Donut Age: America's Donut Magazine


Andrew Stern at grandtextauto is bothered by the term "digital storytelling":

If you assume a primary pleasure of interactive experiences is agency, as I do, then the suffix "-telling" should be avoided. I'm interested in experiences in which the player is collaborating with the system to help make, to co-create, to have meaningful affect on the story, not be told a story.
I prefer more open terms such as "interactive story", "interactive drama", "electronic literature" or "interactive fiction".

Andrew claims he doesn't want to start a terminology debate, but it would seem that he is doing just that. I don't really mind, since I've been in my share of them as well (including asserting that we should stop using the noun "hypertext" in favor of the adjective "hypertextual" or, even better, the verb "to hypertext") and I am all for promoting precision in terms. What does bother me is the air of smug superiority when comparing "interactive experiences" to merely being "told a story." It's the same smug superiority with which many second-generation hypertext/e-literature/game studies critics (including, I believe, some of the GTxA drivers) have rebuked first-generation hypertext critics for those critics' smug superiority when comparing hypertext to print. Let's get over ourselves and give up this my-field-of-research-is-infinitely-more-complex-and-interesting-than-your-field sniping.

(To be fair, Andrew's earlier post on agency takes pains to avoid any hint of bashing and admits that little or no "deeply interactive digital fiction" produced to date. I don't really want to single out Andrew or the game studies field. This Oedipal urge to kill the critical father is a common affliction throughout academia.)

Besides which, who's to say that traditional storytelling cannot be interactive? If I recall my Ong and McLuhan and Havelock correctly, storytelling in oral cultures was/is a highly participatory affair, with the storyteller constructing his or her story on the fly based on audience composition and feedback. For that matter, try telling a story to a child, and you'll find agency alive and well, as he or she insists that certain parts be changed, repeated, expanded, etc. Storytellers know lots of things -- about audiences, about plotting, about pacing, and so on -- that students and producers of new media ought to be interested in, so let's not kick them out of the conversation.