Dr Tom Abba
Lecturer in New Media and Visual Culture at UWE in Bristol. Specialist in interactive narrative and wider narrative theory and application. Occasional designer, more frequent writer and illustrator.
PhD thesis: “A Grammar, Form and Content for Interactive Narrative”:
Joan Didion wrote that “We tell ourselves stories in order to live ”, and this study situates itself within that spirit of narrative universality. Inducted as custodians of story in the 21st Century, what are writers active within a new media ecology doing to ensure their work remains honest, with proper regard to tradition, media specificity and above all, neotericity?
The term ‘interactive narrative’, despite being in common usage since the inception of new media, and applied to a wide range of work, is under-represented by writing that is willing to critically analyse the success of each narrative experience, or even how it is constructed. In large part, this situation has arisen through an understandable desire to embrace new story forms and celebrate their arrival, without due attention being paid to the manner of their creation and interaction. This thesis argues that this lack of rigour, rather than allowing content to flourish in a space free from critical investigation, has produced a standstill in innovation. Devoid of a structural framework to build upon, the field has languished. Its potential, widely touted since its outset, has failed to materialise.
The nature of the interactive experience itself calls into question the traditional responsibility of the author, supplanting their position as creator of story with that of a collaboration between reader and writer. This tension, existing at the heart of the field, fuels apprehension when addressed to the removal of narrative control. The role of a writer is to create worlds, populate them with characters and tell stories. If this is now to be a shared task, portioned out to an unseen co-author, that apprehension becomes understandable.
In order to address these issues, this thesis proposes a manner of authoring interactive narrative, specifically drawing on the qualities new media possesses that mark it as a cultural and technological shift away from traditional narrative forms. I believe that storytelling devices and techniques can be identified, by means of which an author might retain responsibility for interactive story, without surrendering ground to an increasingly interactive reader.
For the blog/research journal/notebook/etc go here.