Terms and Definitions

Compiled by Cecilia Chen


(See also immersion and transformation.)
One of Murray’s three aesthetic categories for the analysis of interactive narrative: “Agency is the feeling of empowerment that comes from being able to take actions in the world whose effects relate to the player’s intention” (Michael Mateas. “A Preliminary Poetics for Interactive Drama and Games.” First Person 21)
Or, as defined by the editors, agency indicates that a participant’s actions “have an appropriate and understandable impact” on the digital world of the cyberdrama. (First Person 1)

“selected portions of a piece of writing that are visibly amplified and that serve as handles into a text. Unlike pull-quotes, affordances remain in place and allow the reader to continue the path that follows.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)
Hayles/Burdick use this term to describe an innovative graphic treatment of text (that employs the visual effect of magnification) so as to draw attention to an conceptual entry point in the book. However, the term affordances has a fairly loaded history starting with its definition with perceptual psychologist James J. Gibson (The Theory of Affordances, 1977; The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, 1979) and continuing on with its use by cognitive scientist Donald Norman (The Psychology of Everyday Things, 1988).
In an online essay, Affordances, Conventions and Design, Norman writes: “The word “affordance” was invented by the perceptual psychologist J. J. Gibson (1977, 1979) to refer to the actionable properties between the world and an actor (a person or animal). To Gibson, affordances are relationships. They exist naturally: they do not have to be visible, known, or desirable.” Norman, in the Psychology of Everyday Things, had mostly been addressing the subset of perceived affordances which are affordances that are limited by the actor’s blinkers of cultural conventions.
“The designer cares more about what actions the user perceives to be possible than what is true. Moreover, affordances, both real and perceived, play very different roles in physical products than they do in the world of screen-based products. In the latter case, [real] affordances play a relatively minor role: cultural conventions are much more important… In product design, where one deals with real, physical objects, there can be both real and perceived affordances, and the two sets need not be the same… In graphical, screen-based interfaces, the designer primarily can only control perceived affordances. The computer system already comes with built-in physical affordances. The computer, with its keyboard, display screen, pointing device and selection buttons (e.g., mouse buttons) affords pointing, touching, looking, and clicking on every pixel of the screen. Most of this affordance is of little interest for the purpose of the application under design.”
“Although all screens within reaching distance afford touching, only some can detect the touch and respond to it. Thus, if the display does not have a touch-sensitive screen, the screen still affords touching, but it has no effect on the computer system. While the affordance has useful value in allowing people viewing the same screen to indicate regions of interest, this affordance mainly serves to make the screen-cleaning companies happy: they can sell lots of tissue and cleaning fluid. But this affordance is seldom useful to the interface designer.”
As Norman notes in his essay, there has been an unfortunate conflation of perceived affordances and “real” affordances in design culture. Hayles/Burdick’s use may be an example of this.

black box fallacy

“The attempt to reduce convergence to a purely technological model for identifying which black box will be the nexus through which all future media content will flow” (Jenkins, Glossary 280).

calculated (cinematic media)

Artworks in this grouping “abandon, to various extents, the use of images captured from the real-world and instead offer software-generated formations that may lead to representations that mimic the real-world, or may constitute completely synthetic image structures.” This quality of being calculated is attributed to software engines with “algorithmic sophistication” but may also employ “real-world data such as motion tracking or texture mapping” to inform the development of these works (Shaw 24).

chunked text
“text that contains blocks of material defined as semi-autonomous entities, for example a lexia in a hypertext.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

collective intelligence
(See also noosphere)
Term coined by Pierre Lévy and adopted by Henry Jenkins in relation to his discussion of participatory media cultures in Convergence Culture.
“Pierre Lévy’s term to refer to the ability of virtual communities to leverage the knowledge and expertise of their members, often through large-scale collaboration and deliberation. Lévy sees collective intelligence as a new form of power that operates alongside the power of nomadic migrations, the nation-state, and commodity capitalism” (Jenkins, Glossary 282).

Jenkins attributes the first introduction of the concept of convergence to the late MIT political scientist Ithiel de Sola Pool. In a book called Technologies of Freedom (1983), Pool described a process where the borders between different types of media became blurred – a “convergence of modes” where the “one-to-one relationship that used to exist between a medium and its use is eroding.” A physical infrastructure is no longer dedicated to only one medium and can carry multiple media services; a communications medium can in turn be transmitted by multiple physical means. Divergence in media modalities may be considered an aspect of convergence in an age of media transition. Change (transition/divergence) and convergence are in constant and dynamic tension (Jenkins 10-11).
“A word that describes technological, industrial, cultural and social changes in the ways media circulates within our culture. Some common ideas referenced by the term include the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, the search for new structures of media financing that fall at the interstices between old and new media, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kind of entertainment experiences they want. Perhaps most broadly, media convergence refers to a situation in which multiple media systems coexist and where media content flows fluidly across them. Convergence is understood here as an ongoing process or series of intersections between different media systems, not a fixed relationship” (Jenkins, Glossary 282).

A term coined by Janet Murray to describe the emergence of storytelling in a digital medium – See the book, Hamlet on the Holodeck, on the Annotated Texts writeboard.

