Please enjoy my completed Ph.D. dissertation. Yes, this also marks my return to writing on WRT. Yes, it’s good to be back.

Command Lines: Aesthetics and Technique in Interactive Fiction and New Media

I’m pleased to announce that my Ph.D. dissertation: “Command Lines: Aesthetics and Technique in Interactive Fiction and New Media” is filed and available in final form. You can download Command Lines from my personal homepage.

Some WRT readers may be interested in my particular treatment of how freeform typing changes the dynamics of interactive art. Others may appreciate the wider world of novels, films, games, electronic literature, and digital arts within which I situate interactive fiction.

For those bloggers without the time to tackle such a tome: thank you all for reading and for engaging me on WRT and through your own blogs. You changed the course and the texture of my thinking in Command Lines more than you know. Here’s the relevant bit from my acknowledgments, excerpted for you, blog-style:

Raised in what still remains a largely monastic scholarly system, I could not have endured without the fresh air of public intellectual life, a correspondence I (and my peers) largely fashioned around blogs. Many unruly ideas threaded their way into this study out of conversations with my Writer Response Theory co-conspirators Mark Marino and Christy Dena, my Southern California new media comrades Jessica Pressman and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, and many online interlocutors, in particular the members of Grand Text Auto.

I hope some of you find this work as provocative as I have found yours. I am making available the same PDF that will eventually be distributed by UMI / Proquest, and have directed them to make digital downloads available free of charge. I am distributing the dissertation under Creative Commons by-nc-sa and dedicating all original images to the public domain.

Thank you all again.


The Interactive Fiction (IF) genre describes text-based narrative experiences in which a person interacts with a computer simulation by typing text phrases (usually commands in the imperative mood) and reading software-generated text responses (usually statements in the second person present tense). Re-examining historical and contemporary IF illuminates the larger fields of electronic literature and game studies. Intertwined aesthetic and technical developments in IF from 1977 to the present are analyzed in terms of language (person, tense, and mood), narrative theory (Iser’s gaps, the fabula / sjuzet distinction), game studies / ludology (player apprehension of rules, evaluation of strategic advancement), and filmic representation (subjective POV, time-loops). Two general methodological concepts for digital humanities analyses are developed in relation to IF: implied code, which facilitates studying the interactor’s mental model of an interactive work; and frustration aesthetics, which facilitates analysis of the constraints that structure interactive experiences. IF works interpreted in extended “close interactions” include Plotkin’s Shade (1999), Barlow’s Aisle (2000), Pontious’s Rematch (2000), Foster and Ravipinto’s Slouching Towards Bedlam (2003), and others. Experiences of these works are mediated by implications, frustrations, and the limiting figures of their protagonists.

[Download page for Command Lines]

18 Responses to “Command Lines: Dissertation on Interactive Fiction and New Media”

  1. 1 Mark Marino

    Congratulations, Jeremy! This is a wonderful contribution to scholarship on digital character art and more!

  2. 2 noah

    Yes, many congratulations! And thanks for making it available so that the rest of us can read (and cite) your work.

  3. 3 Christy Dena

    Congratulations Jeremy! You legend. :)

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  1. 1 Jeremy Douglass’ Dissertation « Emily Short’s Interactive Fiction
  2. 2 Jeremy Douglass: command lines « Kooneiform
  3. 3 command lines: chapter 1 « Kooneiform
  4. 4 Jerz's Literacy Weblog
  5. 5 Grand Text Auto » From Command Lines to Software Studies

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