In Hamlet on the Holodeck, Janet Murray discusses the cognitive and material benefit of narrative within the incunabula phase of the internet (and, I imagine, many other incunabular phases of ontology and epistemology). In what may be a pragmatic approach, her discussion of digital technologies emphasize the positive, communicative, and narratological possibilities of technology, suggesting the power of the Internet and new media to create new (or newer) forms of narrative, multiform narrative, and ways of making meaning and objects of knowledge production. All this is well and good, but I feel like it too uncritically sloughs off the dangers of new media immersion to reduce interpersonal communication and the fostering of earnest human relationships (between people in person, as well as mediated relationships) and the other physiological dangers (to our ability to process the world in our own embodied, fleshy analog way, like reading ). Not to be overly critical or dismantling, but Murray also seems not to consider the awesome amount of resources that are required to produce a digital environment or experience that can be taken seriously, and how few of those resources are allocated to making educative or critical experiences rather than Grand Theft Auto XV or some other digital product that perpetuates violent, racist, and misogynist ideologies in a way that is fun and entertaining, while eschewing its connections (both literal and embroidered) to issues and problems being dealt with in real time in the world outside (and inside, too) the screen. Her discussion leaves some thoughts on power or control to be desired.
In both the Introduction and Chapter 2 of Hamlet on the Holodeck, Murray is deeply concerned with the teaching and learning aspects of both narrative and technology’s enhancement of it. multiform narratives and hypertext structures enable a different formulation of time and display of information, respectively. Consider Naniki, a “sci-fi/fantastical love story and multi-media eco-adventure.” As a digital environment that houses a mult-narrative plot, the content of the project, with its emphaiss on Caribbean cultures and population over space and time, is also reflected in its science fiction structure (both related to African diasporan traditions). The project seeks to include multiple media across disciplines to constructed a multiply directed narrative that is able to move both synchronically and diachronically through the historical record. As a final tool or game that students can play, it might be an excellent digital environment, but just like “choose your own adventure” books or didactic video games (Ecco the dolphin, anyone?) there is only so far that sort of didactic narrative structure could get you. The asynchronicity of the online/digital experience keeps engagement and commitment set to a low standard. And, finally, it seems that the most educative experience is going to the students involved in actually making this project. They are both contributing to a new kind of archival material and gaining digital literacy and design skills, and are also thinking metacognitively about how players of this game/activity will be using or interacting with it. It makes me think of the possibilities of projects that employ both technology and “live-action” role playing, like FutureCoast and its use at Barnard College.
NB—technical difficulties prevented me from looking at other sites at the time of writing.