Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Foundations of Interaction Design

PARKS, J. (2009) Foundations of Interaction Design [online]. [22/12/09]. Available from: URL http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/podcast-with-david [Podcast].

"Basically the way the education system works is to do studio classes where you dive deeply into each one of these foundations and master its language. So that in terms of negative space for a graphic designer, for example, is understanding when something is in close enough proximity or not enough white space so that it is assumed that those elements are somehow related to each other, versus those when do I separate it enough so that I know that they’re not related to each other? So a lot of that is done in graphic design and industrial design.

When we talk about interaction design, there really hasn’t been a sustained conversation about elements like these that we can use to communicate what is good interaction design, what is bad interaction design, or even what is interaction design itself. In thinking about these foundations of interaction design that’s sort of at the core of what I’m trying to put together."

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Better Skills Through Better Research

Stephen Heller

HELLER, S. (2006) Better Skills Through Better Research. In: A. BENNETT, ed. Design Studies: Theory and Research in Graphic Design - A Reader. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, p10-13

"The term 'graphic designer,' as coined by W. A. Dwiggins in 1922, was meant to confer a loftier professional standing than the more common and now archaic 'commercial artist'." (p10)

It was in Heller's essay that I first came across Dwiggins' name and the origin of a term that I had been so familiar with for 25+ years. The fact that it was coined in the twenties during the period of so many Modernist art movements that heavily influenced the development of graphic design was notable.

Lost and Found: Critical Voices in New British Design

Rick Poynor

Poynor, R. (1999) Made in Britain: The Ambiguous Image. In N. Barley, S. Coates, M. Field and C. Roux. Lost and Found: Critical Voices in New British Design. London: Birkhauser Verlag AG/The British Council. Pp 28-31

“As both a profession and a form of practice, graphic design is in a state of flux. While the activities it encompasses can be traced back to the invention of writing itself, the term was not coined until the early 1920s and it is only in the postwar years that it became a commonly accepted form of designation amongst designers themselves. It has never reached the point of universal public understanding and lexicographers have been notoriously slow to allow it into the dictionary. Now, perhaps, it is already too late. Graphic design is evolving, mutating, merging with other forms of communication.” (Poynor, p28)

This quote was really useful in linking both the origin of the discipline with its future direction.

“If ‘graphic design’ now strikes some designers and design-watchers as too rigid a term, this is partly because it sounds like a largely technical procedure, but particularly because it fails to suggest the expanded possibilities of contemporary visual culture. Within graphic design, there has been much discussion of these issues in recent years, and British designers, despite a general reluctance to theorise their work, have played a central role in these changes.” (Poynor, p28)

This quote explores the rigidity of graphic design's definition within the digital information age suggesting a re-evaluation of the parameters that defines the discipline to date.

“The fundamental difference from the traditional model is that this is a content supplied by the designers [Jonathan Barnbrook, Tomato or Designers Republic] that is extra to the client’s basic message. The client buys into the designer’s personal vision in the belief that, commercially, this is the right thing for their service or product. If they don’t believe this to be the case then they look for a different designer.” (Poynor, p29)

This quote draws together the practioners Barnbrook, Tomato and Designers Republic into the same conversation.

“Tomato speak of relinquishing the world of fixed meanings. Barnbrook and The Designers Republic use ambiguity to unsettle and provoke. Paul Elliman believes a graphic message can either clarify or confound, so long as it contains a vital animating spirit. Sunbather’s Audiorom extends Tomato’s ideas about processes (…) by allowing viewers to enter the process, interact, and generate their own music and poetry. The desire to offer readers, viewers and users open-ended tools with which to create their own meanings is now pervasive within visual communication. It is a measure of this idea’s growing cultural impact that industrial designers are beginning to think in the same way. In an essay on ‘Design Noir’, Tony Dunne conjectures that in product design the challenging could soon shift “from concerns of physical interaction (passive button pushing), to the potential psychological experiences inherent in the product. The user becomes a protagonist and the designer becomes the co-author of the experience.” This is the approach already taken by Tomato, Anti-Rom, The Designers Republic, Fuel and Sunbather.” (Poynor, p31)

This quote references a range of practioners and commentators that future research can explore.

