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Andrew posted some interesting thoughts on the Labyrinth Project and Marsha Kinder’s presentation from last week.  I also went to the presentation, which I found to be interesting but not amazing. Andrew hits on an important point when he mentions that generational factors play a large role in how the project is received, in that its level of interactivity might be more impressive to older people who grew up in an environment less saturated with interactive media.  Though Kinder offered anecdotal evidence of how different demographics approached the “database documentaries,” I didn’t immediately make this connection.  Kinder did make an analogy between the project and a museum, so that gives you a sense of the degree of choice in terms of what material you experience when.  I think the what and when choice is actually pretty significant because there is a lot of stuff crammed on to those discs and a virtually infinite number of possible orders/combinations, but where I got bored was the lack of choice in how to experience the material.  That is, unlike a video game where the player has agency within the content, the Labyrinth project viewer just has a wealth of content.

Kinder emphasized the idea that the Labyrinth project is an experiment in narrative, but I never quite understood what she meant.  What does she want the viewer’s narrative experience to be, ideally?  I think she would take a very hands-off approach to that question, saying something like, “it’s up to the individual viewer (participant?).”  That didn’t really satisfy me.  Professor Grindon asked a question along these lines after the presentation, wondering whether Kinder would be supportive of people taking content from the project and editing them into their own stories.  She seemed lukewarm on the idea, diverting attention to issues of copyright, but isn’t that what she wants—for viewers to construct their own stories?  Maybe I need to take a step back and separate narrative (the process of telling) from story (chronological events in a story world).  Each of Kinder’s projects seem to have a central story element; for example, the character of John Rechy is the basis for Mysteries and Desire, and the place/setting of the Hotel Ambassador is central to Tracing the Decay of Fiction.  Yet, I feel like they are missing something; they do not really have a plot—little to nothing is told.  Maybe the point is to explore the meticulously crafted story worlds of the DVDs, rather than to craft a traditionally structured story, but I’m rather impatient with that idea.  Kinder noted that it takes about six hours to get through one of the discs.  In those six hours I could watch three feature films, and potentially experience three complete and satisfying stories—a much more appealing option. 

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