“the science of information, communication, and control in humans, animals and
machines.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

database narrative

“A type of interactive movie whose structure allows for both the selection and the combining of narrative elements from a number of categories drawn from a deep database” (Miller 424).
Marsha Kinder has a related basic definition for database narrative, however she takes it a step further in seeing great power and freedom in this narrative form by connecting its potential to the work that we do in dreams (as wielded by filmmakers like Luis Buñuel and as described by Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams):
“Database narratives refer to narratives whose structure exposes or thematizes the dual processes of selection and combination that lie at the heart of all stories and that are crucial to language: the selection of particular data (characters, images, sounds, events) from a series of databases or paradigms, which are then combined to generate specific tales. You can find this structure in a wide range of works from European art films created under the influence of narratology (like The Saragossa Manuscript, La Jetée, Sans Soleil, Last Year at Marienbad, Eden and After, Celine and Julie Go Boating, Three Crowns of a Sailor, The Falls, and Toute une nuit) to experimental documentaries (like Pat O’Neill’s Water and Power, José Luis Guerin’s Innisfree and Train of Shadows, Péter Forgács’ Maelstrom and The Danube Exodus, and Agnés Varda’s The Gleaners and I) to more mainstream independents influenced by cyberfiction (like Slacker, Groundhog Day, Pulp Fiction, Lost Highway, The Matrix, Run Lola Run, and Time Code). Such narratives reveal the arbitrariness of the particular choices made, and the possibility of making other combinations which would create alternative stories. By always suggesting virtuality and the wave of potentialities linked to the uncertainty principle, such narratives inevitably raise meta-narrative issues.” (See “Kinder-hotspots” on the Annotated Texts writeboard.)
Kinder proposes that an examination of three of Buñuel’s many strategies “will be helpful in attempting to rethink the radical potential of interactive database narratives:”
1. “On the level of narrative drive: the reliance on incongruous objects or hot spots, rather than montage, as the primary means of navigating from one scene or discursive level to another;
2. “On the level of characterization: the use of puppet-like avatars who are not
restricted by traditional notions of consistency, psychology, or narrative logic, but whom we nonetheless find fascinating, engaging, and illuminating;
3. “On the level of plot: the creation of a narrative field where story possibilities seem limitless, where randomness, repetition, and interruptions are rampant, and where search engines are motored by desire.”
“All three strategies I have described are characteristic of dreams, the ultimate model for interactive database narrative… This perspective on dreams gives new resonance to one of the most frequently cited quotes by Buñuel: “In the hands of a free spirit, the cinema is a magnificent and dangerous weapon. It is the best instrument through which to express the world of dreams, of emotions, of instinct. The mechanism that produces cinematic images is, among all forms of human expression, that which most closely resembles . . . the workings of the mind during sleep” (“Cinema as an Instrument of Poetry.” in An Unspeakable Betrayal: Selected Writings of Luis Buñuel. Trans. Garrett White. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995. 138-9). And that’s another reason why Buñuel’s radical films, built on the database logic of dreams, provide such a magnificent legacy for conceptualizing interactive narratives and imbuing them with dangerous emotions, instinctual pleasures, and what appears to be an unending supply of unpredictable narrative twists.” (See “Kinder-hotspots” on the Annotated Texts writeboard.)

delinquent narratives
“In Greek, narration is called ‘diegesis’: it establishes an itinerary (it ‘guides’) and it passes through (it ‘transgresses’). The space of operations it travels in is made of movements… Boundaries are transportable limits and transportations of limits… In the narrations that organize spaces, boundaries seem to play the role of the Greek xoana, statuettes [of minor household gods] whose invention is attributed to the clever Daedalus: they are crafty like Daedalus and mark out limits only by moving themselves (and the limits)… Today, narrative operations of boundary-setting take the place of these enigmatic describers of earlier times [the xoana] when they bring movement in through the very act of fixing, in the name of delimitation… [The xoana] were perhaps after all only the agile representatives of narrativity, and of narrativity in its most delinquent form.
“If the delinquent exists only by displacing itself, if its specific mark is to live not on the margins but in the interstices of the codes that it undoes and displaces… then the story is delinquent… the story is a sort of delinquency in reserve, maintained, but itself displaced and consistent, in traditional societies (ancient, medieval, etc.), with an order that is firmly established but flexible enough to allow the proliferation of this challenging mobility that does not respect places, is alternately playful and threatening, and extends from the microbe-like forms of everyday narration to the carnivalesque celebrations of earlier days” (de Certeau, transl. Steven Rendall, The Practice of Everday Life, 129-130).

delivery technologies
(See also Black Box Fallacy and Bruce Sterling’s Dead Media Project and compare to Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap for her definitions of inscription technologies and substrate)

Jenkins notes that media never dies, however delivery technologies do. He therefore understands delivery technologies as, “Relatively transient technologies – such as the MP3 player or the 8-track cassette – that facilitate the distribution of media content” (Jenkins, Glossary 283).

design-in-the-large (DIL)
See article as pdf file by Bizzocchi and Woodbury as uploaded to this site 560; and as annotated on the “Texts Annotated” writeboard. Bizzocchi and Woodbury also refer to micro-design or design-in-the-small (DIS).
“DIL is a powerful concept with various manifestations in different contexts. Through the lens of production processes, Fox and others (Lin, Fox, & Bilgic, 1996) saw it as the systematic incorporation of small-scale design exercises into a more complex but still unified and functional whole design process. In the broad construct of Simon’s (1996) Sciences of the Artificial, it can include the large-scale extension of design processes into the world with which they are bound. In a related sense, DIL can imply the unification of the goals of design communities with the practice of user communities. Common to all of these views is the joining of processes. As we will discuss in the following, the different concepts and languages of separate processes present a major problem in any DIL enterprise” (560).

