WEEK 10: Hypertext & Hypermedia – Are They Stories?

tommy o

A simple answer is that these three works are stories. The most coherent world might be shown in “How to Rob a Bank,” which tells a story from multiple points of view that can be engaged with in any order. The two tracks I spent the most time with were the journal of Elizabeth and the Huffington Post submissions of Nancy. They were both subjective but were unified by the overarching idea of a couple robbing banks and its perceived impact. This fits easily into the idea of a linear narrative because the story does not change it just has various perspectives. I was not engaged by “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War.” Though it develops a sense of characters its navigation, which approaches randomness, is disjointed, and for me off-putting. So, I can say that work did not draw me in at all. Regardless, the fractured nature of the presentation does lead to a sense of brokenness which is perhaps the important current that flows through and unifies the work. “With Those We Love Alive” was trickier for me because I was engaged and explored more. The tricky part was I was hooked by the question/answer portion and, when the switch was made to a story, I was invested in exploring the world that was presented. The world building aspect of the work established simple and clear elements like the workshop and the temple. I explored some of these options until they were exhausted.

One important aspect of these works is that they are, for me, related to a chose-your-own-adventure book. I have seen other hypertext works that are exactly that. Those stories are interactive and rely on audience choice to complete the story beyond just a turn of the page. There is also a reliance on associative thinking in some of the early pre-web hypertext/hypermedia works that breaks away from what would be typical in most books that tell stories, as opposed to encyclopedias and dictionaries which are indexed. Although, in my experience of these later books I tend to go down the rabbit-hole of associative linking. Wikipedia is a good example of hypertext with associative linking in digital form.

Is linear sequencing important? I say yes. Whether it is clear or vague if there is no story, or perhaps even a simple theme, I doubt the work can be engaging. Even if the work is purely sound-based or purely visual there has to be a cause and effect that I can grasp or the work will be beyond me. Surprise as an effect is the same in that the surprise needs to be understandable or somehow able to be contextualized by the audience. In the end, if it’s a story it must communicate something. I think the three works did that.

Are Hypertext Media Stories?

I really do think that Hypertext Media are stories. Are they the normal stories that we tell by the campfire? No, they are so much different but in a great way. There are so many ways to go about writing digital narratives and so many paths to take! For example, My Boyfriend Came Back from the War is a perfect definition of using branching paths. There are so many ways of going throughout this world that Olia made! That is what makes the world feel so alive is the many different ways you can go and connect things together like string and tacks. Of course, you can also go with a more linear style of story. Take How to Rob a Bank. This story is definitely a more linear one but it has the interesting narrative and the way it tells it through a smart phone is just amazing. It’s like going through the mind of the main character. It’s almost like I am supposed to be the main character in the story! Lastly, With Those We Love Alive was so cool because of the imagery and choice based story telling. The text was so descriptive and it really put me in the world that the author made just through text. Also the use of choice and deciding where to go and what to do through text is something that can only be achieved on a digital format. Hypertext Media is definitely storytelling and a very unique kind at that. There are so many ideas and things you can do with it. With Digital Media, the sky is the limit.

A Note On AI Tools

tommy o

A very simple idea occurred to me after using AI to generate ideas for and parts of work. Tools leave marks.

We all understand this, it’s in our language when we say something like, “that looks handmade.” We appreciate the skillful use of thread and needle, the pushing of paint over canvas, and the capturing of light with a camera’s click. And, we accept there is process behind it all.

We recognize there are tools involved and then we forget about them. What we see then is the result that we engage with, the art. And, we strive to understand its purpose, its communication.

In time we will recognize AI tools exist and we will forget about them too when we engage with the stories that are told with them, the communication of the artist. This always happens. It is a piece of the power of storytelling in our nature. There will be new tools that we will marvel at, at first, and then forget them as wonders. Perhaps this is because we come to understand the mastery of tools, either our own or another’s.