Norman Cooking

Graeme Aymer

Aymer, G. (2001). Norman Cooking. Create Online. Issue 8, January. p38-40

On GUIs limited prospect:
“It really is a good design, but it really didn’t scale well. Where’s it not appropriate is when there are huge amounts of information. The website, if you like, is an entirely graphical interface, but as it gets more complex, the user gets overwhelmed.” (Dr Donald Norman quoted p32)

Another article in Create magazine by Graeme Aymer this time profiling Donald Norman. It was a useful primer to Norman's work. Since reading this I have got around to buying the 2002 edition of "The Design of Everyday Things".

Interaction Guaranteed

Graeme Aymer

Aymer, G. (2001). Interaction Guaranteed. Create Online. Issue 10, March. p32-33

“Originally I was a graphic designer. (…) I thought graphic designers ought to be involved in designing software. That was 1983. Now they are involved, but its taken nearly 20 years for it to happen. That’s really how I started.” (Dr Gillian Crampton Smith quoted p32)

“The danger is, if you use the words ‘interactive design’, its as if the design is interactive. But if we think of graphic design, that applies both to what something looks like and to the design strategy of how you structure this information. And I think interaction design is similar. It’s not just designing the individual interactions that people have with software; it’s designing what a package is and what it does, and then designing what it will be like.” (Dr Gillian Crampton Smith quoted p33)

I found this article profiling Gillian Crampton Smith, ex-director of Ivrea. It was a brilliant find as she discusses not only graphic design and interaction design but also because the revelation that she was a graphic designer, a fact that was extremely useful to my first paper .

More Than Words

Gillian Roach

Roach, G. (2002). More Than Words. Create Online. Issue 27, July. pp48-51

On industry demands for employing designers:
“Well, you can’t be good at everything. You might be a great programmer but that doesn’t necessarily mean you know anything about the craft of typography. It’s quite an involved area and is heavily based around traditional graphic design, whereas Web design is heavily technology-based. The two are very different – just because you’re good at one doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at the other.” (Jonathan Barnbrook quoted p50)

Jonathan Barnbrook's name as a graphic designer came up within my research. I located this quote from Create magazine whilst looking for something else. I never actually found a use for it in my paper.

Monday, 26 January 2009

The Big IDEO

Graeme Aymer

Aymer, G. (2002). The Big IDEO. Create Online. Issue 29, September. P48-51

“My definition was to find the equivalent of industrial design within the electronic and software world, rather than the physical world. I felt that if you looked at existing disciplines, industrial design and mechanical engineering were obvious partners in terms of being physical things. If you looked at what was happening in software, human factors were there, but on the testing side rather than the creative design side, and the computer science was present. So there seemed a gap in terms someone who was going to look out for the user from the point of view of what they would really enjoy, what would give them satisfaction and pleasure – in other words, the more subjective side of it. And that’s the side of it that I wanted to try and fill with interaction design.” (Bill Moggridge quoted pp49-50)

This quote by Bill Moggridge, quoted in Create magazine, expands upon his defining of 'interaction design' that he discussed in Designing Interactions: Introduction.

The Xerox "Star": A Retrospective

Jeff Johnson and Teresa L. Roberts, U S WEST Advanced Technologies
William Verplank, IDTwo
David C. Smith, Cognition, Inc.
Charles Irby and Marian Beard, Metaphor Computer Systems
Kevin Mackey, Xerox Corporation

Johnson, J., Roberts, T.L., Verplank, W., Smith, D.C., Irby, C., Beard, M.
and Mackey, K. (1989) The Xerox "Star": A Retrospective. [online] (accessed on the World Wide Web 4/1/2009 http://www.digibarn.com/friends/curbow/star/retrospect/)

"One of the most obvious contributions of good graphic design is to provide appropriate visual order and focus to the screen. For example, intensity and contrast, when appropriately applied, draw the user's attention to the most important features of the display.”

