April 17, 2008

EL336: Kirschenbaum (Chapter 3)

From page 133 of Mechanisms:

"...must of what we tend to essentialize about new media is in fact merely the effect of a particular set of social choices implemented and istantiated in the formal modeling of the digital environments in question."

I think what Kirschenbaum is trying to say here is that our ideas about new media are based on the choices we make when using the new media--which I would absolutely agree with. This is especially true when playing Interactive Fiction (IF) games. If an inexperienced IF player sits down at a program such as Inform 7, it's been to my knowledge that they want to type natural commands such as, "go toward the door" instead of "north" or "walk north" or "go nortth." The inexperienced players want to type commands how they speak, not knowing the computer does not comprehend such commands. This type of user would become frustrated because they would never make any progress in the game and therefore write-off IF altogether.

My mother is the same with word processors. She doesn't have the kind of education to know what choices to make in the program- she doesn't know how to center align text, or italicize text, etc. She can type efficiently, but that's because she already knows the choices to make--simply hit the appropriate key. Even if she accidentally hits enter and makes a line break, she becomes flustered because she doesn't know what she did to get there in the first place, so how could she possible correct her actions?

New media can make us feel unintelligent because society, in general, I think, feels that that they should automatically know how to operate it. Sending an e-mail or typing a document in a word processor these days, for our generation, is common knowledge. When I pick up my friend's Curve, which is a new modle of a cellular telephone by Blackberry, I'm baffled because the interface is so different from most other cell phones. This era of time craves technology, but it is human nature to fear something new and different from the norm. For example, I would never get an Mac computer, even though they're releasing some extremely powerful and efficient computers, because I need to have my left and right mouse buttons. Although I'm now accusomed to using Macs when producing The Setonian, and in digital imaging and graphic design courses I've taken, I could never own one. Had I grown up as a Mac user, I'd be singing a different tune. I'd rather sacfifice cutting edge technology for comforting familiarity. This might be why until last May, I was using a Compaq Presario from 1998, which I had to reformat about 7 times over the years I had it.

Posted by StormyKnight at April 17, 2008 11:11 AM

Stormy – Good observations. I recall vividly the beta testing that we did for some of the games we created in New Media Projects and some people simply did not get it! The pre-disposition to know how to do something comes in very handy with new media. I can relate to the story about you Mom and the word processor, because my Dad is the same way, though he is a hunt and peck typist as well.

Your refusal to own a Mac is understandable. We all get comfortable in our ways. Look at me with my 8 year old Toshiba Satellite laptop that I have to jam a pair of scissors in the side of in order to turn on. I am still using it and am happy with it.

Dani – I hated interactive fiction at first because I had never dealt with it before Writing for the Internet. By the time I made it to New Media Projects I loved it and found that programming in Inform 7 was actually a pleasure rather than a frustration as I had expected.

Posted by: Leslie Rodriguez at April 18, 2008 1:45 PM

I'm sure there will be much frustration when I have to play these games next semester. My understanding is that becuase interactive ficiton is supposed to be sort of a virtual world, people want ton communicate as they do in the real world. But the games are games, and are much more narrow and strcutured than real life. I'm still stuck at the same places in games that I was 5 years ago on my Game Boy. I gave up after awhile. It sat in my desk for years and years because I became too frustrated with it.

My mother is the same way with itunes. She could not figure it out no matter how many times I explained it too her.

My sister has a MAC. Ihad to use it over thanskgiving because my LCD screen quit. It was so hard to type on in. There were so many grammatical errors.

Humans are creatures of habit

the frustration I feel in using new technology is due to the fact that I am a perfectionist and want to be able to learn everything the first time around.

Posted by: Daniella Choynowski at April 17, 2008 12:47 PM

Yes, new technology can be difficult to adapt to sometimes. Tivo comes to mind.

Posted by: Kayla Sawyer at April 17, 2008 12:16 PM
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