Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Web Design & Development > Blogs

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

1.6: Summary

Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.

—Marshall McLuhan

Interactive narrative is an emerging art form that borrows from multiple disciplines. Most emerging art forms grow like this; they're fruity. Emerging art forms will often take methods and approaches that were developed by previous forms, copy them, alter them, and drop from the vine before taking the role of seeding a newer art form that follows.

The practice areas of experience, visual, and communication design are being integrated so that we understand what makes, finally, someone change television channels. It's a reflex to an altered state of attention span. It's a curiosity that is induced by a desire for a change for change's sake. Like the video game player's interest in seeing returns, any executive that's responsible for a firm that is doing this kind of development wants returns on the company's investment. The video game development world is ferociously competitive, the pace of work is crippling, and the demands on the software are unknown. Consequently, the resulting products are, like the fractured and harried world of the television commercial, wound up and dumbed down. But these harried developers stand on the shoulders of existing art forms to build new rules, new roles, and new ways of thinking.

1.6.1: The Crossed Lines of Design

The internal world of the reader and the external world of the viewer continue to weld themselves together, and we're still learning how to draw these two personalities closer. There continues to be a distance between the movie-goer and the programmer, between the remote and the joystick. The executives of firms involved in some form of digital design recognize, at least on an intuitive level, that these media share narrative as a common thread and this recognition pushes those firms to innovate. Some of them begin prodding the soft body of the public for that nerve cluster that, when pinched, induces relaxation, catalepsy, hallucination, and a greasing of the desire to buy (to make little mention of a dilation of the wallet).

The external world of entertainment and video is slowly splicing itself onto the internal world of coding. It's is at this splice point that interactive narrative is coalescing into its contemporary form. The arc of development in digital design tends toward increased interaction, increased stimulus, increased response, faster feedback, richer narrative, deeper throughput, and far-flung networks that follow us, sheep-like, wherever we may go. It's a trend that is easy to anticipate if we look back over the last 30 years.

As any arc, the change in the rate of change is the characteristic to watch. Because at a certain point it's no longer us that is driving the change, but, instead, the relationship changes at the epicenter of the arc, and suddenly the roles are reversed; the change is driving us. I'm not referring to an issue of control that developers, readers, viewers and users of digital media have, but rather an issue of their investment of attention.

What is it about interaction that makes it so addictive? What was it about the high-latency interactivity—and specifically digital interactivity—that causes, for example, gaming trends to give so many parents so many wrinkles in so little time?

It is the change in the rate of change. This is the source of the addiction of video games (to speak both culturally and individually) and the interest of attention. Narrative will play an important role in the Internet's development in the coming years. This is important to consider in light of the fact that the two commodities of the Internet are attention and reputation.

Play a good video game for a few minutes and you'll experience this rate-of-change arc on a tiny, momentary level; after you've contributed a small amount of yourself to something that is really interactive, after you've spent just a few minutes with your head in that box, you find you've lost more time than you had intended. Your initial investment saw returns, but not of the sort you had imagined. The change of your attention span is the intoxicant—far more than the content or design of the product.

Some neighbors of mine recently bought a computer and they bought with it Microsoft's Age of Empires. The husband spent several days playing it while the wife complained that he was spending too much time killing Carthaginians and building Wonders. For whatever reason he stopped long enough to give her a chance to play and, as you can imagine, the rest of the story is that two weeks later, they got rid of both the video game and the computer.

In short, it has to do with the return on investment of attention that the person at the end of the line feels. And that investment is entirely based on the interaction of the material they're engaged with, what the narrative is, and how it appeals to their individual interests.

"How Could the Butler Have Done It?"

There's something else, however, that's worth noticing. Interactivity allows a reader to bring his own sense of time to what he is reading. This is the nature of interaction. This is also a progression in literature that has been happening for ages—probably before Poe made such bold contributions to the genres of mystery and the short story. As with mystery novels, the reader of an interactive narrative takes on a role that is more closely aligned with that of an investigator, or perhaps of someone engaged in a conversation. In many computer games the reader takes on a role of debugging, as it were, the underlying structure of the story. The reader becomes the investigator, vested with that perspective, making efforts, meanwhile, to understand the perspective of the author. It's a process of reverse engineering. But different people will solve the same problem at different speeds so when problem-solving accompanies narrative, the amount of time the narrative takes to read changes.

This consideration is a key factor in narrative and game design because it lies at the intersection of intention and interpretation.


In multiprocessing, there is one CPU acting as a executor of sequential machine code instructions. Forking allows for several threads of nonlinear narrative to be active within the context of the GUI and its background processes, but then the CPU—as reader—only needs to pay attention to one thread/perspective at a time. Yet another indicator of what might be coming in the futures of narrative.

The similarities between this form of reading and the basic form of algorithmic logic—the semantic, and tautological properties of computer programs—are suspiciously similar.* Both are a sequential interpretation of a series of events that were already there. This is the point where a use-case scenario and a plot converge.

Consequently we can think of writing a narrative as interface design. It's a telescoping and a presentation of a series of events. Some events are important, some not. Some events are engaging, some not. The author's job is to decide which are which. And how to make this clear.

Consider Victor Marie Hugo's work about Notre Dame and the hunchback. Hugo had to choose a perspective to tell the story from. However, that story could have also been told from the single perspective of one of the characters, resting only in the first person, and been, under the guiding hand of a skilled author, an interesting perspective on the same story. Consider the different perspectives of Esmeralda, Frollo, Quasimodo, and Phoebus. Hugo combines them, in many ways, and in doing so has chosen a single path through a complicated field of interwoven possibilities and overlapping worldviews.

Figure 1.9

From this perspective of authorship, narrative's shift to interaction seems natural. Any traditional, noninteractive story might be thought of as a piece of a larger interactive narrative. The story that is told is one of a number of possible ways to interpret and present the data of that world-view. The role of the author, in traditional narrative, is to generate both the world-view and the particular perspective that looks into it. They have to pick the path through a garden of infinitely forking paths to discover which path is the most beautiful. The role of the painter is the same. The role of the interface designer as well.

The author of interactive narrative has to present all the forking paths by telescoping information and offering perspective. So the art of interactive narrative lies in the author's ability to simultaneously imagine (and illustrate) each of these views and make all of them accessible for the reader. It's a difficult task of schizophrenic design.

Interactive narrative's potential future and its current success lies exactly here: It's the point at which these different forms of design—writing, imagery, and interface—cross and spark a new kind of attention in an emerging art form.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020