"Screen graphics designed by computer programmers will not satisfy customers. The Star designers recognized their limitations in this regard and hired the right people for the job."

This interesting paper about the development of the Xerox "Star" computer GUI in the early 1980s, discussed the role played by graphic designers in the development of its GUI. Above are two quotes that I found very useful.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism

Rick Poynor

Poynor, R. (2003) No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism, Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

"Graphic design as a profession has long had an aversion to theory" p10

“No More Rules’ central argument is that one of the most significant developments in graphic design, during the last two decades, has been designers’ overt challenges to the conventions or rules that were once widely regarded as constituting good practice.”
(Poynor, p12)

“The last 20 years “has seen an explosion of creative activity in visual communication, as designers re-examined existing rules and forged new approaches. Graphic design is a much more open, diverse, inclusive and, perhaps too, inventive field as a result of these challenges. (…) As a professional activity, graphic design faces an uncertain future now that the new technology has opened up graphic production and expression to many more people.”
(Poynor, p17)

I never read the entire book as it wasn't fully relevant to my initial area of enquiry regarding graphical user interface design. This enquiry is written up as a paper that can be downloaded here as a pdf. The three quotes above were useful to me to assess the factors that graphic design, as a discipline, is having to address in order to develop and grow.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Designing Interactions: Chapter 3 - From the Desk to the Palm

Bill Moggridge

Moggridge, B. (2006) Designing Interactions, MIT Press, pp 155-235.

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it!" Xerox PARC credo

Chapter 3

In this chapter the development of interaction design for mobile use is explored. In doing so human cognitive facility is explored by Alan Kay of Xerox Parc. He believes that once designers realised that users have functioning minds true interface design began.

He sees this human cognitive facility as comprising of three mentalities:

  • a doing mentality;
  • an image mentality;
  • a symbolic mentality.
Good user interface design should integrate all three mentalities.

Kay also observes that designers learn by doing.

Later in this chapter Jeff Hawkins from Palm makes an interesting observation on working digitally. He raises the point that working digitally means not trying to capture the paperness of paper.

Rob Haitani of PalmOne, believes in putting people first. In developing the user interface for Palm he used a zen approach resulting in four guidelines to design:

  • Less is more;
  • Avoid adding features;
  • Strive for fewer steps;
  • Simplicity is better than complexity.

He sums this up as: "If you look at it intuitively and ask what you do more frequently, some of these decisions just naturally bubble up to the top. It all depends on understanding your customers, but not on a very complex level."

Hawkins finishes the chapter off with an observation that reflects Kay's own observation on human cognitive facilities. "Brains like familiarity, but they get bored. They are genetically programmed to want to discover new patterns. You don't want it too new because that seems dangerous. You want it somewhat familiar and somewhat new. (…) You want newness combined with cleverness."

Monday, 26 May 2008

Designing Interactions: Chapter 2 - My Pc

Bill Moggridge

Moggridge, B. (2006) Designing Interactions, MIT Press, pp 75-151.

"Making things more humane for people" Bill Atkinson

"You iterate like that, testing, and then being willing to set aside and build from scratch again." Bill Atkinson

"It is the responsibility of the designer to help people understand what is happening!" Bill Verplank

"As interaction designers, we need to remember that it is not about the interface, it's about what people want to do!"
Cordell Ratzlaff

Chapter 2
The sections by Bill Verplank (Ivrea and Stanford) and were most informative for me. They revealed a richness and depth to designing I had not previously considered.

This diagram, based upon Verplank's, has been incredibly useful in summarizing interaction:

This diagram has been beneficial to me in the dissemination of the design process involved in designing for interaction. The cycle of know/do/feel compliments a previous conceptual diagram describing a framework on how experiencing an interaction works I have used in my teaching since about 2003. (de los Reyes, 2002):

In this diagram there is a trigger to set off the interaction that leads to a resolution to the interaction. The user must first know what the trigger is to set the interaction off and how to set it off (do). The interaction is communicated by either/or aural, visual, tactile feedback leading to the final resolution. This resolution can be experienced emotionally, physically, sensory, cognitively and intellectually (feel).

