Meaning and the Interactive Narrative



What is Narrative?

The question of "what is narrative" is difficult and extensive. For the purpose of this essay I am going to limit my discussion to what narrative is in the context of Object- Oriented Interactive Cinema.

"A narrative is a sign with a signifier (discourse) and a signified (story, mental image, semantic representation). The signifier can have many
different semiotic manifestations. It can consist for instance of a verbal act of story-telling (diegetic narration), or of gesture and dialogue performed by actors (mimetic, or dramatic narration)." (Ryan, 2001)

The above definition takes a traditional communication theory approach to narrative. Under the OOIC model, the interactive film presentation would be the signifier, and the resultant story that comes out of the user interaction, the signified. A random interaction with a film object database would probably not produce a very meaningful narrative, however, and so the concept of narrative needs to be further defined. Mieke Bal in Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative defines a narrative as containing an actor and a narrator, a text, story and fabula, and that the plot should consist of "a series of connected events caused or experienced by actors" (Bal, 1985, p.8). This definition may be slightly too narrow for the purposes of the OOIC model, but it does bring up the point that for a narrative to be meaningful, it needs to make sense to the reader. This is commonly achieved through solid causality.


"Narrative representation must be thematically unified and logically coherent. Their elements cannot be freely permuted, because they are held together in a sequence by relations of cause and effect, and because temporal order is meaningful." (Ryan, 2001)


This definition tells us that in order for a narrative to be meaningful, it must consist of logically sound cause and effect relationships. I would agree with this for most cases, except for experimental filmmaking, where the artist may, in fact, desire a lack of logic or cause/effect dichotomies...



Copyright © 2007 Adrian Jones