Media Analysis #2

Remember how Marie-Laure Ryan asks can coherency be saved in new media? One of the goals of this media analysis is to explore the tension between narrative coherency and reader interactivity.

To do this you’ll be balancing your analysis between the form and content of a specific media text. Keep in mind that form shapes content and gives it meaning.

Here are the major requirements of the assignment:

  1. Pick one new media text: Zork, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Galatea, Photopia, Varicella, Shade, Mystery House Taken Over, afternoon, The Color of Television, Pax, or Twelve Blue. You may also choose some other hypertext or interactive fiction, pending my approval.
  2. The heart of the assignment is a hypertextual analysis of 1,500 words, using at least ten lexia. The final product should be posted to your website. You may compose the hypertext in whatever way is easiest for you: straight-up HTML, Dreamweaver, Netscape Composer, and so on.
  3. A rough draft of this project is due online at the beginning of class on Thursday, November 3. The final version is due by class time on Tuesday, November 8.

Further guidelines and suggestions:

  • Remember that this is an English class, so you’ll want to consider all of the approaches that are typically used to analyze a poem or a novel, focusing on theme, setting, plot, symbolism, language, and so on. In addition, structure your writing around a thesis, much as you would with a traditional English paper. The hypertext environment may make this challenging, but you’ll find that hypertext may also be liberating.
  • One way to begin this assignment is to identify and discuss one or two of the themes or motifs of the overall work. Another way to think about this is by asking the question What are the central preoccupations of this work? Even an interactive fiction story set in outer space or the middle ages ultimately involves real world concerns and anxieties.
  • In addition to thinking like an English student writing an English paper, you’ll want to consider some of the interpretative strategies that Marie-Laure Ryan and other new media theorists employ.
  • Consider how the text makes use of its medium. To what greater effect does the text employ narrative techniques unique to its own medium? Examine the relationships between links, between words and images, and between lexias. How does the text invite interactivity? How does it frustrate interactivity? And more important, why does it does these things?

For this analysis you cannot simply read or play the hypertext or interactive fiction. You must take it apart. If you’re studying a hypertext, this means using the find function, view source, and any other technique which reveals the mechanisms by which the text works. If you’re studying interactive fiction, this means making use of the hints, walkthroughs, and maps that you can find online.

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