Saturday, October 06, 2012

Chapter 3 - Reading by Design

This chapter examines how design is a source of authorial control over reading. This control is spatially derived and a constituent of narrative. In the digital works, design limits reading in how it constricts the representation of space. In a simple but effective example, designer and theorist Mary Flanagan points out that the representation of space in digital media is related to how “users of cyberspace have bought into the ‘spatialized’ scenario, complete with its imperialists overtones, by using frontier framework” along with the “highlighting and re-inscribing [of] suburban values” in such representational spaces as The Sims (Flanagan 2000 76). In a similar sense to Flanagan’s argument, the digital spaces of the works examined here represent particular meanings. In design, Façade represents a domestic, gendered and heteronormative space, while Egypt infuses space with exoticism, and similar imperialist overtones to those Flanagan refers to. Last Meal Requested is a space where the reader takes on the perspective of a witness and there is a similar sense of first-person immediacy for narrative in the design of Dreamaphage. Space in design is composed of elements that both enable and control reader reception, according to codified and therefore prohibitive techniques. Two codifying techniques in this design are perspective and monumentality, which organize space in reading.
Monumentality, as I demonstrate in Chapter One, organizes space according to “the strong points, nexuses or anchors” (Lefebvre 2007 222). These points codify representational space in a totalizing and restrictive sense, providing both meaning and guidance for reader navigation and interpretation. In the digital works Monumentality organizes the reader’s temporal experience of space. The emphasis in design on a particular feature and the resulting influence it has on representational space creates a sense of procedurality in reading narrative. As I explain in this chapter, an emphasized and therefore monumental feature of a work can introduce or link to a continuing theme or section of the work. Design techniques for the creation of Monumentality described in the following analysis include repetition, perspective, and scale and references to design features in dialogue. Perspective is a codified system that exists in design whereby point of view is manipulated, which results in both meaning and restrictions in reading. As I explain in my analysis, perspective is not only visual, but can be created by audio in the works.  In design, representational space is constructed by sound, visual perspective, depth and layering. Perspective and monumentality are interrelated concepts that make design meaningful for a reader according to how each contributes to the representation of space in the digital works. The material dimensions of the digital works include the “temporal and spatial relationships [that] are essential to our understanding of [the] narratives and go beyond the specification of a date and a location” (Bridgeman 2005 65). The temporal and spatial relations of the works are condensed in the design specifics, which are the first elements of representational space the reader encounters.
This chapter clarifies how design contributes to narrative, through an attention to the specifics of representational space. Remediation is a central element in how representational space is negotiated in reading narrative. Remediation, as I have already described, is “the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms” (Bolter and Grusin 2000 273) in “the mediation of mediation” (Bolter and Grusin 2000 56). How this refashioning can influence reception should firstly be understood in terms of reading as a historical and acquired practice. Readers’ respond to remediation with an awareness of the media as representing sets of historical practices and responses. Each reference to an older medium in the digital is also a reference to the consumption practices associated with that form. This historical awareness is an important element in reading. Remediation in design is also meaningful due to the qualities it brings to the works. In the digital works each example of remediation adds perspectives to reading, such as a video, a book, or a phone, with each providing a point of view within overall narrative structure. These remediated elements perform functions within digital narrative similar to characters. Due to the simulative nature of remediation in the digital works, each example of remediation comes with a perspective on narrative.

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