Archive: February, 2009

Pride and Prejudice: System Design 1

[General,Research] (02.06.09, 5:30 pm)

System Design 1

Design notes from the reading analysis. For the moment this will be general notes and extrapolations. It is not clear exactly what the mechanics of the world are or should be, but the document should be working in that general direction. The goal of the design phase is to create a design that is able to reformulate the chapter in the analysis in terms of the world logic.

I want to spend some time interpreting the results of the analysis. The step of interpretation should generally go within the analysis itself, but it needs to spill over onto this phase. By going through the analysis we can pick out several core elements of what is going on in the chapter.

This set of design notes has two distinct flavors. The first is a gameplay oriented observations, the second is oriented toward simulation. Both of these are important, but involve different values. I will distinguish these by contextualizing my discussion by explaining the relevance of things in terms of game mechanics or world mechanics.


The chapter is organized, roughly, into scenes. Scenes are characterized logically by what the characters are doing, the interactions they are having, and the activities they are engaged in. Scenes have their own temporal flow, and some scenes may illustrate details drawing out a particular moment in time, while others may review many things happening quickly. Scenes are usually separated by a few sentences indicating a transition. The logic of scenes would make sense to use within a game mechanic. Another way of indicating this is that situations have intrinsic temporal scales. A scene is dominated by some sets of situations, and whichever one of these is active will cause time to be perceived at its particular temporal scale.

For example, a scene where Elizabeth is thinking to herself may be a private moment in time which is quite active from the perspective of events that are taking place. The events are cognitive and emotional, but many of them are taking place in this isolate moment of time. A gameplay equivalent of this would be to pause or slow the game, allow the player to perform the actions associated with the emotion, and then continue. Other segments, for instance, toward the end of the evening, events are spread across time, but are understood consecutively. This approach to time is naturally understood by readers, but is very unusual from the perspective of gameplay.

From a perspective of simulation, the temporal flow may be considered a presentational element, and the exact layout of the events in time is less of a concern than the events themselves. It is not clear what approach to time would be the best for gameplay. One way to approach it would be to have time play out continuously, and simply have the inner-thought periods be busy. A second approach would be to enforce the flow of time, but this would remove control over time from the player, and may be frustrating if there are forced jumps forward. The player could be given a means for controlling time, but this, at onset, sounds like a cumbersome interface element. I would be interested in some intermediary format, where time advances more or less continuously (long scenes may still need to play out), but slow scenes, such as inner thoughts would be slowed, and indicated by some focusing on the character. Similarly, a conversation may employ this device as well. Other means of advancing time, for instance, fast forwarding to a new event or traveling, may be available to the player as well.

Scenes are:

  1. Arrival, looking for Wickham, internal thoughts
  2. Speaking to Denny
  3. More internal thoughts
  4. Speaking to Charlotte Lucas
  5. Dancing with Mr. Collins
  6. Dancing with an Officer
  7. Speaking to Charlotte Lucas again
  8. Dancing and speaking with Darcy
  9. being interrupted by Sir William Lucas
  10. Continuing to dance with Darcy
  11. Being accosted by Miss Bingley
  12. Speaking to Jane
  13. Speaking to Charlotte Lucas, and interrupted by Collins
  14. Collins accosting Darcy (observed)
  15. Mrs. Bennett embarrassing the family
  16. Mary singing
  17. Collins interjection
  18. Post dinner awkwardness, being fawned over by Collins
  19. Parties leaving, additional awkwardness at waiting

These scenes are each characterized by some central activity or situation. These scenes have meaning in of themselves, in terms of the fact that they are significant occurrences. For instance: Elizabeth dances with Darcy, Mrs. Bennett embarrasses Elizabeth in front of Darcy. However, they are also contexts for the events that take place within the scenes.

Emotions and Internal Thoughts

Much of the important text in this chapter is about Elizabeth’s emotions. A lot of time is spent inside her head, either directly or indirectly. A model for the story world would need to incorporate this kind of content. The emotional logic can be understood fairly well in the sense that is described by Ortony, Clore, and Collins. The model they provide treats emotions as valenced reactions. Emotions are not mental states, but they are responses to experiences, and will affect mood and disposition. Emotions are dependent not only on the events, but also the way in which the observer interprets the events.

From a gameplay oriented perspective, this suggests a mechanic wherein the player chooses how to emotionally respond to events in the world. Much like selecting emoticons, the player would be able to indicate that she is offended, flattered, wary, cautious, and so on, in response to the various triggers given by interactions with others. These are significant, not only from the perspective of communication of state to other agents, but because they are meaningful with respect to the course of the story itself. It would be important to devise a mechanic that is complete and sufficient for players to be able to express emotions that both make sense to them, and make sense in the game world.

From the simulation oriented perspective, emotions are important because they 1) exhibit perceptible signs, and 2) they must be chosen by agents who are observing (or interacting) in any given exchange. These exchanges may also be wholly internal, as is the case with Elizabeth in the begining of the evening. The actual emotions that a character might experience are dependent on what they are reacting to and their disposition. It is also important to understand the way that emotions can translate and become redirected. Early in the evening, Elizabeth is first feeling distress and pity for Wickham, then translates this to anger toward Darcy, and then it extends all the way to Bingley because of his positivity toward Darcy. 

The variables given by Ortony, Clore, and Collins describe global emotional variables of sense of reality, psychological proximity, unexpectedness, and arousal. Each of these plays into the scene provoking Elizabeth’s anger at Darcy. Events may also easily be seen under the light of desirability and undesirability. It is important to remember that the framework is not meant to be a predictive architecture, but rather one to help understand and explain what emotions might occur. For simulation, these will need to be decided, and this ought to be done based on the situation and circumstantial qualities around the events or agents being reacted to.

Different characters will exhibit emotions differently. The actual emotions experienced may be the same, but simply have different effects on the conduct of the characters. The easiest way of illustrating these differences could be to compare two characters with very different dispositions. For instance, consider Mr. Darcy versus Mrs. Bennett. Darcy has a internally oriented, distant, and aloof disposition. When confronted with something that makes him distressed, his reaction is to withdraw and distance himself from the source of distress. Mrs. Bennett is externally oriented, and will immediately confront the source of her distress.

We may express this through a personality model. There are many personality models used in psychology and in character design systems. Instead of theorizing mentally about what models seem like the best choices, it may be best to start with a review of the characters, and examine how they are different with respect to each other. This approach lets us focus on differences that are only significant within the story world. A proper analysis of characters will account for not only disposition, but also other dimensions that are important for their values and such.

Obligations and Expectations

A central feature to thinking about situations and how they fit into the actions of characters is the idea of obligations and expectations. Within a situation, for instance, a conversation, a dance, being the second or first daughter of a family, or being at a ball, the characters participating will have certain things expected of them. Within Austen’s world, the role of gender is particularly significant. I am not sure if gender counts reasonably as a “situation”, but it plays a significant part in expectations.

Characters are never present in only one situation, they are present in many simultaneously. Social moves must be carefully made to negotiate between different expectations, or choices must be made between which situation to satisfy and which to defer.

Conversation as Status Games

Conversation generally has a functional dimension to it. In addition to the elements of language, conversation serves to establish relationships between characters in terms of social hierarchy. The role of status, as described by Keith Johnstone is particularly useful for this purpose. I think that status is a particularly useful lens through examining the actions of characters. Status describes the social position of one character with respect to another. It frequently tends to work along the lines of class and social status, as characters with high class tend to have more power over others. Interaction can be read as a sequence of status transactions, making status a form of currency in the social landscape.

The term status game refers to a type of interaction where characters will try to raise or lower each others status. This happens very frequently in Pride and Prejudice, where high status characters will lower others in attempt to make themselves appear higher. Characters may lower themselves to supplicate or garner attention from those with higher status (Mr. Collins does this all the time). Status can be used indirectly by making comparisons. A character may effectively raise or lower their status by comparing themselves to another with higher or lower status. This leads to the operations of comparing (bringing two together in status) and distancing (emphasizing difference or dissimilarity). Adding a further level of indirection, a character may compare another to a third party, who may not even be present. This sort of interaction is weak, but the most socially polite of status actions, and happens all the time.

Gossip and Communication

There is also a mechanic in the story world regarding how characters share information. Gossiping and sharing information are highly important. Within the story, there are many occasions when characters deliberate over whether to share some secret knowledge. When this knowledge is shared, it is always a significant moment. Some examples of when this takes place: Darcy’s revealing of Wickham’s character, Elizabeth revealing the fact to Jane but not exposing otherwise, Elizabeth revealing Lydia’s elopement to Darcy, Elizabeth revealing to Jane her feelings toward Darcy when she loves him, Darcy revealing to Mr. Bennett his role in Lydia’s wedding, and so on. These communications are generally private and directed toward a specific person, a confidante.

In terms of game mechanics, the player should be able to reveal secrets at her choosing, but should also be given clear indications of how revealing a secret is a significant and important act. It should also be clear to the player what facts that are known and are generally secret. Generally, a secret is only something that might be revealed if it is already being inquired into. Secrets are not total surprises, but they are the missing keys to whole puzzles for which the rest of the details are generally known.

