Hamlet on the Holodeck
The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace
By (author) Janet H. Murray
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Hamlet on the Holodeck by Janet H. Murray
Book DescriptionStories define how we think, play, and understand our lives. In this comprehensive and readable book -- already a classic statement of the aesthetics of digital media, acclaimed by practitioners and theorists alike -- Janet Murray shows how the computer is reshaping the stories we live by. Murray discusses the unique properties and pleasures of digital environments and connects them with the traditional satisfactions of narrative. She analyzes the dramatic satisfaction of participatory stories and considers what would be necessary to move interactive fiction from the formats of childish games and confusing labyrinths into a mature and compelling art form. Through a blend of imagination and techno-wizardry, Murray provides both readers and writers with a guide to the storytelling of the future.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780262631877
(229mm x 152mm x 20mm)
Imprint: MIT Press
Publisher: MIT Press Ltd
Publish Date: 28-Aug-1998
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author Janet H. Murray
View all books by Janet H. Murray
UK Kirkus Review » Stories did not come into being with the printed book, and the computer is no threat to their survival. On the contrary, each new medium brings different insights into the human condition through its particular expressive possibilities. Murray's optimism about the cyberdrama of the future is amiably and persuasively argued. She is a book lover conversant with the world of interactive multimedia, a US academic who displays a jargon-free willingness to communicate. Can art grow out of arcade games? She points out that 'the Greek word agon refers to both athletic contests and dramatic conflicts, reflecting the common origin of games and theatre'. There are many good observations: the shared fantasy world of the Brontes resembled a MUD (multi-user domain); the abstract game Tetris 'is a kind of rain dance for the postmodern psyche'; the bards of oral traditions and actors in commedia dell'arte alike relied on recombinations of stock elements, not unlike a computer storytelling program. And remember, it's early days yet for digital civilization. (Kirkus UK)
US Kirkus Review » Murray (who has the seemingly oxymoronic title of senior research scientist in humanities at MIT) has produced a provocative yet cautious meditation on the possibilities and ramifications of encounters between traditional literature, characterized by the Melancholy Dane, and emerging computer technologies, represented by the holodeck, a form of virtual reality enjoyed by characters on Star Trek. "The computer is not the enemy of the book. It is the child of print culture," declares Murray. A good portion of this effort "to imagine what kinds of pleasures . . . a cyberliterature will bring us and what sorts of stories it might tell," is concerned with clarifying this emergent field's terminology: for instance, "construetivism" is a situation of collective authorship between creator and end-user; and "cyberdrama" is a catchall term for digital story forms. Many of Murray's ideas are based not in technology but in literary theory and history. Russian formalist Vladimir Propp's folktale morphologies, Murray suggests, might provide the basis for an algorithm that would allow computers to write stories unassisted, and quotes from Forster's Aspects of the Novel are sprinkled throughout the work. Furthermore, both television and computer programs such as the Artificial Intelligence-driven psychotherapist ELIZA (the subject of the book's most amusing section) are acknowledged for their contributions. The well-known "fourth wall" of theater and the attempts of playwrights to subvert it serve as a strong metaphor for Murray in trying to describe how virtual reality and MUDs (Multi-User Domains) may affect the future of narrative. Unfortunately, it is here that her insecurities about authorship are most apparent. Statements on behalf of authors such as, "If we give the interactor complete freedom to improvise, we lose control of the plot," give the reader the strong feeling that, to quote the Bard, Murray "doth protest too much." This control issue notwithstanding, Hamlet on the Holodeck suggests some truly fascinating possibilities for the future of narrative and the imminent arrival of the first "Cyberbard." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Janet H. Murray
Janet H. Murray is Ivan Allen College Dean's Professor in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at Georgia Institute of Technology. She is the author of Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice (MIT Press).
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