Surface, Data, Interaction, and Expressive Processing

Early literary criticism of hypertext, gave way to Murray's "drama" approach and Aaresth's "ergodic" cybertext argument.

"Most critical work in digital literature — whether focused on hypertext or other forms — proceeds from an implicit model that takes audience experience to be primary. The main components of the model are the surface of the work (what the audience sees) and the space of possible interactions with the work (ways the audience may change the state of the work, and how the work may respond).The primary competitors to this implicit model are Aarseth's explicit models presented in Cybertext."

". . .realizing that none of this is visible from the audience's perspective. Just as the "Eliza effect" is used to describe systems that give the audience the impression of a much more complex process than is actually present, the "Tale-Spin effect" may be used to describe the obscuring of a complex process so that it cannot be perceived by the audience. The existence of these two effects helps demonstrate that the implicit audience model provides only a partial view of digital literature."

Discussion terms:

  • Eliza Effect
  • Tailspin Effect

"If we choose to emphasize its continuities with traditional fiction and drama, via its characters, then it becomes a useful touchstone for views such as Murray's. If we choose to emphasize its complicated strangeness, its computational specificity, then it becomes an important early example for views such as Aarseth's. In either case, a close examination of the system's operations reveals something much more intriguing than either author assumed."

"I believe the Tale-Spin effect is important to consider for two reasons. First, scholars of digital literature must be aware that the surface may not reveal the aspects of a work that will be most telling for analysis (a case in which scholars may miss what a work's processes express). Second, and just as importantly, authors of digital literature must realize that an interesting, successful, hidden process will offer less to an audience even than the visible errors produced by a broken process, as can be seen with Tale-Spin's mis-spun tales (a case in which authors are not effectively employing processes in their expression through the work)"

  • Expressive Processing