electronic literature

(See also hypertext)

Hayles defines electronic literature as “literature created in electronic media and meant to be read in them.” She then goes on to define first-generation hypertexts as “in this context, electronic hypertext literature, generally written from 1985 1995, that consists primarily of verbal text with little or no multimedia components.” Hayles further defines second-generation electronic literature as ”electronic literature, generally written from 1995 onwards, that combines verbal text with graphics, images, animation, and other multimedia components.” So there is a bit of conflation here between electronic literature and hypertext. (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

“from a root meaning “path” and “work,” the quality of requiring non-trivial work from a user to traverse the text.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

expanded cinema
“When we say expanded cinema we actually mean expanded consciousness… Expanded cinema isn’t a movie at all: like life it’s a process of becoming, man’s ongoing historical drive to manifest his consciousness outside of his mind, in front of his eyes. One no longer can specialize in a single discipline and hope truthfully to express a clear picture of its relationships in the environment. This is especially true in the case of the intermedia network of cinema and television, which now functions as nothing less than the nervous system of mankind” (Youngblood, Preface 41).

exploratory/ontological modes of interactivity
See Marie-Laure Ryan’s article “Beyond Myth and Metaphor.”

film truth

Term coined by Russian experimental documentary filmmaker Dzinga Vertov that holds that “fragments of film, when organized, could reveal a truth not perceptible to the naked eye” (Miller 342).

founding narration
De Certeau describes the role of stories in delimiting spatial practices, or “Creating a theater of actions. The story’s first function is to authorize, or more exactly, to found.” (123-124). He gives a military example of the expanding Roman Empire’s practice of ritual action (fas carried out by specialized Roman priests called fetiales) that preceded every civil or military action involving foreign states. In the contemporary context:
“This founding is precisely the primary role of the story. It opens a legitimate theatre for practical actions. It creates a field that authorizes dangerous and contingent social actions… A narrative activity, even if it is multiform and no longer unitary, thus continues to develop where frontiers and relations with space abroad are concerned. Fragmented and disseminated, it is continually concerned with marking out boundaries. What it puts in action is once more the fas that ‘authorizes’ enterprises and precedes them. Like the Roman fetiales, stories ‘go in a procession’ ahead of social practices in order to open a field for them… [laws follow and justify actions] The magistrates’ judgments do not create these theaters of action, they articulate and manipulate them. They presuppose the narrative authorities that the magistrates ‘hear,’ compare, and put into hierarchies. Preceding the judgment that regulates and settles, there is a founding narration” (de Certeau, transl. Steven Rendall, The Practice of Everday Life, 125-126).


“a non-alphabetic mark capable of acting as a signifier, e.g. in Maya, a pictorial element.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

haptic visuality

Laura U. Marks make specific references to the work of Henri Bergson and Alois Riegl in her discussion of haptic cinema, haptic perception and haptic visuality in Chapter 3 “The Memory of Touch.” As any sensation successfully evoked by haptic cinema depends on the memory of the audience, she makes an argument for the linking of haptic visuality and cultural difference (Marks 164-170). Marks also distinguishes between the opportunities for evoking tactility in film and video media. “Haptic perception is usually defined by psychologists as the combination of tactile, kinesthetic, and proprioceptive functions, the way we experience touch both on the surface of and inside our bodies (see, for example, Heller and Schiff 1991). In haptic visuality, the eyes themselves function like organs of touch” (Marks 162).
“Certainly haptic visualtiy requires an active viewer… But the Brechtian active viewer is an explicitly critical viewer, indeed a suspicious viewer, while the haptic viewer is quite willing to pull the wool over her eyes. Put otherwise, haptic visuality does imply a critique of mastery, the mastery implicit in optical visuality, but it is through a desiring and often pleasurable relationship to the image that this critiwue is bodied forth” (Marks 184).
“The ideal relationship between viewer and image in optical visuality tends to be one of mastery, in which the viewer isolates and comprehends the objects of vision. The ideal relationship between viewer and image in haptic visuality is one of mutuality, in which the viewer is more likely to lose herself in the image, to lose her sense of proportion. When vision is like touch, the object’s touch back may be like a caress, though it may also be violent, as Steven Shaviro argues… Haptic visuality implies making oneself vulnerable to the image, reversing the relation of mastery that characterizes optical viewing” (Marks 184-5).

Margi Szperling of Substanz coined the term hyperstory to define her work Uncompressed. “Hyperstories are multi-perspective interactive stories where each point of view’s particular story fragment exists simultaneously. Conceptually, a hyperstory involves creating a database or web of individual story fragments and interconnections that the user can navigate through. Unlike video games or choose your own adventure stories the emphasis is not on making choices for a particular character. Instead it is on allowing each point of view to exist independently and interdependently, the way they do in real life. A hyperstory may allow the user to make choices for one or more characters but it never restricts them to one character’s point of view”
Hyperstories have no fixed beginning, middle, or end, but rather the narrative emerges as the user interacts with the story and its characters and points of view.

