September 11th, 2012
Features: Experimental Digital Literature
Production credits: One to One Development Trust
Dreaming Methods is a website established by the One to One development Trust to develop experimental digital literature – which, in practical terms, means it offers a platform for primarily Flash-based narratives which rely on interactivity and animation to tell their stories. The content includes everything from simple motion comics to more complex game-like narratives, with nonlinearity, simulation and fragmentation as recurrent themes.
The results are often intriguing, and it’s clear that genuine attempts have been made produce work that could only work digitally. The “3D digital poem” The Dead Tower by Andy Campbell and Mez Breeze combines English, program code and the interactive language of gaming to present something clever and original. Found Floppy turns you into a voyeur before you even realise, medium fusing inventively with message.
But there are a number of common problems that can too frequently hamstring the experiences on offer. The interaction design is often poor, and it’s too easy to end up stuck in a dead end. Sometimes it’s unclear whether a story has intentionally concluded or just broken. Some of this can be forgiven – it is, after all, experimental – but at no point should a hard refresh be the only choice left to a reader, and they certainly shouldn’t crash the browser as at least two stories did.
Some of the work is even so charmed by the idea of multimedia combinations that it seems to forget to ask whether it’s actually necessary, and the formalist restrictions end up reinforcing, rather than negating, one another. For example, it’s fairly certain that when Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph were creating “Flight Paths”, they weren’t hoping that finding the mute button would be foremost in the reader’s mind.
As you’d expect, then, the experiment yields mixed results. Some of this can be attributed to the age of the stories. The earliest are over a decade old, and technology and interactivity have rapidly moved on since. But it’s a worthwhile enterprise, and if the results are sometimes imperfect, then it’s only because it’s being produced on the edge of what’s possible.