[ISEA95] Panel: Martin Rieser – Interactive narrative: A form of fiction?

Panel Statement

Panel: Interactivity and Metaphors

“The narratives of the world are numberless. Narrative is first and foremost a prodigious variety of genres, themselves distributed among different substances-as though any material were fit to receive man’s stories. Able to be canied by articulated language, spoken or written, fixed or moving images, gestures and the ordered mixture of all these substances; narrative is present in myth, legend fable, tale, novella. epic, history, tragedy, drama, comedy, mime, painting..stained glass windows, cinema, comics, news item, conversation”.                                                                                                       _Roland Barthes

Narrative permeates every aspects of our lives: all societies and cultures and individuals generate and live by the stories they tell themselves. In the personal sphere we are constantly converting the past into an ordered edit of the significant..or trivial, in other words: memories. While these may be recalled in an associative or seemingly random manner, they are tied to a structure implicit in the history of the individual. Once in the social domain, linearity seems to become an essential part of communication. The problem is that the addition of Interactivity places an intolerable contradiction on what is understood as traditional narrative. It implies that the reader/spectator be transformed into a true authorial role as shaper of events, weaver of stories, a possessor of agency:
“Interactivity replaces the concept of the passive viewer by the active participant….An interactive cinema needs to offer a fundamental range of choices lo the user. This cannot be
confined to a few alternative linear routes, endings or character view-points in an otherwise linear narrative structure”.
_Malcolm LeGrice
For the artist the struggle for appropriate form is never an easy one:
“Most people imagine there’s a spectrum between conventional written stories on one side and total interactivity on the other. But what I believe is that what you really have are two safe havens separated by a pit of Hell“.
_Walt Freitag

  • Martin William Rieser (UK)  is senior lecturer in Electronic Arts and Multimedia at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol. He has been a digital media artist since 1981 working intensively with multimedia for the last four years.

Full text p.242-247