“print or electronic text that has links, chunked text, and multiple reading paths.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)


(See also agency, transformation and also telepresence)
One of Murray’s three aesthetic categories for the analysis of interactive narrative: “Immersion is the feeling of being present in another place and engaged in the action therein. Immersion is related to Coleridge’s ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ – when a participant is immersed in an experience, they are willing to accept the internal logic of the experience, even though this logic deviates from the logic of the real world” (Michael Mateas. “A Preliminary Poetics for Interactive Drama and Games.” First Person 21)
See also Marie-Laure Ryan’s article “Immersion vs. Interactivity” on the “Texts
Annotated” writeboard.

immersive (cinematic media)
Immersive artworks, or environments, aim to create “an experience of physical and imaginative relocation that induces a totality of engagement in the aesthetic and dramatic construct of the work.” This has nothing to do with the size of the screen and instead “an immersive condition result[s] from our virtual dislocation into inhabited information spaces such as the Internet and cyber-games” (Shaw 24).

information culture
“The concept “information culture,” which is my term, can be thought of as a parallel to another, already familiar concept – visual culture. It includes the ways in which information is presented in different cultural sites and objects – road signs; displays in airports and train stations; television on-screen menus; graphic layouts of television news; the layouts of books, newspapers, and magazines; the interior designs of banks, hotels, and other commercial and leisure spaces; the interfaces of planes and cars; and, last but not least, the interfaces of computer operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, UNIX) and software applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Eudora, Navigator, RealPlayer, Filemaker, Photoshop, etc.). Extending the parallels with visual culture, information culture also includes historical methods for organising and retrieving information (analogs of iconography) as well as patterns of user interaction with information objects and displays.” (Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media 13-14).

interactive design
See article as pdf file by Bizzocchi and Woodbury as uploaded to this site, 553; and as annotated on the “Texts Annotated” writeboard.
“Interactive design has various sets of design parameters. Murray (1997) pointed out that digital environments are procedural, participatory, spatial, and encyclopedic. She argued that when designed appropriately, these interactive environments can lead to a feeling of agency, to interactor immersion, and transformative experiences. Salen and Zimmerman (in press) discussed the following four levels of interactivity: 1) interpretive participation (the same phenomenon that modern narrative theorists see in the reading of even linear stories); 2) functional interactivity (the physical interaction with the system); 3) explicit interactivity (the exercise of volition and choice to change an interactive experience); 4) cultural participation in broader social matrices. They recognized the importance of all levels of interactive design in games and argued for the deliberate construction of meaningful choice within a balanced formal framework. Their term for a successful gameworld is a magic circle, within which the game player can find a fulfilling experience of meaningful and enjoyable game play” (553).

interactive fiction (IF)
“A work of interactive fiction is a program that simulates a world, understands natural language text input from an interactor and provides a textual reply based on events in the world… By definition, IF is neither a ‘story’ or a ‘game,’ but, as all IF developers know, a ‘world’ combined with a parser and instructions for generating text based on events in the world. The riddle is central to understanding how the IF world functions as both literature and puzzle. Interestingly, the riddle is a part of the literary tradition of poetry, not that traditon of the novel” (Nick Montfort “Interactive Fiction as ‘Story,’ ‘Game,’ ‘Storygame,’ ‘Novel,’ ‘World,’ ‘Literature,’ ‘Puzzle,’ ‘Problem,’ ‘Riddle,’ and ‘Machine’.” in First Person 316).
Brenda Laurel wholeheartedly agrees with Montfort’s definition of IF as simulating “a world”, but sees his insistance on “natural language” understanding and generation as too high and narrow a standard – “a straitjacket”. She points to gestural, non-verbal, or paralinguistic vocabularies instead (First Person 314-315).

interactive narrative / work
(see also interactivity and narrative)
“What is an interactive work? Without shutting the door on an open concept, we can say that interactivity points to active interrelations between players and mediums. The interactions can be of many types. The forms of interactivity tend to be as diverse as the artists who make them possible. What the rise of new digital media has done is to widen the focus of interest beyond the object created, to the participation in a process of playing out a multitude of interactions. Interactivity in its most general form is a mode of creation, a way of being, a perpective. The basic characteristics of such a perspective can be grouped tentatively into four areas. An interactive approach favors the use of multiple points of view that can coexist even if they appear mutually exclusive; it celebrates the creative vaule of play; it is a catalyst for emergence; and it tends to be ultimately pragmatic” (Luis O. Arata “Reflections on Interactivity,” in Rethinking Media Change, Eds. Jenkins and Thorburn, 218-219)
Arata goes on to further explain each of the four characteristics. Elaborating upon the space left between multiple points of views, Arata cites Poincaré’s vision of Truth: Poincaré “thoutht it was impossible to find truth in things in themselves. Truth hovered only in relations among things… He thought that failed theories left a valuable trace even as they vanished, and that trace had the scent of truth” (ibid 219). His notion of play references Ilya Prigogine’s exploration in The End of Certainty, and Jean Piaget’s functional idea of play as “a type of adaptive action understood in contrast to imitation” (ibid 220). The third and fourth characteristics identified by Arata require further explanation:
“A third and perhaps the most unique feature of an interactive view is that is allows us to consider emergent phenomena without downgrading them by reductions. An emergent phenomenon cannot be predicted. Nor can it be entirely explained away a posteriori. Emergent phenomena are above all those that cannot be predicted by the behavior of their constituent parts… Only through the play or jiggling of interactivity is the stage set for emergent surprises… Emergent phenomena can be seen as successful yet unpredictable mutations. John Holland has even suggested that life itself may well be an emergent phenomena” (ibid 221).
“The fourth broad characteristic of an interactive perspective is that it favors pragmatic views. Richard Rorty captured the spirit of pragmatism stating that it is the “refusal to believe in the existence of Truth, in the sense of something not made by human hands, something which has authority over human beings.” Pragmatism is a self-organizing, bootstrap-like approach… From a pragmatic point of view, objectivity is an illusion. What Rorty proposes instead is to acquire habits of action to deal with the world. Pragmatic interactions should not force preconceptions on others. Agreements for action should come from reaching positions of solidarity and working toward common purposes freely chosen. In this sense, pragmatism favors a local flexibility. In the absence of absolutes, what works, works – within a context that by necessity must be local… The pragmatic high value of feedback, a deep concern with reflexivity, is perhaps the most critical navigating tool of a mature interactive perspective” (ibid 222-223).