Verplank explains this process as "The responsibility of the designer to help people understand what is happening!"

To know what exactly to do, a designer develops a map of the interactions that shows an overview of how it works. This path through the interactions shows what to do and what currently a user needs to know.

To be able to do, control needs to be given to the user to initiate the process of interaction. Users' can either be given continuous control through the handles/joysticks/input devices; or, discrete control through the use of buttons. The use of buttons delegate the control to the machine.

Finally, through feedback, the user feels an emotional response (resolution) to the interactive process through the media that is used.

Verplank goes onto to discuss a four-step paradigm for the Interactive Design Process:

  • Motivation - errors or ideas;
  • Meaning - metaphors and scenarios;
  • Modes - models and tasks;
  • Mappings - displays and controls.

This process can be summarized as:

  • Step 1 - What needs to be achieved?;
  • Step 2 - How to communicate the meaning;
  • Step 3 - What does the user need to know?;
  • Step 4 - How to make the interaction useable.

As well as the Verplank interview, the interview with Cordell Ratzlaff was also informative. Ratzlaff, designer of Mac OS X, believes that "design should be driven first by user needs and desires."

He goes on to state that an interface needs to be appropriate for the people using it and the task being performed. It's all about what people want to do!

Finally Ratzlaff discusses future interactive web technologies focusing upon agent based interfaces. People consume content is a statement he makes. But he suggests a future paradigm where there will be no transactional steps, everything will be performed by one agent. Unfortunately, all efforts so far have failed to achieve this.

de los Reyes, A. (2002) Flash Design for Mobile Devices, Hungry Minds Inc. p36

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Designing Interactions: Chapter 1 - The Mouse and the Desktop

Bill Moggridge

Moggridge, B. (2006) Designing Interactions, MIT Press, pp 17-72.

"Design is where all the action is!" Xerox PARC slogan

Chapter 1
Although this chapter is all about "the Mouse and the Desktop" there are still items of note that are transferable beyond these two items. The desktop after all is a graphical user interface. In this chapter Moggridge interviews pioneers behind both. With interviews from Doug Engelbart (inventor of the mouse), Stu Card (development of the mouse's form), Tim Mott (inventor of the desktop) and Larry Tesler(participatory design) I found the following points useful.

  • Card states that the "core skills of design are synthesis, understanding people, and iterative prototyping";
  • Mott discusses "guided fantasies" a new conceptual methodology to record how users would want to do the task before them. From understanding this the design process was simplified and more focused;
  • Tesler talks about "participatory design" and usability testing. Through "observing people and seeing what the problem was" from their perspective he could fix it quickly making the experience simpler.

Designing Interactions: Introduction

Bill Moggridge

Moggridge, B. (2006) Designing Interactions, MIT Press, pp 3-14.

In his introduction Bill Moggridge discusses the origins of Interaction Design.

"I realized that I had to learn a new sort of design, where I could apply as much skill and knowledge to designing satisfying and enjoyable experiences in the realm of software and electronic behaviours as I had with physical objects. (…) Like industrial design, the discipline would be concerned with subjective and qualitative values, would start from the needs and desires of the people who use a product or service, and strive to create designs that would give aesthetic pleasure as well as lasting satisfaction and enjoyment."

Designing Interactions: Forward

Bill Moggridge

Moggridge, B. (2006) Designing Interactions, MIT Press, pp xi-xix.

"It's about shaping our everyday life through digital artefacts - for work, for play, and for entertainment."

So Gillian Crampton Smith sets the scene for the entire book. Her forward to this excellent book contains some really useful observations and points on what makes good interaction design. Designing for sociability is a fifth imperative when designing. Designers use a language of implicit meanings when designing interfaces. This adds a rich meta-communication channel over direct functional communication, that in turn enhances our modern everyday life. It is this aspect of sociability in an interface that needs to be considered alongside designing good usability, utility, user-satisfaction and quality communicative functions. These can be assured with the reassuring feedback that should be central to good interactive design.

