[ISEA97] Panel: Pamela Jennings – Panel Statement

Panel Statement

Panel: Literature, Journalism and the Telematic Society 1: Coming to Terms with Interactivity

Narrative is a process of delivering information over time. Written and oral cultures traditionally view the continuum of time differently and therefore have created narrative structures, based upon seemingly opposing methods — the rigid linear progression and iterative, participatory looping of complex narrative elements. Brenda Laurel’s book, Computers as Theater, proposes to use the theories of Aristotle in the Poetics as a foundation from which software designers and computer engineers can create effective human computer interfaces. However, because of fixed definition of plot and discouragement of repetition and spectacle, in the Poetics, it is an inadequate model for the creation of computer-based interactive work.
Challenging the Aristotelian model for the development of robust computer interactive applications, initiates a search for alternative structures for delivering information over time. A style that can allow for multiple climaxes, ambiguity, and the subtleties of tonality, imagery and digression, will amount to more relative means for the production of the complexity inherent in this genre. The Poetics’ cartesian-like execution of beginnings, middles and ends, can be replaced with transcendental multitasking of themes as practiced by traditional oral cultures.Creating an engine where ritual, play, and games are as important elements as the linear narrative; an engine which comes closer to mocking the ambiguities of Iife. The spoken presentation of traditional African storytelling implies that oral literature makes its appeal first through the sound of the words reaching the ears of the audience and secondarily through understanding the meaning and/or logic contained in those words. The orator’s themes overlap taking tangents in reaction to audience participation. Umberto Eco describes the “open work” as not having a single prescribed point of view. Rather, it is swathed in a whirlwind of movement and discontinuity that offers the participant an infinite potential for exchange rich in unforeseeable discoveries. This exchange of indeterminacy and immanence is the very core of post-modern discourse. Practitioners of chaos theory call this indeterminacy, nuance — the butterfly’s wings that trigger the monsoon on the opposite side of the world. Computer programmers are gradually adopting the concepts of fuzzy logic, a science of gray tones, that reveal crisp results for smart systems. There are common threads running through these disciplines of improvisation and multitasking. The development of new tools — or a rethinking of how we use the tools we already have — will be crucial to the development of interactive designs and experiences that push the horizons of computer applications past the linear gates of Aristotle’s Poetics. Using these tools, urge explorations of horizontal relationships among seemingly unrelated disciplines to produce an in-depth exploration of multi-dimensional narrative structure.

  • Pamela Jennings (U.S.A.) is currently working with the USER Ergonomics/ Ease of Use Research Lab at the Almaden Research Center at IBM. She previously held the position of Creative Director of IBM’s alphaWorks WWW project. Other commercial clients include the Time Warner Interactive group, and NBC Interactive. Her electronic art work explores the creative frontiers of electronic art and issues of desire. Her projects include the CD ROM Solitaire: Dream Journal: An Interactive Sculpture; The Book of Ruins and Desire; and constant experimentation on her website. Her writings have appeared in Felix: a Journal of Media Arts and Communication, and Leonardo Magazine. Pamela is the recipient of three Media Arts grants from the New York State Council on the Arts; Artist in Residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts; and a MacDowell Artist Colony Fellow. She received her MFA in Computer Arts from the School of Visual Arts in NYC, MA in Studio Art from the New York University/International Center of Photography program, and BA in Psychology from Oberlin College. studioforcreativeinquiry.org/peoples/pamela-jennings