(see also interactive narrative / work and interactive fiction)

“Narrative never was linear, so to proclaim the discovery of non-linear narrative is
absurd… In the same vein, interactivity has always been a feature of any representation media, from religious rituals to painting, novels and cinema.” (Paul Willemen in New Screen Media, 14)
“the ability of humans to participate in actions in a representational context” (Laurel 35).
“… couldn’t we say that all creative works are always produced by interaction? Yes, to varying degrees, unless, of course, we think [that] they originate from one-way divine inspiration, from the whispers of muses” (Luis O. Arata “Reflections on Interactivity,” in Rethinking Media Change, Eds. Jenkins and Thorburn, 223)

“One of the key questions that the practice of narrative agency evokes is, To what degree are we authors of the work we are experiencing? Some have argued (with elation or horror) that an interactor in a digital story… is the author of the story. This is a misleading assertion. There is a distinction between playing a creative role within an authored environment and having authorship of the environment itself… Contemporary critics are attributing authorship to interactors because they do not understand the procedural basis of electronic composition. The interactor is not the author of digital narrative, although the interactor can experience one of the most exciting aspects of artistic creation – the thrill of exerting power over enticing and plastic materials [digital narratives]. This is not authorship but agency” (Murray 152-153).

intercultural cinema
In a sense this term is customized to suit Laura U. Marks’ thesis in The Skin of the Film wherein she examines the work of the intercultural artists that she has found the most evocative and transformative: Marks chose to use intercultural over other terms such as: Third World, minority, marginal, antiracist, multicultural, hybrid, mestizo, postcolonial, transnational, etc. For Marks, the term intercultural indicates movement between cultures that is potentially transformative, mediating and synthetic. Its problematic neutrality is also a strength as, unlike postcolonial for instance, it avoids the dichotomies of dominant and dominated cultures. For Marks, cinema includes multiple formats including film and video – indeed, any time-based recording format whose screening seeks an audience filled room.
“Intercultural cinema appeals to the limits of naming and the limits of understanding, and this is where it is most transformative” (Marks 21).
“[A] memory is precious in inverse proportion to its ability to be externalized and expressed. Moreover, for people whose histories are represented in few other ways, it is these valuable and deeply guarded memories of tastes, smells, and caresses that must be coaxed into audiovisual form. Thus it is in intercultural cinema that we find some of the most sincere and most cautious efforts to effect this delicate translation. For intercultural artists it is most valuable to think of the skin of the film not as a screen, but as a membrane that brings its audience into contact with the material forms of memory” (Marks 243).

intermedia network
“The point I wish to make here is obvious yet vital to an understanding of the function of art in the environment… It’s the idea that man is conditioned by his environment and that “environment” for contemporary man is the intermedia network… Then cinema isn’t just something inside the environment; the intermedia network of cinema, television, radio, magazines, books, and newspapers is our environment, a service environment that carries the messages of the social organism. It establishes meaning in life, creates mediating channels between man and man, man and society [pace woman]” (Youngblood 54).

interpolated (cinematic media)
Interpolated artworks “all share an interest in conjoining conditions that are carefully separated in traditional cinema. The familiar boundaries between the factual and fictional, the actual and the virtual, are challenged by these “mixed reality” strategies that create paradoxical audio, visual, spatial and temporal interrelationships resulting in unexpected formations” (Shaw 24).


“a block of text, usually in a hypertext, that is defined as such by a spatial distinction, for example one screen of text viewed separately from other screens.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

“to make a material connection between one text and another.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

material metaphor

“the traffic between a verbal construction and physical object that causes the sense associated with one to be transferred to the other.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

“devices capable of representation and communication, usually in systems of production and distribution that allow mass copies and broad dissemination.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

media-specific analysis
This is the term for the method adopted by Hayles for her work in Writing Machines: “a mode of critical inquiry attentive to the specificity of the medium in which a work is instantiated.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

