offering up a range of parallels to human/OS romance by which to calibrate what is real. Theodore works as a highly empathetic surrogate writer of computer-printed “handwritten letters” for a client base of caring but inarticulate lovers and relatives. When Theodore is at home he plays gesture-based video games on a holographic system projected in front of his couch, exploring an alien planet in the company of a comically insulting alien child. In one scene, the very personal, humanlike presence of Samantha, as a voice in Theodore’s earbud, is juxtaposed with the more rigidly programmed holographic game character. Theodore is also given a range of sexual encounters with actual women including happy memories of married sex, comically dreadful phone sex with a stranger, clumsily eager attempts at intimacy on a blind date, and a disturbing attempt at a three-way with a body surrogate for Samantha. With these scenes as sympathy-building context, the movie invites us to experience the loving words (over tasteful black screen) of Theodore and Sam’s love scene not as the masturbatory delusion of creepy loner, but as an absurd but authentic romantic consummation between two conscious beings.
With this scene Spike Jonze has taken the software-as-companion fantasy as far as it can possibly go, leaving previous robot/human stories like Blade Runner , let alone Nicholas Negroponte’s longing for the perfect English butler, in the dust. He also fittingly captures both the intensity and the futility of the underlying desire.
(Spoiler alert… for the rest of this post)
There is a story on the website of the Chronicle of Higher Education today about
the “acrimony” between Harvard and Amherst College which is disrupting efforts to create a comprehensive open access on-line archive for the manuscript papers of the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson. For over a century, efforts to aggregate these papers have been stymied by the fruits of a bitter rivalry between Susan Dickinson, the wife of Emily’s brother, Austin Dickinson, and Mabel Todd, who was the first editor of the poems, and who had a long doubly adulterous love affair with Austin. Mabel’s stash of papers wound up at Amherst College while Susan’s heirs sent their holdings to Harvard, where it is considered the jewel in the crown of Harvard’s 19th century manuscript collection at Houghton Library. Now that Houghton is preparing to launch the online archive and Amherst, which is listed as one among several collaborators, feels slighted, accusing Harvard of appropriating their assets without sharing the design decisions or access to their own collection. What can we learn from this? Continue reading
Here are the slides from my recent DiGRA’13 keynote, The Ambiguity of Game Studies: Observations on the Collective Process of Inventing a New Discipline, reminding folks of the intersection of Huizinga’s concept of the magic circle and Victor Turner’s concept of liminality.