Interactivity and Standards

NB: This is late. Very late. Class starts soon. I have no excuse, I just had three major deadlines this week, and this post fell by the wayside. But I figure better late than never.

Okay– I had a couple thoughts on this week’s readings.

I tried to view various interactive storytelling projects on my Droid, just ’cause I was out and about and had some free time on the bus. I had various levels of success, but in general, not great.

In general, interactive storytelling projects seem locked into flash, high-bandwidth stuff that is too slow on a mobile device, and in general are locked into a single, not-phone-friendly style sheet. Really, the most successful projects are the simplest, the ones that stick to text, HTML, and maybe pictures.

This is problematic. Being mobile-accessible is quickly shaping up to be the new digital divide, especially when dealing with minority populations, who are more likely to have a wireless device be their primary means of accessing the internet.

Personally, I’d predict that with the new generation of tablet devices taking off that’s starting with the iPad, this will become even more true, and that poor white populations will likely start following this pattern more as well. Handheld is the future for people who don’t need heavy computation power and don’t need to write stuff of length.

HTML5 isn’t all the way there, yet, Flash doesn’t work on most handheld devices– and at least Apple so far has decided that even when Flash starts working on handheld devices, it won’t be supported on their mobile OS.

I think that interactive storytelling is a really exciting potential, but it is honestly going to be hindered from the most fruitful kinds of development until we can get some standards out there that make these projects accessible to everyone. And especially since we’re all looking at this issue as public historians and educators– it’s important that we use the tools that work for the greatest number of people, if we really see our missions as democratic. A balkanized web is good for none of us, if our mission is really outreach, education, and enlightenment.

Of course, there are incentives. In the process of finding interactive standards that work across devices, you can also incorporate place-based computing deep into the standard. You want immersive digital storytelling? You can’t get more immersive than actually moving around in real life. That’s what makes ARGs such a great way to get people involved– it gives you that “through the rabbit hole” experience that changes the way you filter your experiences as you go through the day… In other words, it does exactly what we’d like to do as educators and academics.

Again, though, the potentials for place-based stuff are limited by the lack of standards. The move in smartphones toward apps has been great in that it’s opened up development, and sped progress by letting developers try to make what they need rather than waiting for the phone carrier to make it for them. But again, it’s had a balkanizing effect. Augmented reality and place-based applications are scattershot, and many are locked into one or another OS. If I’m a Droid and you’re an iPhone, there’s a lot of stuff we can’t both do, unless there are MULTIPLE avenues by which we can get to that data.

And since interactive storytelling is rhizomatic to begin with, forcing developers into this sort of reduplication is almost ENSURING that deep, interesting projects don’t get developed.

Category: W9: Interactivity
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One Response
  1. sblaher says:

    I completely agree with you about the need to create DST projects that can work across platforms. It’s something we actually discussed in Clio last semester–the idea that we should consider designing our websites in a way that will still work (and be easy to use) on a hand-held device. However, knowing that you should consider it and actually trying to design something that way are two very different things and it tends to be easier to just fall into the traditional desktop screen design patterns.

    However, I think part of the problem lies with the whole capitalist-we-need-competition-system. As long as there are multiple companies trying to sell their platforms there will be developers that cater only to one or the other. It’s unfortunate but it’s a function of the society in which we live. I think there are ways to get around the differences, sites like YouTube work on both Droid and the IPhone (although when I googled IPhone YouTube half of the suggestions in the dropdown menu were about the problems IPhone users experienced, so who knows). I think if more sites work like that or if digital storytellers use those sorts of sites to post their stories they will get out to a larger audience far easier than designing sites based on each individual platform.