medial ecology or media ecologies
Hayles defines medial ecology as “the relationships between all the media interacting with one another in a given social, cultural, and temporal context.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)
Regarding media ecologies and citing Kurt Schwitters, abstract poetry, the Dadaistic painters, and the physical and conceptual juxtaposition of everday objects, Matthew Fuller proposes in Media Ecologies (2005) that:
“First, the only way to find things out about what happens when complex objects such as media systems interact is to carry out such interactions – it has to be done live, with no control sample… Second, the effect of what Schwitters says is to make a fundamentally materialist account of the world… It is a materialism that acknowledges and takes delight in the conceptuality of real objects. All objects have a poetics; they make the world and take part in it, and at the same time, synthesize, block, or make possible other worlds” (1- 2).
“The term media ecology is used and in circulation in a number of ways. The term is chosen here because this multiple use turns it into a crossroads. Butting these two words up to each other produces a conjunction of two variables that are always busy with meaning. Their dynamism, however, always arises out of concrete conditions. The virtuality of such conditions, their possible reinvention or alternate state, their pregnancy with change and interrelation, is as deeply implied in this concreteness as much as it can be said to be subject to definition” (2-3).
Fuller maps out his position within this ambiguously defined but dynamic term by describing the main currents of its use and interpretation: 1) Media ecology as information ecology “is deployed as a euphemism for the allocation of information roles in organizations and in computer-supported collaborative work.” This interpretation within the context of contemporary (Western or westernized) work cultures includes: the structuring of class composition and command in a workforce; the mundane management of work environments to ensure appropriate information flows, communication networks, and data protocols; and data auditing processes including the control of information quality. 2) Another way in which media ecologies is defined has a technologically deterministic streak. Here, ecology is often mistakenly confused with environment… where environmentalism implies, “that there is a resilient and harmonic balance to be achieved with some ingenious and beneficient mix of media,” whereas “Ecologies focus rather more on dynamic systems in which any one part is always multiply connected, acting by virtue of those connections, and always variable, such that it can be regarded as a pattern rather than simply as an object.”
3) The understanding of media ecologies that Fuller finds the most interesting emerges out of literary criticism. For this “thread of study in which literature becomes a part of a subset of media, and thus of discursive storage, calculation, and transmission systems,” he cites N. Katherine Hayles, Friedrich Kittler (Discourse Networks 1800/1900), and others including Joseph Tabbi (See the Electronic Book Review). “Such work makes electronic or code-based logical composition and a developed theorization of interaction come into play with cultural analysis and production. Of particular use too is such work’s discussion of domains usually roped off as science, its varied histories and philosophies” (4).
Fuller has further adopted the interpretations of ecology, materiality, and media discussedv by Félix Guattari, Manuel De Landa, Howard Slater, and Gregory Bateson to explore and test the potentials of media ecologies. “How can words, concepts, quotations, footnotes, the mechanics of a book, and the writings and accounts that evade them themselves be nailed down or glued to a page in a way that makes them reverberate? But more, how can conceptual worlds, different material practices, along variously restrained or absolutely rude interdisciplinary dynamics be satisfactorily brought together in a way that seeks not to develop a necessarily unifying framework, but to hold in its hands for a few moments an explosion of activity and ideas to which it hopes to add an echo?” (11-12).

mediation plot
“a sequence of events chronologically defined by the transmission of a text through various media, e.g. from holograph to typescript to printed book.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

“a neologism indicating the whole organism and refuting the Cartesian division between mind and body.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

MUDs (Multi-User Domains)
“Since the 1980s, gaming environments called MUDs (Multi-User Domains) have allowed distant players on the Internet to share a common virtual space in which they can “chat” with one another (by typing) in real time… As the social psychologist Sherry Turkle has persuasively demonstrated, MUDs are intensely “evocative” environments for fantasy play that allow people to create and sustain elaborate fictional personas over long periods of time… This new kind of adult narrative pleasure involves the sustained collaborative writing of stories that are mixtures of the narrated and the dramatized and that are not meant to be watched or listened to but shared by the players as an alternate reality they all live in together” (Murray 43-44).

multiform narrative / story
“I am using the term multiform story to describe a written or dramatic narrative that presents a single situation or plotline in multiple versions, versions that would be mutually exclusive in our ordinary experience” (Murray 30). Janet H. Murray cites popular examples of multiform plots, such as: Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946); Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths” (1941); Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950); Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler (1979); Robert Zemeckis’ film Back to the Future (1985), among other references. She could have equally cited Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843) and a more contemporary tale, Christopher Nolan’s Momento (2000).
“Multiform narrative attempts to give a simultaneous form to these possibilities, to allow us to hold in our minds at the same time multiple contradictory alternatives. Whether multiform narrative is a reflection of post-Einsteinian physics or of a secular society haunted by the chanciness of life or of a new sophistication in narrative thinking, its alternate versions of reality are now part of the way we think, part of the way we experience the world. To be alive in the twentieth century is to be aware of the alternative possible selves, of alternative possible worlds, and of the limitless intersecting stories of the actual world. To capture such a constantly bifurcating plotline, however, one would need more than a labyrinthine novel or a sequence of films. To truly capture such cascading permutations, one would need a computer” (Murray 37-38). (Murray also refers to the creation of narrative labyrinths based around “violence-hubs” or complex nodes of trauma (135-137).)

multiple reading paths
“spatially distinct reading trajectories that exist on the same page (for example, in print) or that can be accessed through links (for example, in electronic works).” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)


