Storytelling in an interactive environment can be as simple as making a relatively closed narrative available for reuse, like embedding a video on a social networking site, or more open to critique, for example, commenting on a blog. It can also be more complex, allowing for multiple authors, collaborating without the limits of time and space or as part of a puzzle or game space. A story can unfold through user choices in multiple environments.
In Alternate Reality Gaming, a story can exist over a number of websites as well as in the ‘real’ world of physical spaces, museums, phone booths, billboards. As Evan’s Thesis points out, game spaces do not often hold the same storytelling power as say, films, which depend heavily on voyeurism, identification with certain characters, narrative closure, and a host of other techniques in which the viewer becomes immersed as a spectator.
Not all storytelling in an interactive environment challenges the traditional role of reader or spectator. Breaking Ulysses into micro-chunks on twitter only effects the transmission of the story, challenging narrative coherence. Some storytelling might hold up better to fragmentation before becoming incoherent than James Joyce. Academic work might even benefit from increased fragmentation.
The Stolen Time Archive, in Vector’s Journal, is a good example of how academic writing can change in a digital environment. The emphasis in this project is on argumentation as part of a process of analysis and conjecture, rather than as a tool in service of a conclusion. Like much current digital scholarship, or historical scholarship, generally, Alice Gambrell’s work is based on an archive of materials, which can accessed through a list or a collage. All of the items have at least two rather disparate interpretations that reflect strands of current scholarship and develop sophisticated and coherent arguments. In contrast to text scholarship, the interpretation of primary source material appears more open and contingent. The reader may look at the archival material directly, before experiencing the context of the academic arguments. Digital presentation allows the creator to present competing interpretations without ultimately concluding that one is more ‘correct’ for the primary source.