From the perspective of simulation, this is the element to the mechanics of the story world that most strongly lends itself to the conventional models of planning. A character may have goals, and those goals will affect what sorts of secrets the character might share. Characters may share secrets for a variety of reasons:

  1. Bonding: If a character shares private information with another, where that information is of interest to both parties, and both are on the same social situation as conveyed by that information, it serves to strengthen a bond between the characters.
  2. Status maneuvering: Shared information may raise or lower the speaker or the listener.
  3. Expectation: The character may be expected to provide some information, and thus is obliged to do so. This can also function as an excuse for some other behavior or action.
  4. Embarrassment: Information may be withheld for the same reasons as other kinds of status maneuvering, and this is most frequently done so when the information is embarrassing to the speaker, and the speaker withholds the secret to save a loss of status.
  5. Saving face: This is another variant on status play. This may work according to Goffman’s theory of face work, where the speaker reveals a secret (or lies) in a way that lowers the speaker’s status, in order to prevent the lowering of another’s status.
  6. Inducing an emotion: information may be revealed to induce a reaction out of another, where the speaker desires for the listener to experience a particular emotion. This is often done in order to relieve others (revealing that favorable events have occurred), but can be done to rile them up, and produce antagonism between the listener and a third party.

Two Dimensions of Morality

In Austen’s world, social class was strongly connected to morality. Those with high class were considered superior to those below them, not merely in the sense of financial or social power, but morally. It is this moral dimension that Austen is interested in critiquing, and to which she directs much of her irony.

The first dimension of morality is the one characterized by the first line of Pride and Prejudice. This is the class based morality which was commonly held to be an accepted truth in Austen’s era. In this world, social class is directly connected to one’s morality. Where it is the role and responsibility of daughters to find the most financially and socially favorable match. This system of morality is a direct derivation from monarchy and feudalism, where the king is the most moral individual due to divine right. While this is generally acknowledged to be false in the modern era, it still remains influential, especially in terms of modern class systems. I will call this aristocratic morality.

Jane Austen repeatedly pokes fun at and is ironic in describing aristocratic morality. This is done from the perspective that it is the system that underlies the world she lives in, but it is inaccurate. The character of Lady Catherine de Bourgh has the highest social class, and is revealed to be a mean, stupid, and intolerable character. However, her status demands that others treat her as having a true moral superiority. This position is not shared by Austen, or by Darcy, although the reader is led to believe that Darcy adheres to aristocratic morality until later in the book. The alternative morality is one characterized by fidelity (care for siblings and family members), self respect, and bravery (in the sense of being willing to undertake social/status risks for the good of others). I will call this latter type, for lack of a better term, modern morality.

Characters are distinguishable by the type of moral system that they adhere to. Elizabeth clearly falls into this latter camp, and, in the latter half of the book, Darcy does so as well. A few characters strongly fall into the aristocratic system, notably Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennett, and Charlotte Lucas. The rest of the characters, I think fall somewhere in between. I think there is also a third, non-moral, option, where the characters might be interested in self-advancement, without much consideration to others. Wickham and the Bingley sisters fall into this non-moral category.

Thinking about characters

A review of the characters in the story world. This list should be filled out with the characters as specified on the various axes of qualities, attributes, and variables that define the world.

  • Elizabeth
  • Jane
  • Mary
  • Lydia
  • Mrs. Bennett
  • Mr. Bennett
  • Darcy
  • Bingley
  • Caroline Bingley
  • Wickham
  • Mr. Collins
  • Charlotte Lucas

Defining Situation

A key element to this discussion is to come to terms with a definition of situation that is useful for the purposes of simulating the story world.

My understanding of situation is derived from several sources, most significantly from Goffman, but also from Agre. Situation is also similar to activity, in the sense of cognitive science (Lave, Hutchins, etc). I believe that it is important to have a general and broad definition of situation, and be prepared to accommodate characters present in many different types of situations simultaneously.

To start with, it will be useful to consider a list of qualities that situations should have, and how they should be used in the simulated world, and how the characters should relate to them.

  1. A character in a situation at any given decision point will be able to make a number of potential decisions, and these are derived in some sense from the situation itself. One approach to this is to say that a character has a role within the situation, and it is though that role that possible decisions are enabled.

    Examples of roles: in conversation, speaker and listener.

    Decisions are generally not wholly revealed to characters. Some decisions, especially in terms of what to say in conversations, are not clear to enumerate. Some of these must be constructed. Simulated characters may make a search pattern to discern useful responses.

  2. Characters may interpret events that occur within the context of a situation as having both symbolic meaning within the situation, as well as having global meaning that exists outside of the situation. Some situations may be observed by third parties, who can understand the implications of a situation from their external vantage point.

    Examples: witnesses to the dance of Elizabeth and Darcy, they are not within the dance, but understand it’s significance in the space of courtship.

  3. Decisions within a situation are made depending on the character’s goals, as well as the character’s personality and other global data.

  4. Situations are ambient, and they are perceived to exist only in characters minds. A character may be involved in a situation without explicit knowledge of it. Situations are reinforced by environments, but they must still be entered into by the participants, and acknowledged before engagement in the situation is possible.

    Examples: Miss Bingley and the advanced sparring during the “turn about the room” scene. Emma’s obliviousness with Knightley (in Emma)

  5. Situations may be initiated by offers, which are usually the opening situational moves by a character intending to start the situation. Offers can have many forms. A simple example is Mr. Darcy asking Elizabeth for a dance. Another example is marriage proposals. These are interesting cases because the offer of the proposal may be refused, but the situation cannot be refused. Even if a woman refuses a man’s proposal, the proposal cannot be disregarded.

    An offer is an assertive move, and reflects the initiator’s desire to take control of the situation. To accept an offer is to enable them to continue that control, but rejection may either derail the situation entirely, or may threaten the initator’s power.

    Offers are important to consider because they are means of initiating new situations. They still occur within a situation, but they change the landscape of what is happening in some way. For instance, an offer to dance must occur when it is possible for people to dance, such as at a ball.

    exists as a universally observable attribute (it is manifested at a
    physical level), and transcends situations. However, characters may
    have stronger claims to status depending on their situation. Accepting
    the status-maximization pattern of behavior, characters may try to initiate
    situations that they can dominate.

  6. Situations have a hierarchical structure. A situation may consist of sub-situations, and in deducing meaning, the entire hierarchy must be considered. A situation, at least, ought to have a parent. However, the larger scale a situation is, the less clearly defined it is.

    The exact layout of these high level structures is difficult to pin down. An example is that courtship defines a large scale situation, and involves the cultivation of a relationship, as well as certain modes of conduct on the part of its participants. However, being a young unmarried woman is also a situation, and it comes with a set of expectations that overlaps greatly with the situation of courtship. In this way, young unmarried women are expected to always be in courtship.

    Unlike in traditional computational models, the root of the situation hierarchy is the least defined, while the leaves are the most concretely defined. It is easy for a character to tell when they are in conversation with someone, but more difficult to tell whether they are in courtship.

  7. The way that situations are understood to characters is likely that there are several concrete situations that are present at any given moment. For instance, listening or being expected to say something, conversation, a dance, being a guest, being the second eldest daughter, being in a ball. Other situations may be less clearly defined, and are subject to changing depending on the impressions of its participants. For instance, states of expectation (waiting for someone to say something, expecting for an apology, expecting a positive response, expecting someone to leave the house), being in love or friends with someone, emotional states, courting someone.

    It is not clear whether these latter examples should be considered situations or something else. They are states, and they do have issues of boundaries, but they are less well defined or realizable to the characters, and are dependent on factors that are not immediately within the state hierarchy itself.

    Even relatively well defined situations, such Elizabeth and the Gardenier’s visiting Pemberly, may be distorted when other events occur, namely Darcy’s appearance. In this case, the situation changes from a property visit, essentially a tour, to the state of being guests.

  8. Situations may be contextualized by time and space. Certain situations may be meant to function within specific locations, and are constrained by time, and their relationship to other events and situations. A situation may be said to have several phases if it is sustained.

    For example: The dancing part of a ball may consist of sub situations which are individual dances. A card game is organized into several rounds. A social visit has greetings, the business itself, and then departure. Conversation has alternation of speaking and listening.

    These phases are usually well defined, but it is possible for situations to be disrupted or strained and turn into something else. This can occur when the situation is extended too long in time, or its environmental supports are removed. This may be a contextual change (for instance the awkwardness induced by Mary’s singing and Mr. Collins’ response thereafter), or a structural change where the situation itself changes (for instance, when Jane falls ill at Netherfield and needs to be cared for).

  9. Character roles are a major issue in social analysis, but roles do not
    exist in absentia, they require a situation to contextualize them. A
    character’s possible actions depends on its role, and the role only has
    meaning within a situation. So, agents may adopt roles on entering
    situations, and they may try to exchange roles within them.

    It is in the context of roles that character actions may be adopted. A character who is enacting the role of a guest has an automatic position within a situation once entering it, and the character’s decisions are made based on that role.


Events are the means by which things happen in the world. It is important to determine the sequence of how events work. Events alone are not atomic, there are several steps that must be followed through in how the event is chosen, interpreted, and responded to.

  1. The event will occur within a situation. The acting character has a role within the situation. Often times, the acting character may be forming a response in the context of some expectations.

  2. Based on the role and the character’s state, and whatever else goes into making a decision, the character chooses action. The character also must decides some conduct. This conduct may, and probably will, be unconscious, but the AI controlling the character must decide on how the disposition plays out. A player may choose disposition explicitly, or it may be automatically inferred by other contexts.

  3. The event is observed, by others, with respect to their own situations, and the perceived situation of the acting character. Some of these are clearly observable, others are less so. For example, when Elizabeth and Darcy dance, everyone in the ballroom can see the dancing, but not hear what they are talking about. This must stem from some sort of degree of privacy that is a context of either the situation or the event itself.

  4. Meaning is made from action by the observer (this step occurs whenever a character learns something new). Meaning is made based on how the event conforms or differs from the observer’s expectations, as well as by general standards. The content of the meaning can be any sort of knowledge that makes sense within the situation or global world. For instance, observation of flirting indicates courtship, observation of rudeness (a rude action is situationally determined) indicates that a character is disagreeable. Other impressions may be dependent on the observer’s beliefs or system of values (or morality).