(See also founding, interactivity, multiform narrative)
“There is no need to dwell on silly notions such as the digital media’s alleged development of some form of non-linear narrative: narrative constantly loops back and branches out, condenses and proliferates uncontrollably, which is precisely why the ‘meaning’ of a story can never be fixed once and for all. Narrative never was linear, so to proclaim the discovery of non-linear narrative is absurd. In the same vein, interactivity has always been a feature of any representational media, from religious rituals to painting, novels and cinema.” (Paul Willemen in New Screen Media, 14)
“The themes critiqued here – of universal narrative, the end of grand narrative and antinarrative – share the paradox that narrative analysis produces a static and spatial model in place of a dynamic and temporal one. Is it possible or desirable for narrative to regain a place in the critical and practical vocabulary of the emergent media? I believe so, but under a new guise that takes account of the fact that narrative is no longer – if indeed it ever was – the central mode of modern communication.” (Sean Cubitt in New Screen Media, 6)

narrative design
See article as pdf file by Bizzocchi and Woodbury as uploaded to this site, 552; and as annotated on the “Texts Annotated” writeboard.
“Narrative has its own set of design parameters, intended outcomes, and challenges. Narrative is often defined as a “chain of events in cause-effect relationship occurring in time and space” (Thompson & Bordwell, 1994, p. 90). The designer of a narrative experience, whether a writer or filmmaker or playwright, presents a string of such events as the plot. The reader’s role is to process the raw events of the plot into a story in his or her own mind. The challenge for the designer of narrative is to conceive and present a plot that will yield a rich story in the minds of readers. Some of the key narrative design parameters are character, story world, narrative themes, and dramatic arc. The designers’ intended outcomes can be cognitive (i.e., insight), but they are most often emotional. To magnify the emotional outcome, narrative designers will attempt to build and reinforce rich characters and lead the reader to identify with (or against) the characters as they progress through the plot. As we have seen, most narrative designers aim for a reader experience that is immersive within the story and the story world of the characters” (552- 553).

narrativity (as practice)
De Certeau argues for the importance of practice in the constitution of knowledge
generally but specifically addresses the importance of narration (as a dynamic everyday practice) to the art of thinking – whether that thinking is philosophical, juridical or scientific: “It is an art of speaking, then, which exercises precisely that art of operating in which Kant discerned an art of thinking. In other words, it is a narration” (77).
“In many works, narrativity insinuates itself into scientific discourse as its general denomination (its title), as one of its parts (‘case’ studies, ‘life stories,’ or stories of groups, etc.) or as its counterpoint (quoted fragments, interviews, ‘sayings,’ etc.). Narrativity haunts such discourse. Shouldn’t we recognize its scientific legitimacy by assuming that instead of being a remainder that cannot be, or has not yet been, eliminated from discourse, narrativity has a necessary function in it, and that a theory of narration is indissociable from a theory of practices, as its condition as well as its production?” (de Certeau, transl. Steven Rendall, The Practice of Everday Life, 78).

navigable (cinematic media)
Artworks “that make the construction of a navigable narrative space their central feature, and in so doing create cinematic formalisms quite distinct from the types of representation we are used to in the cinema… the navigable artwork allows the interactive viewer to assume the role of both cameraperson and editor, operations that in the traditional cinema are determined beforehand” (Shaw 23).

new media object
(See also representation)
“Throughout the book, I use the term new media object, rather than product, artwork, interactive media or other possible terms. A new media object may be a digital still, digitally composited film, virtual 3-D environment, computer game, self-contained hypermedia DVD, hypermedia Web site, or the Web as a whole. The term thus fits with my aim of describing the general principles of new media that hold true across all media types, all forms of organization, and all scales.” (Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media 14).
Manovich also means to evoke the use of object in the computer sciences as well as to “activate connotations that accompanied the use of the word object by the Russian avant-garde artists of the 1920s.” They aimed for works that crossed the boundary between industrial production and the fine arts. Additionally the use of object deliberately recalls the radical experimentation of this same avant-garde, and which Manovich finds appropriate to current experiments in new media.

networked (cinematic media)
Networked media benefits from the “economy of individual production, its open distributed modalities of consumption, its ideological freedom and idiosyncratic formal characteristics… The technologies of video games and the Internet point to a cinema of distributed virtual environments that are also social spaces, so that the people present become protagonists in a set of narrative dislocations” (Shaw 25).

(See also collective intelligence)
“This tool is what Teilhard de Chardin has called the noosphere, the film of organized intelligence that encircles the planet, superposed on the living layer of the biosphere and the lifeless layer of inorganic material, the lithosphere. The minds of three-and-a-half billion humans – twenty-five percent of all humans who ever lived [in 1970] – currently nourish the noosphere; distributed around the globe by the intermedia network, it becomes a new “technology” that may prove to be one of the most powerful tools in man’s history” (Youngblood 57).


“the impression that more than one voice is speaking at once; a literary effect in which multiple voices are associated with the same textual passage.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

principle of action (the)
“The movement of the body in space creates changes in the information impinging on the ears and the eyes. These changes are very important in building the awareness of what is out “there.” The psychologist James Gibson elucidated this idea for vision in his 1979 book The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. We were informed by this principle in the construction of Placeholder, both in vision and in audition… These results of the action of the body in space and correlations with changes in the sensorium – the principle of action – mark the major defining characteristic of immersive VR as a medium… High resolution is less important than tightly coupled coherent action in the sensorium resulting from the participant’s action” (Tow, Interval Research Corporation 125).

procedural author / authorship
“Authorship in electronic media is procedural. Procedural authorship means writing the rules by which the texts appear as well as writing the texts themselves. It means writing the rules for the interactor’s involvement, that is, the conditions under which things will happen in response to the participant’s actions. It means establishing the properties of the objects and potential objects in the virtual world and the formulas for how they will relate to one another. The procedural author creates not just a set of scenes but a world of narrative possibilities… Contemporary critics are attributing authorship to interactors because they do not understand the procedural basis of electronic composition” (Murray 152-153).
“Future audiences will take it for granted that they will experience a procedural author’s vision by acting within the immersive world and by manipulating the materials the author has provided them rather than by only reading or viewing them. They will welcome the choice-points in the narrative as dramatically heightened moments shaped for them with the same artistry that we now expect in the editing of a film. They will accept their exercise of agency as part of the aesthetic experience in the same way that we now take it for granted that we have to walk around a Degas sculpture to experience its full beauty rather than merely stand in front of it as we do with his paintings” (Murray 276).

