From Monologic to Dialogic Cybertext

Organized by Markku Eskelinen
Provosoft, Finland
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Abstract: The panel discusses the so far neglected transtextual and intersubjective aspects of both monologic and dialogic cybertexts. It traces theoretical and practical changes in various relations between texts and between users. In his presentation, Markku Eskelinen focuses on cybertext fiction, while Gonzalo Frasca deals with immersion issues on computer games.

Cybertext palimpsests - literature to the nth degree
Markku Eskelinen
Provosoft, Finland

'Cybertext palimpsests' continues and concludes the study begun in Markku Eskelinen’s two previous DAC papers on narratology and cybertext theory. This time we'll first map out the inevitable changes in the field of transtextuality. The paper follows the way of Genette's well-known studies and examines all five branches of it (archi-, inter-, para-, meta- and hypo/hypertextuality). In comparison to static hypertexts and print literature, dynamic digital cybertexts contain all these relations also to themselves, that is, between their various phases, versions and mutations. This double identity makes them powerfully active transtextual machines resulting in and capable of having much more complex sets of relations especially between each other than what has been generally thought. The far reaching theoretical transformations are once again backed up with practical examples of cybertexts not necessarily in existence yet.

Against immersion – notes for non-virtual reality design
Gonzalo Frasca
Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

'Against immersion' explores different techniques for socially aware cybertext and videogame development, particularly in multi-user environments. We have been taking for granted immersion as a desirable characteristic for a computer-mediated experience, assuming that the machine necessarily needs to be a narcotic Aristotelian device. However, immersion forbids the user from taking a distance from her experience, making difficult criticism and thinking. With the help of Brechtian theory, we will explore how to transform the simple transfer of information of today's computer experiences into a form closer to the essay, focusing on social and political thinking. While creating dialogic devices, we should just not focus on the users' dialogue, forgetting that the author is also an essential part of the process. Even multi-user dialogues can be constrained and "authored." With the help of Augusto Boal’s “Theater of the opressed” techniques, we will show how videogame environments can be used as non-immersive tools for the author to shape multi-user experiences stressing on critical analysis of reality. It is necessary to have an established genre in order to subvert its internal rules about immersion. Therefore, the main object of our analysis will be videogames, which now have a solid, well-known set of conventions.

About the Presenters:

Markku Eskelinen has published experimental novels, journalism, horror stories, and critical essays. Easily the most iconoclastic figure on the Finnish literary scene, he moves effortlessly between the TV studio, the theater, and the visual arts.

Gonzalo Frasca is an Uruguayan multimedia developer and researcher on videogame design. Currently, he is a graduate student in “Information Design and Technology” at the Georgia Institute of Technology and works as webmaster at CNNenEspanol.com