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Grad Essay 1: Semiotic Requirements for Procedural Narrative in a Multiplayer Environment
Document Name: Semiotic Requirements for Procedural Narrative in a Multiplayer Environment
Date Started: 09/2008
Intended Audience: Academic
Purpose/Context: Academic Journal/Potential Thesis Proposal
A paper (unfortuantely still in progress) which I begain writing for a class I took called "The Future of the Museum", which was essentially a free-form
special topics class on the role of digital technologies in public (or semi-public) spaces. Since I am particularly interested in multi-person interactive
experiences, and 'historical' materials, I worked on a paper which (in something of a leap of logic) dealt with proceduralizing narrative as a deliberate
practice, using the Ellis Island Project as a case study. My initial abstract follows:
Traditionally, procedural narrative is approached as a distinct narrative genre, emerging from 'choose your own adventure' books,
composed of strict branding paths taking you to deterministic destinations. However, since any narrative can be reduced to a series of events
and 'paths not taken', it seems to me that procedural narrative is more of a genre than a form. A sort of metadata for a narrative, a score.
The Jolly Corner is a late period 'ghost story' by Henry James (an expatriate returning to America after a long absence) about an expatriate
returning to America after a long absence. All comparisons to James's own life aside, its a fascinating study of interpretation (as Spencer
variously succeeds and fails at self-reflection); but it is also an excellent meta-study in responsive narrative. Without the reader to 'trigger'
or interpret moments in the narrative, participating in it's discourse, the text is flat. Without active reasoning (either alongside or against
Spencer's reasoning), the text is less full, less complex. The text of the Jolly Corner, then, can be considered a score; a complete artifact
that nonetheless cannot be experienced until it is 'played' or participated in. By the same token, a game is merely a collection of digital
and/or material components until it is played. If a musical score is a piece for multiple 'voices', a novel is a single part of a score
(providing syntactic triggers for a single voice). The means by which this participation (variously called attention, reasoning, & engagement)
occurs is linked strongly to the discourse of the object, and this depends on semantic parsing of that discourse. Relying heavily on the signal/
receiver & semantic formula metaphors of knowledge acquisition & building. I am defining those moments of semantic participation as triggers.
To better ground this theory in (that procedural narrative is a genre identification which can be mapped to any media artifact) I will step
through a structural analysis of the Jolly Corner, pointing out the semantic triggers as they occur.