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2006 June archive at WRT: Writer Response Theory

Archive for June, 2006


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Children’s hypertext part II

This continues a reflection on New Media and children’s markets.

Why is there so much hypermedia and interactive technology for children? What happens when avant-garde or experimental hypermedia becomes naturalized as children’s entertainment?

At Disneyland California Adventure:

In the Animation building at the park, users can find two prime examples.
1) an interactive book
A number of large-open books surround a room. Upon closer inspection, these are not books, but book-shaped screens. Lumiere is our animated narrator. He is going to give us a quiz to see what Disney character we are most like. A picture snapped at the beginning will later be inserted into the text itself and we will become part of this remediated book.

A typical question asks, Would you rather:
1) Dance and party or
2) Curl up with a good book?

(It seems a trick. I want to be told I’m most like Flounder the fish, but he neither dances nor reads!)

Here interactivity, incorporation into the text, and invocation of the narrative take a page out of the quizzes of glamor magazines.

2) a chatbot turtle
Crush the turtle performs Ray Kurzweill’s Ramona bit from TED mentioned in my post on S1m0ne. He is a real-time animated character (not a chatbot, but an electronic ventriloquest dummy) with whom we can interact. The animated character floats around in a tank on a wall-size screen. He takes questions from the audience and teaches us to say “Totally” with a SoCal twang. Along with a mouth that matches his real-time improvised speech, Crush can move through sequences of pre-set swimming maneuvers. Here is the state-of-the-art virtual marionette.

A recent trip to the Bog exhibit at the LA Natural History Museum revealed a similar bit. Here a Chucky-style head floating in a display tells the story of a little girl’s murder. The exhibit is part-exorcist, part-scary doll from Toy Story. The doll, however, cannot interact, however. The low admission of the museum apparently does not support real-time Bog-person improvisation The museum has caught up with the Hall-of-President’s technology. Of course, it is a history museum. (Nonetheless, I was entranced by the bog girl head and the turtle).

In the first two examples, New Media has been incorporated into the “Magic of Disney.” In the third example, the history museum is trying to compete with the super heroes exhibit next door at the science museum. The one is trying to make its content more sexy with technology, the other drives the technology like one of those toy-size hot-rods. But some how in doing so, Disney has given this “always-already” feel to the technology. Disney presents itself as a kind of on-going world’s fair, with even an inventions of the future exhibit in Tomorrowland, which itself is decorated with worlds-fair rides. In the land of Disney, all becomes packaged and shelved by a magic spell of kitsch.

True, New Media works rely heavily on the gosh-wow factor as do Disney rides. It makes sense that its playful prestidigitation could then be brought to delight children. Is not Kurzweill using puppetry? Does not the success of Ramona rely in part on animation? Do not second person books evoke the tradition of the oral narrative as practiced still in front of children the world over? But the question remains: what happens to that experimental, forward-looking New Media when it stands next to Mickey and Space Mountain. When it becomes something to marvel at in a theme park? Is this assimilation or validation? Should New Media forms seek inclusion in the Electric Lit Parade, develop their kid-friendly, mass-culture instantiation? Alas, Uncle Remus, is appropriation the briar patch or the lion’s den?

WRT Codes


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I just updated our Winksite feed and noticed we’ve had 477 views of our mobile-friendly site and are rated 3 stars from 152 voters! To share the joy, we thought we’d add some more mobile goodies. Here are our barcodes, that your phone can read, that take you straight to our mobile site. For those who don’t use codes, […]


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Writer Response Theory is happy to unveil our recent renovations: a new look and a new url.
While our generous hosts at UC Riverside will continue forwarding old links for a while (thank you!), we’d like to ask at this time that you please take a moment to update your bookmarks, feed subscriptions, and your blogrolls….

blog: […]


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Ernest Adams’ talk, Interactive Narratives Revisited: Ten Years of Research, given at the 2005 Game Developer’s Conference is now available as a podcast at GDCRadio. Listen to the lecture and read along with the transcript Adams’ has put online, where he links to papers he cites. Here is the blurb of the GDC talk:
In 1995 […]


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“ridcat” is a project that visualizes political speeches “from literary imagery to actual imagery,” producing a cloud of iconic photographs. The transformation is fascinating both in its products and through its process - a psychotherapy technique called Regression Imagery Analysis. WRT interviewed creator Neil Kandalgaonkar.
WRT: When did you develop ridcat, and when was it first […]






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