  5. The observer responds to the meaning of the action, forming emotions. This sense of response is immediate and visceral. The model of emotions as valenced reactions is immediately relevant here. This will affect the state and disposition of the observer.

  6. The observer may be expected to do something in response to the event. For instance, in conversation, the character may be expected to say something.

Pride and Prejudice: Reading Analysis 1

[General,Research] (02.06.09, 5:30 pm)

Reading analysis 1

This is my first reading analysis. It will be followed up later by a design. This step is intended to examine the subject material in the attempt to understand what is taking place, so that a design of a model may be possible. The task of analysis is dependent on the design, though. The analysis requires thinking of the text in terms of a system of structures. Design and analysis exist in a cyclic relationship.

To review a bit, this project is oriented toward creating a game adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In order to implement this project, we must develop a model of the story world, and be able to simulate that model. However, the process of constructing a model is an important and delicate task. Models can convey value systems, and choices in the model design may restrict the expressive capacity of the work. In computer science, the models of traditional AI have had philosophical baggage which has been carried into nearly every AI project for good or ill. It is not my goal in this discussion to critique other forms of models, but to analyze the text of Pride and Prejudice so that a model may be drawn. It is necessary to come to the table of analysis with something, however.

In my analysis, I would like to examine the text with some degree of freshness, but I must take some clear approach to my investigation. Firstly, I wish to analyze scenes with the understanding that they are subdivided into spaces, characters, and props. Things that happen in the scenes are actions, but it is more important to understand the actions in terms of the effects that they have to the characters and what is going on in the scene. It is furthermore important to understand these actions in terms of motivations.

I believe that the matter of “what is going on” will be best understood as situations. Characters participate in these situations, and within them, actions have special value. However, the matter of introducing and developing situations is far from clear. Do they change, how flexible are they, are they understood mutually, what are their boundaries, and so on.

It is also worthwhile to note that the goal of the project is not to adapt the text verbatim, but to adapt the world behind the text. The text is clearly necessary, but it gives an incomplete and partial picture. Furthermore, the text also makes use of narrative compression and portrays scenes generally. For a game which may not have the capacity to enact that kind of compression, those scenes will need to be filled out or made brief.

The scene I have chosen to analyze is the ball at Netherfield. This is an extended event which is divided into several distinct scenes. This is the event where Elizabeth’s family makes an embarrassing scene that leads to Darcy instrumenting Bingley’s withdrawal from his country estate. This is chapter 1.18. The transcription is provided by Project Gutenberg.

(The formatting came out kind of odd in moving this to WordPress. The rest of the document can be found via Google Docs here)



Till Elizabeth entered the drawing-room at Netherfield, and looked in
vain for Mr. Wickham among the cluster of red coats there assembled, a
doubt of his being present had never occurred to her. The certainty
of meeting him had not been checked by any of those recollections that
might not unreasonably have alarmed her. She had dressed with more than
usual care, and prepared in the highest spirits for the conquest of all
that remained unsubdued of his heart, trusting that it was not more than
might be won in the course of the evening.
This is an internal monologue of Elizabeth’s thoughts. She has been looking forward to seeing Wickham and dancing with him at the ball.

The text conveys extra information about the scene: Elizabeth’s dress and spirits are more careful and elevated, and this is an indication of her positive expectations.

Elizabeth’s anxiety is a balance between hopefulness and disappointment. These emotional reactions may be seen as fitting neatly with Ortony, Clore, and Collins.

Wickham’s absence may also be seen as a reflection on his character, but this goes unnoticed by Elizabeth. Wickham had promised to come to the ball, and has retreated on such.

The last line of this suggests developing intentions on part of Elizabeth’s character, suggesting that her dress and spirits may also due to intention, rather than merely expectation.

But in an instant arose
the dreadful suspicion of his being purposely omitted for Mr. Darcy’s
pleasure in the Bingleys’ invitation to the officers; and though
this was not exactly the case, the absolute fact of his absence was
pronounced by his friend Denny, to whom Lydia eagerly applied, and who
told them that Wickham had been obliged to go to town on business the
day before, and was not yet returned; adding, with a significant smile,
“I do not imagine his business would have called him away just now, if
he had not wanted to avoid a certain gentleman here.”
Elizabeth first hypothesizes (suspects) that Wickham had been deliberately excluded from the invitation, which would explain both his absence and reinforce her negative feelings toward Darcy (as wreaking more harm against someone who she likes).

Elizabeth finds from officer Denny that Wickham is absent. The interaction with Denny is some form of motivated gossip.

Denny implicates Darcy, knowing of Darcy and Wickham’s antagonism. Sharing this with Elizabeth (who likes Wickham, and thus imaginably may be disposed against Darcy) is a form of bonding against a common enemy.

Wickham’s absence makes use of a conventional excuse, but one that may be cast as having an alternate motive (avoidance of Darcy).

The interplay of excuses is an important social mechanic.

This part of his intelligence, though unheard by Lydia, was caught by
Elizabeth, and, as it assured her that Darcy was not less answerable for
Wickham’s absence than if her first surmise had been just, every
feeling of displeasure against the former was so sharpened by immediate
disappointment, that she could hardly reply with tolerable civility to
the polite inquiries which he directly afterwards approached to make.
Attendance, forbearance, patience with Darcy, was injury to Wickham. She
was resolved against any sort of conversation with him, and turned away
with a degree of ill-humour which she could not wholly surmount even in
speaking to Mr. Bingley, whose blind partiality provoked her.
The context of this is that Elizabeth’s mood sours due to the absence of Wickham.

Elizabeth blames Darcy for this, projecting the same negativity as if Wickham had been excluded as per her suspicion. To extend her antagonism in this way is a form of blowing the circumstance out of proportion. Her attitude towards Bingley is reduced due to his friendship with Darcy. This is a manifestation of emotions by proxy.

This point Elizabeth’s emotional landscape is unilaterally against Darcy. Any form of support or positivity toward Darcy is perceived as against Wickham, and by extension herself (because she likes him). The actual network of emotions is complex here, that Elizabeth would be angry at Bingley. Not only do the emotions due to Wickham and Darcy extend across four agents- Elizabeth – Wickham – Darcy – Bingley, but they also overrule her other forms of relationships with him, albeit temporarily.

But Elizabeth was not formed for ill-humour; and though every prospect
of her own was destroyed for the evening, it could not dwell long on her
spirits; and having told all her griefs to Charlotte Lucas, whom she had
not seen for a week, she was soon able to make a voluntary transition
to the oddities of her cousin, and to point him out to her particular
To recover her mood, Elizabeth meets up with her friend Charlotte Lucas, to whom she describes her grief. This is another form of motivated gossip, but its intention is to relieve the speaker of unhappiness by communicating it, and, presumably garnering support.

Elizabeth then continues to gossip about Mr. Collins, describing his “oddities”. The motivation of this gossip is arguably to continue relieving her spirits by making light of how Collins is outside of what she considers reasonable behavior. This serves to explain how she is distant to Collins, and that Collins is an outsider to polite social interaction.

The first two dances, however, brought a return of distress;
they were dances of mortification. Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn,
apologising instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being
aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable
partner for a couple of dances can give. The moment of her release from
him was ecstasy.
This marks an abrupt shift in circumstance, a form of narrative compression. Elizabeth has moved from speaking to Charlotte Lucas to dancing with Mr. Collins.

Even though this dance is highly undesirable, Elizabeth had promised to dance with Mr. Collins, and must follow through on such. Failure to do so would be extremely inappropriate.

We have a few nice details about Mr. Collins’ conduct: awkward, solemn, not-attending, unaware of his partner. The conduct over the course of a dance has symbolic meaning that indicates an impression of Mr. Collins’ character. Collins’ behavior is odd generally, but the behavior within a dance is specifically meaningful in the situation. It would not make sense to describe Collins as “apologising instead of attending” in other circumstances with quite the same meaning.

Interestingly, Collins’ awkward behavior fills Elizabeth not only with misery, but also with shame. The emotions of joy and misery may be linked to the idea of the dance being a pleasurable activity (with a good partner). However, the emotion of shame indicates a sense of self-responsibility for her circumstances, which is culturally normal, but not exactly logically appropriate.

The release of the dance is ecstatic because of the ending of an undesirable situation.

She danced next with an officer, and had the refreshment of talking of
Wickham, and of hearing that he was universally liked.
When those dances
were over, …
This passage reflects an intermediary phase in which Elizabeth dances with an officer before returning to Charlotte Lucas. How this dance is initiated is not clear. These dances would represent a longer phase in a simulation, but is cut short and made very brief here.

Functionally, she talks to the officer of Wickham. Exactly what is said is not revealed, but it is indicated positively. Elizabeth learns that the officer likes Wickham, reinforcing her positive impressions.

she returned to Charlotte Lucas, and was in conversation with
her, when she found herself suddenly addressed by Mr. Darcy who took
her so much by surprise in his application for her hand, that,
without knowing what she did, she accepted him. He walked away again
immediately, and she was left to fret over her own want of presence of
Elizabeth returns to Charlotte Lucas, indicating some pattern of her activity to the reader. Charlotte Lucas is Elizabeth’s friend, and interaction with her forms a stable point in an otherwise turbulent situation. It is socially appropriate for them to spend time together. It is also appropriate for groups of ladies to be approached by men and asked for dances.

Darcy appears suddenly, creating surprise in Elizabeth especially. Darcy’s asking for her hand in a dance is a symbolic interaction that is very clearly established. Since Elizabeth is surprised, she is not able to form an excuse for replying in the negative, and thus accepts him. It would have been very rude to turn him down without an excuse. The interplay of politeness relates to a kind of social currency and power.

