Acting to Be or Not to Be

I intended to read an “interesting” paper on the influence story length and pace has on channel changing, but what I discovered was so much more. I’m looking at such research to help with my understanding of cross-media navigation. Since there are not many studies in this area I’m looking at anything that relates: intra-medium navigation included. The study gives lots of interesting findings about news stories that were long and short, fast and slow, but I’m not covering these in this post. Of interest to me is the results about motivation to act (channel change).
* Heart rate increases just prior to channel change and decreases after (for both young and older viewers);
* Arousal (emotional experience and physiological response) declines up to the channel change and increases after (more for younger viewers too);
* During infrequent changing viewers had a significantly lower heart rate (therefore expended greater cognitive effort);
* Both ages had better recognition (recall of stories) during periods of infrequent changingÂ…
And the clincher:

Viewers change channels as a result of declining interest and arousal, not because they are highly active and involved. (18)

Now this is obviously known to those researching channel changing behaviour, but for those working in interactive entertainment, the idea is a bit of a revelation. Agency or the empowering of a user to participate and affect a story or game is predicated on the idea that action equates to engagement. For a user to act they must be engaged and want to continue that engagement. This may well be the case, and designing works to facilitate this is still a good idea; however, the habit of equating action with dissatisfaction is obviously entrenched in audiences’ neural pathways. Are we asking viewers, or viewsers, to not only interactive with entertainment when before they were passive, but also to reprogramme themselves everytime? Or is this not an issue? If not, why? What changes? How does interactivity within a creative work differ to interactivity between creative works? This is an important question in the cross-media paradigm where creative works are distributed over lots of works. I don’t have the answers for you right now (…a teaser). Feel free to suggest any though, and I’ll get back to you when I do.


Lang, A., M. Shin, S.D. Bradley, Z. Wang, S. Lee and D. Potter (2005) ‘Wait! Don’t Turn That Dial! More Excitement to Come! The Effects of Story Length and Production Pacing in Local Television News on Channel Changing Behavior and Information Processing in a Free Choice Environment’ in Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 49, 1, pp:3-22

OMG! Jane McGonigal has a Blog!

Jane McGonigal, THE researcher of ARGs (alternate reality games) has a blog. It has been running since April (I’m behind obviously), but should be of interest to those interested in the genre. Jane works in industry creating ARGs as well as researching them, so she has a unique view of the area. I’m thrilled to see too that Jane even referred to cross-media storytelling (in general, not me specifically) in her talk she presented at the ARG Fest held in NY this year (I didn’t attend the event but got the DVD).

Interactive Narrative Guide

A collection of 22 articles, brought out by sagas writing interactive fiction and sagasnet, looks like an excellent resource for researchers, practitioners, lecturers and commissioners of interactive content. Developing Interactive Narrative Content covers a range of arts types & concerns.

[T]he reader explores the expanding field of interactive media itself by covering iTV, interactive film, games, mobile applications, installations, etc. and by gathering interactive theory essays, descriptions of experimental applications, articles on legal issues or teaching methods for interactive film.

Contents include:

# Ernest Adams: Design Considerations for Interactive Storytellers

# Richard Adams: Behaviour, Intelligence and Invisibility and its Effect on Narrative

# Frank Boyd: The Perfect Pitch

# Matt Costello: The Big Question& about all those horrible, terrible videogames

# Noah Falstein: Natural Funativity

# Steve Dixon, Magnus Helander and Lars Erik Holmquist: Objective Memory: An Experiment in Tangible Narrative

# Christopher Hales: Interactive Filmmaking: An Educational Experience

# Michael Joyce: Interactive Planes: Toward Post-Hypertextual New Media

# Sibylle Kurz: The Art of Pitching

# Craig A. Lindley: Story and Narrative Structures in Computer Games

# Michael Nitsche: Film Live: An Excursion into Machinima

# Teijo Pellinen: Akvaario: you are not alone at night

# Bas Raijmakers and Yanna Vogiazou: CitiTag: Designing for the Emergence of Spontaneous Social Play in a Mixed Reality Game

# Greg Roach: Granularity, Verbs and Media Types in Interactive Narratives and Narrative Games

# Volker Reimann: Authoring Mobile Mixed Reality Applications

# Vincent Scheurer: Adapting Existing Works for Use in Games

# Jochen Schmidt: Behind the Scenes Before the Screens Interactive Audience Participation in Digital Cinemas

# Tom Șderlund: Proximity Gaming РNew Forms of Wireless Network Gaming

# Stale Stenslie: Symbiotic Interactivity in Multisensory Environments

# Maureen Thomas: Playing with Chance and Choice Orality, Narrativity and Cinematic Media: Vala s Runecast

# Christian Ziegler: 66 movingimages – Interaction in Filmic Space

# Eric Zimmerman: Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games: Four naughty concepts in need of discipline

Incidently, Monique has just come back from attending a sagas future TV workshop…I look forward finding out how it went.