“the sense of physically inhabiting one’s body, produced by deep tissue sensors.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

puzzle / riddle
See interactive fiction (IF).

“Reader: one who interacts with a text by decoding it; contrasted with a user to connote a literary perspective. / User: one who operates and interacts with computational devices, including books and computers; contrasted with a reader to connote a computational perspective.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

recombinatory (cinematic media)
“is an extension of the transcriptive; its practitioners recognize the emergent narrative potentials of an interactively accessible database of audio-visual materials. Whereas transcriptive narratives are concerned with the re-assembly of defined sets of narrative paths (as is the case in most video-game scenarios), recombinatory narratives embrace the idea of an unascertainable complexity of path options, leading to an unforeseeable patterning of narrative conjunctions” (Shaw 23).

remapping (cinematic media)
(See also remediation.)
Remapping is the reframing, recycling, remixing, or remediating of existing material. “Remapping shows a group of works that in one way or another make direct use of the actual filmic products of our cinematic heritage, taking these extant materials as the means to generate various forms of critical reflection upon the nature of the cinematic experience” (Shaw 22).

remediated narrator
“a speaker in a literary text whose consciousness cannot be separated from the media used to represent him or her.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

“the re-presentation in one medium of material that has already been represented in another, e.g. CNN on the Web.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

(See also new media object)
“In using this term, I want to invoke the complex and nuanced understanding of the functioning of cultural objects as developed in the humanities over the last decades. New media objects are cultural objects; thus, any new media object – whether a Web site, computer game, or digital image – can be said to represent, as well as help construct, some outside referent… As is the case with all cultural representations, new media representations are also inevitably biased. They represent/construct some features of physical reality at the expense of others, one worldview among many, one possible system of categories among numerous others. In this book I will take this argument one step further by suggesting that software interfaces – both those of operating systems and of software applications – also act as representations. That is, by organizing data in particular ways, they privilege particular models of the world and the human subject… Thus interfaces act as “representations” of older cultural forms and media, privileging some at the expense of others.” (Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media 15-16).
Manovich also summarizes his oppositional use of the term representation throughout the book. “Depending on which term it is opposed to, the meaning of representation changes: representation-simulation; representation-control; representation-action; representationcommunication; visual illusionism-simulation; representation-information.


“a copy without an orginal, for example in a digitally rendered music CD compiled from different recording sessions, so that there is no one original to which the copy corresponds.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

spatial writing
“writing that uses position and the physical space between textual components as a rhetorical device. Common examples include most poetry, some charts or diagrams, Jacques Derrida’s tympan, and Laurence Stern’s The Life and Times of Tristram Shandy.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

Félix Guattari suggests that, “we can do no better than cite Walter Benjamin, condemning the reductionism that accompanies the primacy of information:” (67, The Three Ecologies)
“When information supplants the old form, storytelling, and when it itself gives way to sensation, this double process reflects an imaginary degradation of experience. Each of these forms is in its own way an offshoot of storytelling. Storytelling… does not aim to convey the pure essence of a thing, like information or a report. It sinks the thing into the life of the storyteller, in order to bring it out of him again. Thus traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way the handprints of the potter cling to the clay vessel.” – Illuminations. Translated by Harry Zohn. Edited by Hannah Arendt. London: Fontana, 1992 [1973]; except for the first two sentences which are “taken from Chris Turner’s abridged translation of Guattari’s Les trois écologies.


“Technology is the only thing that keeps man human. We are free in direct relation to the effective deployment of our technology. We are slaves in direct relation to the effectiveness of our political leadership….We have no basis for postulating a ‘human nature’ until there’s no difference between the individual and the system. We cannot ask man to respect his environment until this difference is erased. This is anarchy: seeking a natural order. It is technoanarchy because it will be realized only through the instrumented and documented intellect that we call technology” (Youngblood 418).

“text that foregrounds the inscription technology used to produce it.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

(See also immersion.)
“the feeling of being physically present (from a first-person point of view) in a remote environment” (Michael Mateas. “A Preliminary Poetics for Interactive Drama and Games.” First Person 21).

theater of action(s)
(See founding narration)

transcriptive (cinematic media)
“covers the broad range of current experimentation that is challenging traditional notions of cinematic narrative.” Physically enabling the exploration of more open narrative structures is the actual reconfiguration of cinematic installation to allow for “multiple screenings, multiple layering of narrative and, in the case of interactive works, the creation of navigable multi-branching narratives” (Shaw 22).

(See also agency and immersion)
One of Murray’s three aesthetic categories for the analysis of interactive narrative, transformation is the most complex. Transfomation may be in the form of a “masquerade,” or it may be interpreted as “variety” or “variations on a theme,” finally, the transformation may be personal. “Transformation as masquerade and variety can be seen as a means to effect personal transformation” (Michael Mateas. “A Preliminary Poetics for Interactive Drama and Games.” First Person 22).

unreliable narrator

“a speaker in a literary text who betrays, through contradictions, psychotic behavior, or other indicators, that the reader should not trust what he or she says.” (from Hayles’ Lexicon Linkmap)

Department of Communication Studies, Concordia University, Montréal