Elizabeth responds negatively after Darcy leaves, (as it would not be appropriate to do so while he was there), expressing something between shock and distress that she will need to dance with him. Such an interaction would require a confrontation and suppression of her antagonism to Darcy, which is undesirable to her.

Darcy’s asking of Elizabeth to dance is also a significant social gesture, as Darcy’s social status is so much higher than everyone else. If Elizabeth operated according to the expected social rules, she would be delighted to dance with Darcy, and make a positive impression on someone so important.

No indication is given to Darcy’s reaction, but he is imaginably pleased that Elizabeth accepted his offer.

Charlotte tried to console her:

“I dare say you will find him very agreeable.”

“Heaven forbid! That would be the greatest misfortune of all! To find
a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an

When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim her
hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her in a whisper, not to be a
simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant
in the eyes of a man ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no
answer, …

The social ramifications of this dance are emphasized by Charlotte Lucas who has an astute sense of social status.

The first thing Charlotte says is meant to gently assuage Elizabeth’s antagonism. Elizabeth responds very harshly and negatively. But she noticeably does not leave, indicating that this does not make her upset with Charlotte, but just with Darcy. Elizabeth’s response may be seen as a means of taking out her distress (regarding the impending dance) on Charlotte.

Elizabeth’s response also lays out a fear, of both liking (or at least, finding agreeable) Darcy, as well as hating him for his alleged wounds to Wickham. This is precisely the situation that evolves, though.

Before Darcy comes to lead her to the dance, Charlotte also continues to give Elizabeth advice. Charlotte’s advice can be considered motivated by genuine interest in Elizabeth’s happiness, and also by a desire to impress on her the model by which social status works, and the values therein.

Charlotte’s advice is precisely for Elizabeth to consider her antagonism due to her attraction to Wickham as less valuable than the social value of dancing with Darcy. This is precisely rational under the model where the girls would wish to marry well. Because Elizabeth does not abide by that model, her reception to Charlotte’s advice is limited.

It is worthwhile to note that no one in the room would suspect that by dancing with Darcy, the two would develop a fondness for each other and marry, but instead it is a tremendous contextual raising of Elizabeth’s social stature. To have had danced with Darcy, Elizabeth would stand a better chance of marrying well, because of her associations with high society.

and took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which
she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and
reading in her neighbours’ looks, their equal amazement in beholding
it. They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to
imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at
first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would
be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made
some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again
The social consequences of standing next to Darcy in the dance are immediate, evidenced by attention and looks from the neighbors in the room.

The issue of conversation versus silence in a dance is a matter of social awkwardness versus comfortability. I do not know what the conventions are in dancing regarding conversation. Silence is comfortable to Elizabeth, and she suspects that it would be comfortable to Darcy as well. Valuing his lack of comfort above her own, she decides to speak. This is not an indication of any plan on her part, but a spontaneous decision aimed at inflicting awkwardness and grief.

The actual conversation that occurs is not revealed to us, only its trivial nature. The important aspect about this conversation is not its content, but the circumstantial value of having conversation within the dance in the first place.

After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time
with:—”It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. I talked
about the dance, and you ought to make some sort of remark on the size
of the room, or the number of couples.”

He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be

“Very well. That reply will do for the present. Perhaps by and by I may
observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. But
now we may be silent.”

In continued conversation, Elizabeth is indicating that Darcy is failing to complete the contract of conversation. This suggests that conversation has the form of A: observation, B: response, B: observation, A: response.

This also has the form of ribbing Darcy, threatening him in the matter of his social graces, but albeit as lightly and with some jest. Elizabeth’s suggestion suggests in jest that Darcy does not know the rules of proper social conduct.

Darcy responds to this (following the rule of proper conversational manners) not by responding directly to Elizabeth’s allegations, as that would lend them some form of credence, but is able to suggest that if Elizabeth is to be the authority on conversational manners, then she may complete the response herself. This is done briefly and lightly. This makes light of Elizabeth’s sudden interest in conversation and its order. This enables Darcy to dodge the threat that Elizabeth poses in her retort.

Thinking generally, other possible conversation options that Darcy might have would have been to follow along and actually say what Elizabeth suggests that he say, but that would lower himself immensely, granting her a great deal of power over him. He could attempt to deny her authority by dismissing her address, which would put Elizabeth down, but he would come off as extremely rude, which is not appropriate for him.

Elizabeth’s response again dodges Darcy’s suggestion that she should fill out his share of the conversation herself, by claiming that his response was sufficient. She then continues the conversation game suggesting that she might say something generally. She concludes by saying that only now may they be silent, eliciting a kind of power grab. She manages to dismiss Darcy’s actual response by pretending it is a move in her conversation game (and a bad one at that), and then asserts authority on whether they may be silent or not.

This retort amounts to something of a significant power grab in their interaction. Doing so enables her to keep on her toes and maintain social power against Darcy who otherwise simply outclasses her.

“Do you talk by rule, then, while you are dancing?”

“Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be
entirely silent for half an hour together; and yet for the advantage of
some, conversation ought to be so arranged, as that they may have the
trouble of saying as little as possible.”

After that, the conversation has the effect of questions or statements by Darcy and then responses by Elizabeth.

Darcy aims to hold power by refusing to be silent when Elizabeth claimed to allow silence (maintaining silence would be humbling on his part). His question inquires as to Elizabeth’s current conversational behavior, continuing to question her self-designated authority of dance conversations. The use of the term “by rule” is telling, because it suggests an inquiry into the model she uses for her conduct. This question may thus be seen as an effort to maintain power, continue conversation, and also perform genuine inquiry into her character.

Elizabeth’s response is partially genuine, explaining that a set of dances without conversation is awkward, which would be lowering herself. She then suggests that some (gently indicating Darcy) may prefer to have no conversation at all. This subtly hints that Darcy may has an anti social disposition. The actual statement is quite ambiguous, though. This does amount to a effort to gain power by lowering Darcy, but the threat is vague and indirect.

Elizabeth could make a few responses instead of this one. She could reply flatly, giving some sort of yes or no (the no would be very provocative). She could leave off at the mention of awkwardness, but that would be leave her vulnerable to attack. She could make a more direct threat to Darcy, which may be rude. She might actually respond by raising Darcy, suggesting that she might have thought that he would like conversation, which would be supplicating.

“Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do you
imagine that you are gratifying mine?”

“Both,” replied Elizabeth archly; “for I have always seen a great
similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial,
taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say
something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to
posterity with all the eclat of a proverb.”

Darcy’s response to Elizabeth’s vague threat is to clarify it. This is threatening because it both turns the threat to her, and implies that she must expose the threat to him, bringing it out behind its shield of vagueness. This is threatening because if she were to bring out a threat, then it would be rude.

Elizabeth’s response is brilliant. Like all of the conversational moves so far, it misdirects the original assault. Instead of claiming that either she or Darcy might be antisocial, she unites the threat against both of them, which implies a certain commonality and unity between them. She also does so in a way that pokes fun at both of them, indicating that both of them are kind of ridiculous. This effectually lowers both, but in comparing herself to Darcy raises her to be closer to his level all the same.

Elizabeth could have easily turned the threat onto herself, suggesting that she were gracing or entertaining Darcy for his own benefit, which would be like a false raising of his status.

“This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure,”
said he. “How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. You
think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly.”

“I must not decide on my own performance.”

He made no answer, and they were again silent till they had gone down
the dance, when he asked her if she and her sisters did not very often
walk to Meryton. She answered in the affirmative,

This reaction is actually a direct response to Elizabeth’s last statement. Darcy contradicts Elizabeth’s allegation toward herself, which ostensibly serves to raise her. The contradiction undercuts her claim, though. Darcy then goes on to challenge her assessment of him. He neither supports nor denies her claim, but instead asserts that she believes it faithfully. This implicitly denies the allegation, but weakly. Darcy’s reaction on the whole here is rather abrupt in halting their banter.

Elizabeth’s response is also abrupt and has the effect of a last word.

The witty repartee reaches a pausing point, effectively concluding this line of conversation. On the whole, it seems like Darcy was the one to halt the flow of it, effectively leaving Elizabeth on top in terms of social skills.

Darcy’s question that follows this is non offensive and is relatively innocuous inquiry. This is absent of any power manoeuvrings, leaving the power relationship as it is. Darcy knows of Elizabeth’s fondness for walking, so his question seems indicative of a some potential affinity.

Elizabeth’s quick positive response is relatively neutral.

and, unable to resist
the temptation, added, “When you met us there the other day, we had just
been forming a new acquaintance.”

The effect was immediate. A deeper shade of hauteur overspread his
features, but he said not a word, and Elizabeth, though blaming herself
for her own weakness, could not go on.

The remark that follows is due to a quick internal debate within Elizabeth. She was unable to resist the temptation of bringing up Wickham. Exactly the nature of the the sides of the debate are unclear, but it is generally a matter of whether to offend Darcy. This is a concrete choice.

Offending him would put him down and cause some suffering on his part, satisfying some Elizabeth’s earlier emotional state. It would also serve to demonstrate to Darcy her found sympathy and support for Wickham. To do so would also assuredly provoke some form of negative reaction from Darcy, which would cause her social standing to suffer after they parted.

Darcy’s actual reaction to hearing of Wickham provokes a change that is visibly evident. The reaction could be due to either just thinking of Wickham (antagonism, disgust), or it could be to think of him and Elizabeth as close and associated, which would produce an effect of distancing himself from her. The actual essence of what is going on here is very ambiguous, and indicates the distance of both the reader and Elizabeth to Darcy’s inner thoughts.

An adaptation of this scene would need to be able to successfully convey not only Darcy’s physical reaction, but also the ambiguity of it.

