[Humanist] 29.126 storytelling digitally

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Jun 29 03:35:41 CEST 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 126.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 29 Jun 2015 11:21:37 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: simulation and storytelling

Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, in "The Convergence of the Pentagon and 
Hollywood" (Memory Bytes: History, Technology, and Digital Culture, ed. 
Rabinovitz and Geil, 2004), describes in some detail the adoption by 
the U.S. military of the entertainment industry's storytelling techniques 
implemented by means of simulation. This chapter follows on from her 
excellent "Simulating the Unthinkable: Gaming Future War in the 1950s 
and 1960s", Social Studies of Science 30.2 (2000). In the 2004 piece 
she describes a U.S. National Research Council workshop in October 1996 
at which representatives from film, video game, entertainment and 
theme-parks came together with those from the Department of 
Defense, academia and the defense industries. There is much about this 
convergence that we might productively take an interest in. Let me, 
however, highlight storytelling in particular.

In a military context, Ghamari-Tabrizi points out, skilled storytelling 
techniques are used to help participants in a VR environment sense that 
they are in a real environment and behave accordingly. Storytelling 
functions as a potent form of emotional cueing that would seem to elicit 
the desired responses. But especially interesting, I think, is the fact 
that "many conference participants argued that the preferred mode of 
experiential immersion in electronic media is not the unframed chaos of 
hypertext, but old-fashioned storytelling." She quotes Alex Seiden of 
Industrial Light and Magic (note the date -- 1996): "I've never 
seen a CD-ROM that moved me the way a powerful film has. I've never 
visited a Web page with great emotional impact. I contend that linear 
narrative is the fundamental art form of humankind: the novel, the play, 
the film... these are the forms that define our cultural experience."


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
Group, University of Western Sydney

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