Mastery is simply diligence: time and effort. AI tools are the same. Hundreds or thousands of prompts, variations, refinements, manipulations, and always the driving force of one’s desire to create, to assemble and communicate a thought, to tell someone something. I have spent hours and dollars exploring AI. I believe I will spend many more to understand the tools’ means of expression.

.We see the marks. The marks are not the work.

Gibson – Blog Post #10 (3/21)

Hello everyone,

After checking out “My Boyfriend Came Back From The War,” I am a little bit confused on the story it was trying to tell. At one point I got the impression that the partner cheated on their boyfriend while they were deployed. There is a line that says something along the lines of “He was my neighbor” and shortly afterwards, there is the line “Forgive me.” that as well as some other lines gives me this impression.

As for whether or not this can be considered a story, technically yes. It’s sort of like a puzzle that readers have to fit together, as the story is not laid out in a direct and linear fashion like most stories do. It sort of reminds me of how games like Bioshock and Prey (2017) can tell stories. In both those games, there are audio logs scattered around the game’s map that can be listened to in different orders. Players will often listen to logs of overarching stories out of order, forcing them to piece together what happened in some of these audio logs.

I am kept engaged by these hyperlink stories because of the way that they uniquely present information to readers. It is different than a traditional book or movie and it feels more interactive.

I was very disappointed that I did not learn how to rob a bank from the second story. Oh well. This story uses its navigation structure of simply pressing on the spacebar to transition you through a linear story, allowing you to read it at your own pace. The linear sequencing is clear.

– Gibson

Post #11: Hypermedia Storytelling

Hey class,

I would absolutely consider “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” a story. Though it is presented in a fractal format, the story is cohesive and the fractal does well in presenting the characters thoughts, memories, and emotions in each section of the page. The story expands beyond just the moment–the greater world is presented and fleshed out through images, dialogue (both past and present), and memories. The story keeps the audience engaged by providing enough details to draw in curiosity and understanding, but leaves enough unsaid to encourage audience imagination. The format of the story adds interactiveness as well, since the audience gets to choose what details they elaborate on next, creating more immersion. The story has a plot–the protagonist’s boyfriend is adjusting to being back from war and is coping with the memories. The characters and their relationship develops as they try to reconnect and become comfortable with one another again. The fragmented navigation adds to the story by showing how even in a single moment or conversation, countless thoughts and memories go through people’s heads. This story doesn’t use much linear sequencing, intentionally breaking down time instead.

I would also consider “How to Rob a Bank” a story. It presents a coherent story of a couple becoming notorious bank robbers through the phone screens of the characters, allowing audiences glimpses into their text messages, notes, Google searches, articles, social media posts, and map apps. The story presents the world around through locations the characters travel via pictures and maps, articles offering other perspectives on the events, and other characters like the police following the characters and emails from Elizabeth’s sister. The world feels fleshed out beyond just the characters. Since we only see the characters screens and not their actions, it’s up to the audience to deduce what exactly happens. By giving just enough clues to figure out what happens, it encourages the imagination of the audience. The plot and characters change over time–Elizabeth and Ted start off not on speaking terms, and eventually end up on the run together with their child. The mix of text and visual elements keeps audience engagement and fleshes out the characters and the world. We see the characters planning life-altering events and we see them playing video games. The story uses clear linear storytelling.

I would absolutely consider “With Those We Love Alive” a story. It presents the story as a text-based exploration–like a book that allows you to explore, expand upon, or change certain details within it. The world is very fleshed out–audiences can explore different corners of the world such as the palace, forest, and nearby city. These provide small details connecting to plot, but also small details that just add flavor and breathe life into the world. Audience imagination is engaged with colorful descriptions, hints at past events, and changing background colors and music. Characters change throughout the story–Grale reflects on her work, the empress, her past, her family, and her past relationships. The introduction of Sedina and their interactions pushes the plot forward as Grale turns towards rebellion. The navigation of the story allows the audience to influence the story’s pacing and place themselves in the shoes of the protagonist. The main plot is linear, but has some changes depending on audience choice. There are also plenty of non-linear exploration the audience can control.