Elizabeth is not comfortable with this reaction, and notably regrets having mentioned it. The power relationship between the two is unclear. Darcy could be in power because of his distance, or alternately Elizabeth could be in power because she made Darcy uncomfortable. The situation is awkward for both parties, and Elizabeth is unable to continue the conversation, leaving a conversational gap that is indicative of a moment of transgression in the dialogue.

At length Darcy spoke, and in a
constrained manner said, “Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners
as may ensure his making friends—whether he may be equally capable of
retaining them, is less certain.”

“He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship,” replied Elizabeth
with emphasis, “and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all
his life.”

Darcy made no answer, and seemed desirous of changing the subject.

Darcy makes a sarcastic response about Wickham, targeted not at Elizabeth herself, but at Wickham primarily. He indicates that Wickham has strong social skill at garnering positive first impressions (making friends), but is unreliable and cannot be depended on (retaining them). This statement is given plainly, but can be read as a warning toward Elizabeth’s affection or relation to Wickham. This also supports accounts of Darcy’s history with Wickham as well, that they were once friends but lost their friendship in a nasty manner.

Elizabeth, who likes Wickham, is put on the defensive due to Darcy’s line. Her response is hostile and accusatory, emphasizing the suffering experienced by Wickham at the loss of his friendship with Darcy. The gist of this response is that Darcy is to blame for their loss of friendship as well as Wickham’s injury.

Again, Darcy’s response, or lack thereof, is significant, but ambiguous. His silence does not oppose Elizabeth’s claim, but it does not tacitly support it either. Darcy is clearly made uncomfortable by discussing Wickham. Functionally it serves to distance himself from the conversation, but it also suggests that Darcy is considering knowledge which he is not interested in divulging.

The effect of Darcy’s silence is an awkward pause, which would be embarrassing, and likely awkward unless it was interrupted.

that moment, Sir William Lucas appeared close to them, meaning to pass
through the set to the other side of the room; but on perceiving Mr.
Darcy, he stopped with a bow of superior courtesy to compliment him on
his dancing and his partner.

“I have been most highly gratified indeed, my dear sir. Such very
superior dancing is not often seen. It is evident that you belong to the
first circles. Allow me to say, however, that your fair partner does not
disgrace you, and that I must hope to have this pleasure often repeated,
especially when a certain desirable event, my dear Eliza (glancing at
her sister and Bingley) shall take place. What congratulations will then
flow in! I appeal to Mr. Darcy:—but let me not interrupt you, sir. You
will not thank me for detaining you from the bewitching converse of that
young lady, whose bright eyes are also upbraiding me.”

The awkward moment and the dance between Elizabeth and Darcy are interrupted by Sir William Lucas, who appears suddenly.

William Lucas is present due to a circumstantial motive, to pass to the other side of the room, but when present, greets the dancers. This is a polite gesture under the circumstances. William Lucas’s introduction is somewhat over-polite and gregarious.

William Lucas compliments the two and remarks on their performance as dancers. Dancing is indicated to be a pleasurable activity, not only for the participants but also for the spectators. This serves to elevate both Darcy and Elizabeth. Furthermore, in suggesting that they both belong in the first circles, elevates Elizabeth to be very close to Darcy. This is followed by a supplication of sorts (a self-effacing formality) that Darcy is not disgraced by Elizabeth. He requests that they repeat the act of dancing and appearing together. This entreaty is a request to Darcy to please socialize more with Elizabeth. The conversation is not provoked by anything, and comes across as quite earnest. The indication of this is partly a reflection on William Lucas’s character and personality, that he is interested in introducing people and having them be tightly knit and happy.

He continues, and refers to an expectation of something taking place between Jane and Bingley. The expected event is imaginably a proposal, followed by a wedding and ostensibly more balls. This is primarily an indication that they will become engaged and celebrations will follow. William Lucas’s telling of this information may be considered emotionally motivated, that it will make Darcy and Elizabeth happy (as it has made him happy), experiencing joy at positive news.

He then politely excuses himself, raising Darcy by thanking him, and complimenting Elizabeth.

The latter part of this address was scarcely heard by Darcy; but Sir
William’s allusion to his friend seemed to strike him forcibly, and his
eyes were directed with a very serious expression towards Bingley and
Jane, who were dancing together. Recovering himself, however, shortly,
he turned to his partner, and said, “Sir William’s interruption has made
me forget what we were talking of.”

“I do not think we were speaking at all. Sir William could not have
interrupted two people in the room who had less to say for themselves.
We have tried two or three subjects already without success, and what we
are to talk of next I cannot imagine.”

The information exposed (the happy event) activates a change in Darcy, and a moment of his thinking is indicated, though not illustrated. Darcy’s reaction is significant, an indication of his concern regarding Bingley and Jane. If Darcy does not form his plan to separate the two at this point, this at least contributes to it.

That moment of thinking is distracting from the current situation, and whether he tells the truth about forgetting the topic of conversation, it allows a moment for conversational shift, giving power and responsibility to Elizabeth to lead the conversation once more.

Elizabeth makes negative comment toward prior conversation. This indicates that if conversation is to resume, it requires a topic. This counts as an offer to Darcy to determine a topic.

“What think you of books?” said he, smiling.

“Books—oh! no. I am sure we never read the same, or not with the same

“I am sorry you think so; but if that be the case, there can at least be
no want of subject. We may compare our different opinions.”

Darcy makes a positive offer that is ostensibly friendly, and is accompanied with a friendly gesture. The topic of books is acceptable and learned, but mundane and innocuous. This is also posed as a way of making closer his association with Elizabeth, because it is a topic that they both are interested in.

Elizabeth seems to reject the offer, acknowledging her fondness for books, but creating a distance between her and Darcy’s interests. This asserts that his interest and hers are different in nature.

Darcy presses, putting the difference Elizabeth posed in a positive light. This indicates that, while there may be a difference, that is reason for learning more. This is an offer indicative at surface of a broad mind (uncharacteristic of other impressions of Darcy). Because he presses in the positive, it is arguable that he is emotionally positive and engaged.

While they are not as witty and sparring in this exchange, it still reflects an evasiveness on Elizabeth’s part to not curry favor with Darcy. This is in contrast to the traditional values of the period, which would have her eagerly returning conversation.

“No—I cannot talk of books in a ball-room; my head is always full of
something else.”

“The present always occupies you in such scenes—does it?” said he,
with a look of doubt.

At the surface, Elizabeth rejects Darcy’s offer still, citing as excuse the context of the situation. Balls are not generally occasions for discussing books.

This snippet of conversation suggests that Elizabeth is engaged in
thought. It is also posed as an intrigue: what is occupying her so? This could be the state of the situation (the dancing), or something else (gossip, drama).

Darcy responds with an inquiry that Elizabeth is concerned with the present situation, but doubtfully. This effaces her statement, and counts as lowering.

“Yes, always,” she replied, without knowing what she said, for her
thoughts had wandered far from the subject, as soon afterwards appeared
by her suddenly exclaiming, “I remember hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy,
that you hardly ever forgave, that your resentment once created was
unappeasable. You are very cautious, I suppose, as to its being

“I am,” said he, with a firm voice.

“And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?”

“I hope not.”

Elizabeth affirms Darcy’s inquiry, which subjects herself to the lower. She is written as distracted, though what by is not given. The suggestion is that she is thinking of Wickham, and comparing Darcy’s positive demeanor to her earlier antagonism, producing an inconsistency.

Elizabeth makes a very direct inquiry to Darcy regarding his character. She recalls his statement about having unappeasable resentment, and poses that he is cautious in creating resentment. This comes across as an inquiry (asking if he is), and a threat, suggesting that if he is not, then that is a negative indication of his character.

This inquiry is a direct placement of Darcy’s character against Wickham’s. If Darcy is honorable (moral, or gentlemanly), then he will be (and was) cautious in creating his resentment, and conversely, Wickham would have made a severe indiscretion. Alternatively, Darcy could be an immoral character (as Elizabeth was thinking earlier) and his resentment was created incautiously. Were the latter the case, then he would lie or could not be trusted with his response to this question. Everything in Elizabeth’s interaction with Darcy in this conversation has suggested that Darcy has a sound moral standing.

Either case in estimation of Darcy’s character would produce the same conversational result, the response that he gives. However, the element of significance is conduct of his statement, the firmness of his voice.

The manner of this conversation so far is very direct on both parties. Elizabeth is asking questions in a very assertive manner as well.

“It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion,
to be secure of judging properly at first.”

“May I ask to what these questions tend?”

“Merely to the illustration of your character,” said she, endeavouring
to shake off her gravity. “I am trying to make it out.”

“And what is your success?”

She shook her head. “I do not get on at all. I hear such different
accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly.”

Elizabeth responds to Darcy’s assertion in his last line, and reemphasizes it with a threat, that he better be certain of his opinion. The subject of this threat is Darcy’s character, which has been the subject of intrigue.

Darcy detects the hostility in the statement and inquires as to Elizabeth’s motivations.

Elizabeth expresses that she is attempting to understand Darcy’s character, but it is unclear. The fact that she experiences this contradictory evidence requires not having an evaluation of Darcy’s character, but rather treats it as a confused entity, which is both negative and positive simultaneously. Elizabeth’s state of confusion is significant and has a strong effect on her disposition.

Darcy asks her success in determining his character and Elizabeth relates her confusion.

“I can readily believe,” answered he gravely, “that reports may vary
greatly with respect to me; and I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were
not to sketch my character at the present moment, as there is reason to
fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either.”

“But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have another

“I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours,” he coldly replied.