Crampton Smith goes into some fundamentals of design such as consistency, before discussing intuitive interaction. Obviously qualities of interaction must be appropriate to the context in which it operates. If that interaction is intuitive it minimizes conscious thought to operate the interface allowing the user to concentrate on the goal they wish to achieve. To get to that goal we as designers need to design not just for the aesthetics but equally for the behaviour of the interaction. She raises the temporal dimension as a factor to consider within design, which I find really useful. Collaboration is equally important within the design process.

Finally she raises the notion of perceptual psychology and interaction design. Through perceptual psychology the limits of interactions between entities are becoming understandable. But the "level of mood and meaning, of sociability and civility" are areas that still need more work.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Distributed communities and nodal societies

Phillip H. Gochenour

Gochenour P.H. (2006) "Distributed communities and nodal societies",in New Media & Society Vol8(1):33–51, SAGE Publications

There are a few points within this paper of interest to me. References to MOOs, MUDs, bulletin boards et al in reference to online communities, to me, are so far removed from the formation of everyday experiences of non-nerds who form online communities, that they are unhelpful. This is notwithstanding the fact that if these hadn't existed the online experiences of 'non-nerds' would be very different. We acknowledge the arpanet as the progenitor of the internet, Babbage's counting machine as progenitor to the PC, but we don't have to understand these progenitors to explore their offsprings relevance. That said some points of note were useful:

  • "Rather than turning to the internet to become members of specifically online communities, they were using it as infrastructure to communicate with a geographically distributed network of friends and family."

  • "the typical experience of online community can also be seen in the rise of social networking applications (…)[that] use an overt network structure, in which each individual functions as node, to allow users to stay in touch with known friends, find connections to new ones, and to organize events. (…) these applications, (…) make no pretense as functioning as ‘civil societies’; rather, they provide linking mechanisms for individuals to form networks, which can then be leveraged for social, political, cultural, and economic purposes.”

  • “perhaps we should also begin talking about ‘distributed communities’, which suggests that the internet provides a mechanism for widely-dispersed individuals to interact with one another. And while discussion of online communities has often focused on the nature of the subject within the community (Bruckman, 1993; Donath, 1999; Ito, 1997; Turkle, 1995), discussion of distributed communities may enable us to see how individuals function in a polyvalent way outside of specific spaces.”

  • “community is always about the interaction of individual subjects with one another through some means of communication.”

  • “Flusser’s conception of the Self is one in which different lines are gathered together and contained. This is an idea that has been examined in some depth, especially in relation to online communities, most notably by Rheingold (1994) and Turkle (1995). In Life on the Screen, Turkle devotes considerable attention to the phenomenon of multiple online identities, and invokes such concepts as Lifton’s ‘protean self’ and Bruckman’s ‘identity workshops’ to arrive at the conclusion that online communities provide a space for the expression of multiple identities, and that the self is in fact a fluid identity capable of multiple expressions. As she puts it: ‘Today, people are being helped to develop ideas about identity as multiplicity by a new practice of identity as multiplicity in online life’ (1995: 260).”

  • "so long as humans are engaging in a process of recurrent communication, they are in a community, and it does not matter whether that communication is carried out through speech, telephone, handwritten letters, or typed words on a screen.

  • “There are numerous communities that have arisen as the result of being able to communicate with members who are widely distributed over a geographic area (…) I think it would be fair to say that many communities, defined in this way, exist today that would not have existed prior to the development of the internet”

  • “As we begin to think about distributed communities as communities, we must also begin to think about their rights as communities in a global world, and the rights of individuals to realize themselves within those communities.”

Beyond the ‘dazzling light’: from dreams of transcendence to the ‘remediation’ of urban life

Stephen Graham

Graham, S. (2004) 'Beyond the ‘dazzling light’: from dreams of transcendence to the ‘remediation’ of urban life', in New Media & Society Vol6(1):16–25, SAGE Publications

This paper is not entirely central to my research contextual review but does contain some interesting points that may have some indirect bearing on my eventual research. Graham is a Professor of Urban Technology at Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape. It is in his exploration of new media and urban studies that he makes some useful points of reference for me. To quote some:

  • "Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin have called the ‘theology’ of cyberspace (…) based on a master narrative which suggested that new media transform ‘information from something separate and contained within computers to a space we can inhabit’ (2000: 180). (…) Thankfully, this situation is now changing dramatically."

