March 21: Hypertext and Hypermedia

To Do This Week


My Boyfriend Came Back from the War, by Olia Lialina (1996)
How to Rob a Bank, by Alan Bigelow (2016)
With Those We Love Alive, Porpentine (2014)

blog prompt:
Hypertext – hyperlinks connecting documents – opens up new ways to write, think and connect with others in networks.  Hypertext created the web, spawned new forms of art and ways of presenting knowledge. 

A digital story can be made of hyperlinks that follow a linear sequence, like pages of a book. But what about multilinear networks, random access and user interactivity – computer properties that break away from strictly linear sequencing?  Electronic games certainly use narrative forms and there is a rich history of literary fiction that have game-like qualities. Can the computer do for storytelling what it has done for gaming? What kind of stories work best in digital form?

Explore the three works listed above. Write a blog post about how the works can be considered stories or not. Do any of the works present coherent story worlds? What keeps you imaginatively engaged? Do you detect a plot and character development? How does the navigation structures bring you into the story? Is linear sequencing clear, vague or unimportant? 


Watch Video Narratives…

My Boyfriend Came Back from the War, by Olia Lialina (1996)
How to Rob a Bank, by Alan Bigelow (2016)
With Those We Love Alive, Porpentine (2014)

What is the relationship between the world simulation, interaction and plot?

Ian Bogost :

  • system operations (big goals, narrative arcs) 
  • unit operations (small actions, steps in a process.)

System operations are like the familiar narrative shell of game play: Kill aliens, find gold, capture treasure, etc. Movie plots – romance, adventure, thriller – all have system operations.
“protracted, dependent, sequential, and static” – universalising structures. Grand themes.

Unit operations are the small repetitive actions – steps in a process – that carry on the game play towards the larger plots.
“succint, discrete, referential, and dynamic”

The Terminal (2004):  theme of characters waiting – for love, recognition, or for a visa. How theme of waiting interacts with characters, setting creates meaning. Episodic micro-narratives (unit operational) rather than plot-oriented.

Twine and Unit Operations: 

With Those We Love Alive
We don’t know the goal of the game. We are thrown into unit operations. Giving choices for the player/reader to traverse a world. A mental model of a world develops over time. Engaging the imagination and building suspense. 

  1. Set the scene. Where are we at start? Task to discover the storyworld.
  2. Connect spaces (links allow traversal of spaces) – surprises along the way
  3. Place obstacles, objects, characters and other narrative details 
  4. Set some challenges (narrative conflict) along the way to reaching goal (game play) 
  5. Add narrative or poetic detail, evoke a world or character
  6. Make a way out, end point(s) or goal(s)

Here are Twine instructions:


Project #4 :   Hypermedia Story
DUE April 11

So far, we have been exploring more conventional, linear story forms using digital tools – text editors, remix methods and visual design tools. The class will now pivot towards more computational processes in the making and presentation of digital stories. Digital media reduces all forms of media to machine code so that the computer will know how to display an intended sign. Digital stories created by and for a computer environment can include non-linear navigation, direct access to data, stored data in databases, variables, conditionals, search, interface design, random and parallel processes, hyperlinks and other forms of user interaction or “agency”.

Digital storytelling using computational processes creates some complications for our conventional notions of story and narrative. Even though a website typically presents multiple links, giving the user a choice in navigation, that user is still following a single linear path – their own. The question and challenge for storytelling is how to design the user’s own path (navigation through media files) so that it will lead to the understanding of a story or  “story world”.

“Hypermedia” refers to linked media. This can be a linear or directed path of links – for example, from text, to image to video – like pages in a book. A work of hypermedia can also present a network of links – branching or open – where repetition of story elements are part of the experience of navigation. Social media, blogs or microblog websites, can create networks of linked media while maintaining a linear, time-stamped path. A twitter story might develop episodically, with links out to media or webpages in each tweet.  “Transmedia” refers to stories that relate story elements across different media. A transmedia story might chain a website, to a blog, to a video, to a comment, to a phone number, to a text message, to the geolocation of a physical place with live performers.  Geo-coordinates, for example, might unlock a new chapter on a phone.

In this assignment, you or your group, will explore the possibilities of storytelling use any of the above computational processes. This is an exercise that might be the start or framework of a larger idea that can develop further as a final project.

Student Hypermedia Stories:

Open Twine – play with the story your are building. What are other storytelling  techniques you can use? 


Twine Stories for Inspiration:




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