Darcy requests to Elizabeth that she not judge his character. This poses that his character is currently in a state undesirable to him. Were Darcy ostensibly more honorable, his character would not be admittedly vulnerable. His following suggestion that it would not reflect well on either of them comes across as a threat, though the material is less clear. This is a very defensive conversational move, acknowledging attack.

Elizabeth presses in her pursuit of Darcy’s character, suggesting (threatening?) that she will not be able to do so in the future. This suggests that the two will not have the chance to know each other better, and comes across as very finalistic.

Darcy responds directly, but negatively. This treats Elizabeth’s previous line as an attack, which was directly confronted. His mood is soured by the exchange.

She said no more, and they went down the other dance and parted in
silence; and on each side dissatisfied, though not to an equal degree,
for in Darcy’s breast there was a tolerable powerful feeling towards
her, which soon procured her pardon, and directed all his anger against
This narrative segment indicates an intermediary phase. The dance ends, and the two leave on silent, and thus awkward and uncomfortable terms. The mood of each is given as dissatisfied, indicating mutual negativity.

An insight into Darcy’s mind is given that he redirects his mental antagonism elsewhere and restores a positive attitude toward Elizabeth. The subject of his antagonism is presumably Wickham (but this is not specified).

They had not long separated, when Miss Bingley came towards her, and
with an expression of civil disdain accosted her:

“So, Miss Eliza, I hear you are quite delighted with George Wickham!
Your sister has been talking to me about him, and asking me a thousand
questions; and I find that the young man quite forgot to tell you, among
his other communication, that he was the son of old Wickham, the late
Mr. Darcy’s steward. Let me recommend you, however, as a friend, not to
give implicit confidence to all his assertions; for as to Mr. Darcy’s
using him ill, it is perfectly false; for, on the contrary, he has
always been remarkably kind to him, though George Wickham has treated
Mr. Darcy in a most infamous manner. I do not know the particulars, but
I know very well that Mr. Darcy is not in the least to blame, that he
cannot bear to hear George Wickham mentioned, and that though my brother
thought that he could not well avoid including him in his invitation to
the officers, he was excessively glad to find that he had taken himself
out of the way. His coming into the country at all is a most insolent
thing, indeed, and I wonder how he could presume to do it. I pity you,
Miss Eliza, for this discovery of your favourite’s guilt; but really,
considering his descent, one could not expect much better.”

Miss Bingley approaches Elizabeth and opens up on a rant. The conversation appears to be private, so the purpose could not be embarrassment in social company. The exact motive behind this is unclear but could be towards lowering Elizabeth in relation to Miss Bingley, or towards instilling embarrassment in Elizabeth’s fondness of Wickham.

Miss Bingley’s text can be broken into several elements (all of them gossip): Revealing that she knows Elizabeth’s fondness to Wickham; revealing the sister’s asking questions (a social indiscretion; since Wickham is a tainted character); revealing of Wickham’s family relations to Darcy; asserting that Darcy was kind to Wickham (before indiscretion) — raising his status; that Wickham performed infamous indiscretion; that Bingley wished to avoid inviting Wickham; that there was relief in his absence; that Wickham’s appearance nearby was insolent.

The final lines are a clear lowering (I pity you), an implication of guilt on Wickham and on Elizabeth through association. It also conveys a strong allegiance to the associativity of social status to morality.

“His guilt and his descent appear by your account to be the same,” said
Elizabeth angrily; “for I have heard you accuse him of nothing worse
than of being the son of Mr. Darcy’s steward, and of that, I can
assure you, he informed me himself.”

“I beg your pardon,” replied Miss Bingley, turning away with a sneer.
“Excuse my interference—it was kindly meant.”

“Insolent girl!” said Elizabeth to herself. “You are much mistaken
if you expect to influence me by such a paltry attack as this. I see
nothing in it but your own wilful ignorance and the malice of Mr.

(the rest of the analysis is incomplete so far)
She then sought her eldest sister, who has undertaken to make
inquiries on the same subject of Bingley. Jane met her with a smile of
such sweet complacency, a glow of such happy expression, as sufficiently
marked how well she was satisfied with the occurrences of the evening.
Elizabeth instantly read her feelings, and at that moment solicitude for
Wickham, resentment against his enemies, and everything else, gave way
before the hope of Jane’s being in the fairest way for happiness.
“I want to know,” said she, with a countenance no less smiling than her
sister’s, “what you have learnt about Mr. Wickham. But perhaps you have
been too pleasantly engaged to think of any third person; in which case
you may be sure of my pardon.”

“No,” replied Jane, “I have not forgotten him; but I have nothing
satisfactory to tell you. Mr. Bingley does not know the whole of
his history, and is quite ignorant of the circumstances which have
principally offended Mr. Darcy; but he will vouch for the good conduct,
the probity, and honour of his friend, and is perfectly convinced that
Mr. Wickham has deserved much less attention from Mr. Darcy than he has
received; and I am sorry to say by his account as well as his sister’s,
Mr. Wickham is by no means a respectable young man. I am afraid he has
been very imprudent, and has deserved to lose Mr. Darcy’s regard.”

“Mr. Bingley does not know Mr. Wickham himself?”

“No; he never saw him till the other morning at Meryton.”

“This account then is what he has received from Mr. Darcy. I am
satisfied. But what does he say of the living?”

“He does not exactly recollect the circumstances, though he has heard
them from Mr. Darcy more than once, but he believes that it was left to
him conditionally only.”

“I have not a doubt of Mr. Bingley’s sincerity,” said Elizabeth warmly;
“but you must excuse my not being convinced by assurances only. Mr.
Bingley’s defense of his friend was a very able one, I dare say; but
since he is unacquainted with several parts of the story, and has learnt
the rest from that friend himself, I shall venture to still think of
both gentlemen as I did before.”

She then changed the discourse to one more gratifying to each, and on
which there could be no difference of sentiment. Elizabeth listened with
delight to the happy, though modest hopes which Jane entertained of Mr.
Bingley’s regard, and said all in her power to heighten her confidence
in it. On their being joined by Mr. Bingley himself, Elizabeth withdrew
to Miss Lucas; to whose inquiry after the pleasantness of her last
partner she had scarcely replied, before Mr. Collins came up to them,
and told her with great exultation that he had just been so fortunate as
to make a most important discovery.
“I have found out,” said he, “by a singular accident, that there is now
in the room a near relation of my patroness. I happened to overhear the
gentleman himself mentioning to the young lady who does the honours of
the house the names of his cousin Miss de Bourgh, and of her mother Lady
Catherine. How wonderfully these sort of things occur! Who would have
thought of my meeting with, perhaps, a nephew of Lady Catherine de
Bourgh in this assembly! I am most thankful that the discovery is made
in time for me to pay my respects to him, which I am now going to
do, and trust he will excuse my not having done it before. My total
ignorance of the connection must plead my apology.”
“You are not going to introduce yourself to Mr. Darcy!”

“Indeed I am. I shall entreat his pardon for not having done it earlier.
I believe him to be Lady Catherine’s nephew. It will be in my power to
assure him that her ladyship was quite well yesterday se’nnight.”

Elizabeth tried hard to dissuade him from such a scheme, assuring him
that Mr. Darcy would consider his addressing him without introduction
as an impertinent freedom, rather than a compliment to his aunt; that
it was not in the least necessary there should be any notice on either
side; and that if it were, it must belong to Mr. Darcy, the superior in
consequence, to begin the acquaintance.

Mr. Collins listened to her
with the determined air of following his own inclination, and, when she
ceased speaking, replied thus:

“My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world in
your excellent judgement in all matters within the scope of your
understanding; but permit me to say, that there must be a wide
difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst the laity,
and those which regulate the clergy; for, give me leave to observe that
I consider the clerical office as equal in point of dignity with
the highest rank in the kingdom—provided that a proper humility of
behaviour is at the same time maintained. You must therefore allow me to
follow the dictates of my conscience on this occasion, which leads me to
perform what I look on as a point of duty. Pardon me for neglecting to
profit by your advice, which on every other subject shall be my constant
guide, though in the case before us I consider myself more fitted by
education and habitual study to decide on what is right than a young
lady like yourself.”

And with a low bow he left her to attack Mr.
Darcy, whose reception of his advances she eagerly watched, and whose
astonishment at being so addressed was very evident. Her cousin prefaced
his speech with a solemn bow and though she could not hear a word of
it, she felt as if hearing it all, and saw in the motion of his lips the
words “apology,” “Hunsford,” and “Lady Catherine de Bourgh.” It vexed
her to see him expose himself to such a man. Mr. Darcy was eyeing him
with unrestrained wonder, and when at last Mr. Collins allowed him time
to speak, replied with an air of distant civility. Mr. Collins, however,
was not discouraged from speaking again, and Mr. Darcy’s contempt seemed
abundantly increasing with the length of his second speech, and at the
end of it he only made him a slight bow, and moved another way. Mr.
Collins then returned to Elizabeth.
“I have no reason, I assure you,” said he, “to be dissatisfied with my
reception. Mr. Darcy seemed much pleased with the attention. He answered
me with the utmost civility, and even paid me the compliment of saying
that he was so well convinced of Lady Catherine’s discernment as to be
certain she could never bestow a favour unworthily. It was really a very
handsome thought. Upon the whole, I am much pleased with him.”
As Elizabeth had no longer any interest of her own to pursue, she turned
her attention almost entirely on her sister and Mr. Bingley; and the
train of agreeable reflections which her observations gave birth to,
made her perhaps almost as happy as Jane. She saw her in idea settled in
that very house, in all the felicity which a marriage of true affection
could bestow; and she felt capable, under such circumstances, of
endeavouring even to like Bingley’s two sisters. Her mother’s thoughts
she plainly saw were bent the same way, and she determined not to
venture near her, lest she might hear too much. When they sat down to
supper, therefore, she considered it a most unlucky perverseness which
placed them within one of each other; and deeply was she vexed to find
that her mother was talking to that one person (Lady Lucas) freely,
openly, and of nothing else but her expectation that Jane would soon
be married to Mr. Bingley. It was an animating subject, and Mrs. Bennet
seemed incapable of fatigue while enumerating the advantages of the
match. His being such a charming young man, and so rich, and living but
three miles from them, were the first points of self-gratulation; and
then it was such a comfort to think how fond the two sisters were of
Jane, and to be certain that they must desire the connection as much as
she could do. It was, moreover, such a promising thing for her younger
daughters, as Jane’s marrying so greatly must throw them in the way of
other rich men; and lastly, it was so pleasant at her time of life to be
able to consign her single daughters to the care of their sister, that
she might not be obliged to go into company more than she liked. It was
necessary to make this circumstance a matter of pleasure, because on
such occasions it is the etiquette; but no one was less likely than Mrs.
Bennet to find comfort in staying home at any period of her life. She
concluded with many good wishes that Lady Lucas might soon be equally
fortunate, though evidently and triumphantly believing there was no
chance of it.
In vain did Elizabeth endeavour to check the rapidity of her mother’s
words, or persuade her to describe her felicity in a less audible
whisper; for, to her inexpressible vexation, she could perceive that the
chief of it was overheard by Mr. Darcy, who sat opposite to them. Her
mother only scolded her for being nonsensical.

