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New Media

While working on second drafts

I really ought to put essays up on this site as they’re being written and rewritten. Actually, that’s the proposed function of another site I’m involved in, but more on that in the New Year.

For now, here’s a paragraph from the end of the revised paper. William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition as an example of ARG/Non-ARG structuring..

“Pattern Recognition’s central conceit – the pursuit of the maker of fragments of footage surfacing across the web – echoes the structure of an ARG in that the characters, standing in for ARG players, have an Aristotelean task to pursue. The sequential structure carries the tale; the heroine discovers the originator of the footage, a conceptual breakthrough occurs, which fractures expectation, and everyone (almost) lives happily ever after.

What is interesting about Pattern Recognition, though, are the ways in which it is not an ARG. The conceit of puzzles, prevalent in ARGs since The Beast, has little meaning here. An encrypted sequence of numerals watermarked inside each fragment of footage are deciphered, but unlike an ARG, in which resolution of that puzzle would give way to another, Gibson’s puzzles are rather more systemic to the meaning of story, rather than to sustaining its sequence by leading to the next problem. Without them, the narrative would not exist, and here is our first hint of a Haylesian media-specific structuring of story. ARG planners have demonstrated a tendency to seed puzzles in order to slow the narrative down. Players charging through a story find themselves halted by encryptions, codes and logic games before the next part of the narrative takes place.

While this is a feature of the form providing a vehicle for nascent collective intelligence behaviour, it is all to often employed as an end in itself, rather than the means to reveal something significant about the world in a media-specific manner. Removal or subversion of the puzzle element – the Engage stage in the four-part iteration proposed earlier – might fundamentally alter both the manner by which audiences encounter ARGs, and the composition of those audiences themselves.”

I appreciate that you can’t see the Engage stage, but trust me, it’s pretty straightforward. Rabbithole (measurable differentials) – Defamiliarisation – Engagement (collapse of paradigms) – Consequence.



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