  • "Since the late 1990s, high-quality theoretical, empirical and policy research on the links between new media and the changing nature of both urban places and life has emerged rapidly in many disciplines across the world."

  • “new media research needs to engage much more powerfully with the complex intra-urban and inter-urban geographies that so starkly define the production, consumption and use of its subject artefacts, technologies and practices.

  • “Above all, while there is no doubt that new media can act as ‘prostheses’ to extend human actions, identities and communities in time and space, it does not follow that the human self is ‘released from the fixed location of the body, built environment or nation’. Rather, ‘the self is always somewhere, always located in some sense in some place, and cannot be totally unhoused’ (Kaplan, 2002: 34).”

  • “As cultural geographer Denis Cosgrove suggests: The urban world networked by [Bill] Gates’ technologies strung out on the wire is not disconnected, abstract, inhuman; it is bound in the places and times of actual lives, into human existences that are as connected, sensuous and personal as they ever have been. (Cosgrove, 1996: 1495)”

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Interactivity: a concept explication

Spiro Kiousis

Kiousis, S. (2002) Interactivity: a concept explication New Media & Society, SAGE Publications, Vol4(3):355–383

Kiousis suggests that "interactivity is both a media and psychological factor that varies across communication technologies, communication contexts, and people's perceptions." The paper aims to generate new theoretical and operational definitions to bring a consensus across the disciplines.

What I have found useful in this paper are:

  • The definitions of interactivity;

  • The perception of interactivity;

  • The components and features that comprise the various definitions;

  • The variables associated with interactivity.
Additional to this is the literature review within which he uses a six-dimensional definition of interactivity based upon one supplied by Carrie Heeter from her 1989 paper "Interactivity in the context of designed experience". His definition is:
  • complexity of choice available;

  • effort that users must exert;

  • responsiveness to the user;

  • monitoring of information use;

  • ease of adding information;

  • facilitation of interpersonal communication.

He states 3 basic empirical rules for observing interactivity:
  • at least two participants;

  • the presence of technology allowing mediated communication;

  • possibility to manipulate the mediated environment.
In summary Kiousis defines interactivity "as the degree to which a communication technology can create a mediated environment in which participants can communicate (one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many) both synchronously and asynchronously and participate in reciprocal message exchanges (third-order dependency). With regard to human users, it additionally refers to the ability of users to perceive the experience to be a simulation of interpersonal communication and increase their awareness of telepresence.

Operationally, interactivity is established by three factors: technological structure of the media used (e.g. speed, range, timing flexibility, and sensory complexity), characteristics of communication settings (e.g. third-order dependency and social presence), and individuals’ perceptions (e.g. proximity, perceived speed, sensory activation, and telepresence)."

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Ludology Meets Narratology: Similitude and differences between (video)games and narrative

Gonzalo Frasca

Frasca, G. (1999) ‘Ludology Meets Narratology: Similitude and Differences Between (Video) Games and Narrative’, [online], URL: http://www.ludology.org/articles/ludology.htm, [accessed 17/3/08]

This paper was useful in raising the notion of Paidea (sic). This concept is an attempt to differentiate between play and game. The term paideia (actual spelling) was proposed by Roger Caillois in 1967 as a term to represent "play", in opposition to "ludus" ("game"). Although this term is within the context of Games Theory I see it as useful to understand narrative architecture from a non-game perspective.

Frasca states that both games and play have rules, but the rules within play aren't focused on a pre-designated goal. This allows the user freedom to determine goals determined by environment (topology, objects and characters), actions and setting. He uses a quote from the 1987 edition of the Dictionary of Narratology by Gerald Prince to explain setting: "spaciotemporal circumstances in which events of a narrative occur."

