Interactive fiction

1 minute read

Len Talmy writes in Toward a Cognitive Semantics (2002) that:

Any old tapestry or painting that in effect depicts a story by showing a number of figures and activities together suggesting a succession of events, but one that the viewer must piece together through her own self-determined sequence of visual fixations, is as much an example of interactive fiction as any modern computer-based form. (426)

This is of course false, with any standard definition of interactivity. I think โ€œmodern computer-based formโ€ is here a neat place-holder for games (other interactive digital works would also work), despite him not wanting to specify it. Computer games are of course more interactive than your typical painting. The key to understanding this is to separate interaction from interactivity.

I looked at interaction and interactivity earlier, and found out that there is a sense of interaction in the tradition of literature theory that describes the relation between a reader and a work of literature as one of interaction. The reader is seen as interacting with a literary work when they are interpreting it. While there is certainly something is akin to interaction here, it does not follow that the work of art is interactive

There is an important distinction to be made between interaction, which is something done with a thing, and interactivity, which is an attribute of the thing. Describing interpretation as interaction is stretching the concept of interpretation to a degree where it loses its defining power. Instead, interactivity should be kept in its own category and interpretation discussed as separate thing.