“What is Mr. Darcy to me, pray, that I should be afraid of him? I am
sure we owe him no such particular civility as to be obliged to say
nothing he may not like to hear.”

“For heaven’s sake, madam, speak lower. What advantage can it be for you
to offend Mr. Darcy? You will never recommend yourself to his friend by
so doing!”

Nothing that she could say, however, had any influence. Her mother would
talk of her views in the same intelligible tone. Elizabeth blushed and
blushed again with shame and vexation. She could not help frequently
glancing her eye at Mr. Darcy, though every glance convinced her of what
she dreaded; for though he was not always looking at her mother, she was
convinced that his attention was invariably fixed by her. The expression
of his face changed gradually from indignant contempt to a composed and
steady gravity.
At length, however, Mrs. Bennet had no more to say; and Lady Lucas, who
had been long yawning at the repetition of delights which she saw no
likelihood of sharing, was left to the comforts of cold ham and
chicken. Elizabeth now began to revive.
But not long was the interval of
tranquillity; for, when supper was over, singing was talked of, and
she had the mortification of seeing Mary, after very little entreaty,
preparing to oblige the company. By many significant looks and silent
entreaties, did she endeavour to prevent such a proof of complaisance,
but in vain; Mary would not understand them; such an opportunity of
exhibiting was delightful to her, and she began her song. Elizabeth’s
eyes were fixed on her with most painful sensations, and she watched her
progress through the several stanzas with an impatience which was very
ill rewarded at their close; for Mary, on receiving, amongst the thanks
of the table, the hint of a hope that she might be prevailed on to
favour them again, after the pause of half a minute began another.
Mary’s powers were by no means fitted for such a display; her voice was
weak, and her manner affected. Elizabeth was in agonies. She looked at
Jane, to see how she bore it; but Jane was very composedly talking to
Bingley. She looked at his two sisters, and saw them making signs
of derision at each other, and at Darcy, who continued, however,
imperturbably grave.
She looked at her father to entreat his
interference, lest Mary should be singing all night. He took the hint,
and when Mary had finished her second song, said aloud, “That will do
extremely well, child. You have delighted us long enough. Let the other
young ladies have time to exhibit.”

Mary, though pretending not to hear, was somewhat disconcerted; and
Elizabeth, sorry for her, and sorry for her father’s speech, was afraid
her anxiety had done no good. Others of the party were now applied to.

“If I,” said Mr. Collins, “were so fortunate as to be able to sing, I
should have great pleasure, I am sure, in obliging the company with an
air; for I consider music as a very innocent diversion, and perfectly
compatible with the profession of a clergyman. I do not mean, however,
to assert that we can be justified in devoting too much of our time
to music, for there are certainly other things to be attended to. The
rector of a parish has much to do. In the first place, he must make
such an agreement for tithes as may be beneficial to himself and not
offensive to his patron. He must write his own sermons; and the time
that remains will not be too much for his parish duties, and the care
and improvement of his dwelling, which he cannot be excused from making
as comfortable as possible. And I do not think it of light importance
that he should have attentive and conciliatory manner towards everybody,
especially towards those to whom he owes his preferment. I cannot acquit
him of that duty; nor could I think well of the man who should omit an
occasion of testifying his respect towards anybody connected with the
family.” And with a bow to Mr. Darcy, he concluded his speech, which had
been spoken so loud as to be heard by half the room.
Many stared—many
smiled; but no one looked more amused than Mr. Bennet himself, while his
wife seriously commended Mr. Collins for having spoken so sensibly,
and observed in a half-whisper to Lady Lucas, that he was a remarkably
clever, good kind of young man.

To Elizabeth it appeared that, had her family made an agreement to
expose themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would
have been impossible for them to play their parts with more spirit or
finer success; and happy did she think it for Bingley and her sister
that some of the exhibition had escaped his notice, and that his
feelings were not of a sort to be much distressed by the folly which he
must have witnessed. That his two sisters and Mr. Darcy, however, should
have such an opportunity of ridiculing her relations, was bad enough,
and she could not determine whether the silent contempt of the
gentleman, or the insolent smiles of the ladies, were more intolerable.

The rest of the evening brought her little amusement. She was teased by
Mr. Collins, who continued most perseveringly by her side, and though
he could not prevail on her to dance with him again, put it out of her
power to dance with others. In vain did she entreat him to stand up with
somebody else, and offer to introduce him to any young lady in the room.
He assured her, that as to dancing, he was perfectly indifferent to it;
that his chief object was by delicate attentions to recommend himself to
her and that he should therefore make a point of remaining close to her
the whole evening. There was no arguing upon such a project. She owed
her greatest relief to her friend Miss Lucas, who often joined them, and
good-naturedly engaged Mr. Collins’s conversation to herself.
She was at least free from the offense of Mr. Darcy’s further notice;
though often standing within a very short distance of her, quite
disengaged, he never came near enough to speak. She felt it to be the
probable consequence of her allusions to Mr. Wickham, and rejoiced in
The Longbourn party were the last of all the company to depart, and, by
a manoeuvre of Mrs. Bennet, had to wait for their carriage a quarter of
an hour after everybody else was gone, which gave them time to see how
heartily they were wished away by some of the family. Mrs. Hurst and her
sister scarcely opened their mouths, except to complain of fatigue, and
were evidently impatient to have the house to themselves. They repulsed
every attempt of Mrs. Bennet at conversation, and by so doing threw a
languor over the whole party, which was very little relieved by the
long speeches of Mr. Collins, who was complimenting Mr. Bingley and his
sisters on the elegance of their entertainment, and the hospitality and
politeness which had marked their behaviour to their guests. Darcy said
nothing at all. Mr. Bennet, in equal silence, was enjoying the scene.
Mr. Bingley and Jane were standing together, a little detached from the
rest, and talked only to each other. Elizabeth preserved as steady a
silence as either Mrs. Hurst or Miss Bingley; and even Lydia was too
much fatigued to utter more than the occasional exclamation of “Lord,
how tired I am!” accompanied by a violent yawn.
When at length they arose to take leave, Mrs. Bennet was most pressingly
civil in her hope of seeing the whole family soon at Longbourn, and
addressed herself especially to Mr. Bingley, to assure him how happy he
would make them by eating a family dinner with them at any time, without
the ceremony of a formal invitation. Bingley was all grateful pleasure,
and he readily engaged for taking the earliest opportunity of waiting on
her, after his return from London, whither he was obliged to go the next
day for a short time.
Mrs. Bennet was perfectly satisfied, and quitted the house under the
delightful persuasion that, allowing for the necessary preparations of
settlements, new carriages, and wedding clothes, she should undoubtedly
see her daughter settled at Netherfield in the course of three or four
months. Of having another daughter married to Mr. Collins, she thought
with equal certainty, and with considerable, though not equal, pleasure.
Elizabeth was the least dear to her of all her children; and though the
man and the match were quite good enough for her, the worth of each
was eclipsed by Mr. Bingley and Netherfield.

Sims, BattleBots, Cellular Automata God and Go

[Readings] (02.06.09, 1:04 pm)

These are notes from an interview that Celia Pearce did with Will Wright in 2001. The notes are my impressions from the interview and how the design principles and ideas can be carried over to my work in the adaptation of fiction through simulation. The interview has a great deal to do with the principles of mental models and how those relate to play and the way that players can both consume and produce content.

Wright’s design philosophy: Wright’s original ideas were the most affected by his practice of building models as a kid. Making things is about creating models, which are at first static, then dynamic models, then about giving others tools to build their own things. This is an approach that is about creation, and is continually outward moving, from creating objects, to creating tools to make objects, and then creating tools for others to be able to create tools to make objects. At a distance, this philosophy resonates strongly with the mental model theory that is later explicitly adopted.

The reason for creating tools is to enable players to solve a problem from within the space of a game. This supposes that players have goals and problems concerning what to do within the game, though. If this is the case, then building empathy is about the size of the solution space – the player will have more empathy with the game if they are able to do something personal within the game.

Wright’s influences were forms of simulations, which set up worlds with rules, but were open to play with. The engagement and enjoyment in these comes from exploring their boundaries. When such experimentation is possible, it enables the practice of experiments and the scientific method. This sort of boundary play is common to simulation genres, and is often used in attempting to exploit and disrupt the game, and is thus generally oppositional to immersion.