This quote is very useful for my inquiry.

The Narrative and Ludic Nexus in Computer Games: Diverse Worlds II

Jeffrey E. Brand & Scott J. Knight

Brand, J.E. and Knight, S.J. (2005) ‘The Narrative and Ludic Nexus in Computer Games: Diverse Worlds II’, Diagra 2005 Conference [online], URL: http://www.digra.org/dl/db/06278.57359.pdf [accessed: 17/3/08]

Brand and Knight take Jenkins' narrative architecture axiom and explicates the four forms of narrative. Obviously this is firmly in the context of Computer Game Theory and the conference paper draws the attention to additional interesting functions. Side-stepping the Narraotology vs Ludology debate, my interest lies in these additional interpretations that expand on narrative.

  • In regard to Evoked Narrative, Brand & Knight acknowledge the debate's invitation to still address whether the narrative architecture is determined by authors (writers/designers) or the audience.

  • They also see that Jenkins does see that Evoked Narrative has a polysemic dimension to it; where a coexistence of many possible narratives is dependent upon the competencies of the audience to see them.

  • In regard to Embedded Narrative they see that narrative can be decoded from cues and clues within a game, and a sense of story can then evolve temporally.

  • These decoded story clues and cues within Embedded Narrative can be invoked through the mise-en-scene, which in turn can infer past stories. These are what Jenkins describes as "traces on the landscape".

Brand & Knight do wonder whether there is need for more precision in the conceptualisation of Emergent and Embedded narratives. Some points they raise to address are:

  • Defining Embedded Narrative more narrowly as pre-authored spaces, objects, artefacts that are to be read.

  • How does the narrative transform with the "mark of visitation" (Jenkins) left by a player across the narrative architecture's "storyworld"?

They also consider issues such as environmental control; real-world time vs arbitrary time; the design and purpose (teleology) of time (especially the property of no clear winning state (does this correspond with Caillois' term paidea as cited by Frasca) and the mutability of control.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Game Design as Narrative Architecture

Henry Jenkins

Jenkins, H. (2004) ‘Game Design as Narrative Architecture’ [online], URL: http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/games&narrative.html [accessed 17/3/08]

This paper is theoretically placed within game theory and is cited as seminal by others within the narratology vs ludology debate. What I have found very informative from this paper is Jenkins' central idea of building an underlying narrative architecture (within computer games) through which four forms of narrative can be measured: evoked, enacted, embedded and emergent.

He proposes the concept of environmental story-telling. "narrative can also enter games on the level of localized incident, or what I am calling micro-narratives." (p7).

His proposition not only attempts to close the debate between narratology and ludology, but what I have found useful for my own research is the implication for spatial exploration over causal event chains. This is not story-telling. This has a capacity to set up causal events within an interaction through which the users actions can be explained or appreciated by themselves as a narrative, at least a micro-narrative.

Opposition to Jenkins' proposition:

  • Jenkins fails to define the contested concepts of games, narrative and stories (reading an even small amount of games theory literature covers these concepts adequately. Jenkins moves the debate towards a synthesis without the need to restate these concepts).

  • His proposition follows the comparative media studies strategy of reducing all media to story-telling assuming games tell stories (this is a ludologist opposition).

  • He ignores some important pieces of narratology and ludology literature (This may be so. I'll have to read the literature before commenting further).

  • His "spatial story" is a naive thematic construct (This is from a ludological viewpoint).

  • He is being pan-narrativist, seeing stories everywhere (I don't agree that this is what he is saying at all)

New sub-blog :: This is to be my (proposed) PhD's annotated bibliography

This blog will be used as an annotated bibliography for my (proposed) PhD. This is currently at application stage with ECA. To support my research into the literature I will use this blog to list my bibliography, entry by entry, accompanied with my notes distilling the main points.

It probably won't be a huge interest to others, therefore I am keeping my other blog to talk more about researching interactive design. That blog will be more about my understanding of the theory. This blog will be listing the sources.

I already have a multitude of sources I need to annotate for my own sake. I'll post soon my first annotated entry. Check back.