The origin of the experimentation with rules goes back to war games, which have elaborate rule systems, and the enjoyment is partially the negotiation, application, analysis, and mastery of the rules. These are described as laid back, in opposition to intense twitch arcade games (which conversely produce an experience more like flow/immersion). The pleasure is thus the kind of putting together and figuring out sort, rather than the kind of being in a world. The two seem to be at odds, but I think they are not necessarily contradictory.

An interesting detail is that the model of the system in war games is more than can be contained or simulated in one’s head, so it the game must be played in order for the full rules to become apparent. This also yields a mechanic of experimentation, which becomes prevalent in maxis games. In these, the model really exists in the game programming, or in the designers’ minds. The actual computer running the game is an intermediary layer between the rules and the player. The core element of this is thus that the play is a process of learning the designers’ model.

Much has to do with use of metaphors. Players of SimCity initially think of it as a train set that comes to life, or think of The Sims as a dollhouse that comes to life. Gradually, through play, the players come to adopt new metaphors. The interaction with SimCity metaphorically resembles gardening more than a train set. With The Sims, the metaphor depends on play style.

Regarding how to advance and make improvements for sequels and next versions, it is necessary to analyze how players use the different parts of the game, and add material to the exchange (in The Sims). Wright explains how using data mining and observing this information is exploring the landscape of how people play the game. At abstract, this is building a model of the model (Pearce’s terms). Wright compares the process to cultural anthropology. This idea is relevant in comparison to building a game off of something, like Austen, who is established well in fan culture.

Wright is interested in an extended and automated system around this data mining process, which analyzes player behavior, preferences, and the things they create, and then responds to those, and can share those with other players. The ideal format of this is automated and invisible.

Regarding abstraction, Wright describes how elements of gameplay are abstracted. The parts that are not simulated must be moved to the player’s head. These are the elements that I commonly refer to as the representative elements. This is described as a kind of offloading. Games are abstracted in the sense that selections, what the player may select or manipulate, is simplified to some degree. What is missing represents gaps. It is the player’s role to fill in these gaps, to make the resulting system seem consistent. This is analogous to the gap filling in the sense of narratives.

In competitive games like Go, play is about bringing the players’ models together. Each player has sense of regions and territory, but this may be in disagreement with the other player. The conflict is on terms not of what is physically present on the board, but in terms of what the models and plans are in players heads. This is strongly connected to the theory of mental models. It is important to note that in comparison with other perspectives of mental model theory, this is about models and deception, and involves a lot of work with inducing beliefs and illusions. It also ties with the physical board, but involves overlays. Experience and practice are critical.

Simulation can be used as a communication tool, for people to model their community or environment, reflect their world using language of simulation, and share and communicate this model. Disagreement is generally at root a disagreement over a model (could be argued over a metaphor), so communication helps explore these disagreements.

When playing a game like The Sims, the player fluidly shifts between thinking of the character as an extension of the self versus a separate agent. The player may move between identification to alternation, thinking of the character as an avatar or extension of self (using first person to describe the character’s actions, “I am going to make dinner”), or as an autonomous agent (generally described in third person, “he is not doing what I want him to do”). This is a type of jumping in and out, which is very fluid, and is surprising to Wright. Roots of this may be somewhat considered in case of performance in sense of Goffman, or Mead, in the sense that the self can be considered as an object.

An issue at stake in the matter of gameplay is comparing the possibility space of games. Wright’s goal is to enable variability and flexibility in the space, so that player has greatest control. This is contrary to sense of controlled models, where the designer has supreme control over experience, aesthetic value is giving player maximum return on experience. The metaphor of the game as a landscape of space continues.

However, play is also a process of navigating this space, and it may have a convoluted terrain. Gives an example of hill climbing- where the player might want to get to certain places and navigate there. This involves understanding of model and creative discovery, and requires the topography to be consistent, but also relies on the ability for the player to create goals within the space in the first place. The significance of this is not really addressed. The question that I want to ask is, “why does the player have goals within the game”, especially as Maxis games do not have explicit objectives. There are clearly things that are valuable and meaningful to some players, but what are they, and what value and meaning are they getting from them?

Result of engagement is a situation where player is both consumer and producer, (Ken Perlin calls this hybrid a “conducer”), where the player pays for the right to produce content. This content is shared. The model described echoes the emergence and popularity of blogging and YouTube (that emerged after the date of this interview), where people may share their own creations. An important issue I am interested in is why they share, what they share, and what meaning others get from them. The process of this is similar to fan culture, which thrives on building from some cultural base which already means something to a group.

Reading Info:
Author/EditorPearce, Celia
TitleSims, Battle Bots, Cellular Automata, and Go
Tagsspecials, games, simulation, emergence
LookupGoogle Scholar

Channels of Discourse, Reassembled

[Readings] (02.04.09, 11:35 pm)

Robert Allen: Introduction

The subject of this book is television. The book was published originally in 1982, and then a second edition was published in 1992. The need for the book is seen as the massive cultural penetration of television and a lack of critical discourse surrounding it. To study television, it must be defamiliarized, or, as Alfred Schutz has said, made “anthropologically strange.” A problem, similar to with games, is that television is seen as merely entertainment. As such, it is not taken seriously as a medium. It is interesting to examine the approach to television, as it is substantially more legitimate now, and with the popularization of DVD box sets, the production of quality programs is now motivated by a product-oriented approach in addition to the matter of the constantly streaming television signals. I would also argue that the common use of television is beyond mere entertainment, and has a significant role in cultural communication, establishing a cultural object around which people may engage socially, sharing common values.

All of the approaches in this book use semiotics in one form or another. An implicit question is: how are meanings and pleasures produced in our engagement with television? This question is naturally relevant to other things, games among them. Television is pervasive, and as such it is apparently natural. We seem to have an ability to “read” television, even though the way in which we do so is not natural. The practice of television viewing is intertwined with production, and both have developed the language by which it is read over time, and this has become culturally encoded. Television produces a sense of transparency, since it resembles a window, but this transparency is illusory.

The role of authorship is convoluted in television, especially in programs that are not explicitly fictional. Contemporary criticism is interested in how television constructs representations of the world, rather than asking whether it tells the truth. Allen compares contemporary criticism with the traditional: “Whereas traditional criticism emphasizes the autonomy of the artwork, contemporary criticism foregrounds the relationships between texts and the conventions underlying specific textual practices. Traditional criticism is artist centered; contemporary criticism stresses the contexts within which the production of cultural products occurs and the forces that act upon and channel that production. Traditional criticism conceives of meaning as the property of an artwork; contemporary criticism views meaning as the product of the engagement of a text by a reader or groups of readers.” (p. 11)

Ellen Seiter: Semiotics

Television is made from iconic and indexical signs. Indexical signs rely on a material connection between the signifier and the signified. Icons are signs where the signifier structurally resembles the signified, but there may not be any material connection. A set of tracks in the snow is an indexical sign of the animal who walked through it, and a child’s drawing is an iconic sign of that same animal. Neither of these is free from tampering. Pierce’s model of signs does not require the signs to be intentional, and there does not even necessarily need to be a receiver.

There are two means of extracting meaning from signs: Reading denotation and connotation. Denotation is an actual “picture” that conveys the substance of the sign, but the connotation is about the mood or message. The connotation requires a context to understand, while with the denotation that is not necessarily the case. Reading connotations is strongly guided by conventions. Non representative elements may also have no denotations, but the may have connotative meaning, for instance, the sound of a minor chord in a suspenseful scene.

An active question is what is the smallest unit of television. Film studies uses the shot, following from Metz, who argued that there is no small linguistic unit, but the shot is the largest minimum segment. This sort of question is analogous in games. In games where there are so many elements and factors, identifying a unit is very difficult. Because games are interactive and not passively experiential, the languages from narrative, film, television, and theatre, must be mixed with the languages of architecture, performing arts, board or tabletop games, and sports, among others. To describe television, Seiter poses the unit of the flow, which derives from Raymond Williams. A minimum segment should have paradigmatic and syntagmatic dimensions.

Seiter discusses Robert Hodge and David Tripp’s analysis of children’s television, following the format of structuralism. An extensive analysis is put on 1) single images, 2) narrative (voice overs) and 3) personification. This analysis totally ignores the long traditions of personification in children’s stories. The anthropomorphization of characters comes across as a surprise in the analysis, which seems totally out of place. Meaning is also considered as existing in individual shows, not within the series of shows which the children would presumably watch. It also looks at the show in isolation from the cultural context of the children who would be watching it.

Additionally, the analysis shown here does not examine themes, plots, or the actual content of the shows, just the openings. The shows examined have several themes, the prevailing one being a hybridization of nature and culture, of animals and humans. The question that I have is if the other structures, the mechanics (the means by which things actually happen), also support these nature-culture and human-animal dyads. I also want to ask how these fit with the larger tradition of animal characters in children’s books, folktales, stories, etcetera.

Sarah Kozloff: Narrative Theory

This chapter discusses television as a narrative form, specifically borrowing from Chatman, on story and discourse. The observation here (from Robert Allen) is that interest in television is generally on the paradigmatic axis, rather than the syntagmatic one. Instead of the viewer being concerned with what comes next, which is the syntagmatic question, the viewer is interested in “what could happen instead?” This is especially relevant with the character-oriented focus of the situation comedy, where strong characters are put in many diverse situations, and the pleasure of the audience is in how those characters react. This approach is precisely the opposite of the formalist narrative tradition, which is focused on the syntagmatic axis. In the formalist tradition, characters are weak and reduced to the degree to which they satisfy the functional needs of the story. The emphasis on what could happen is also emblematic of fan culture and fan fiction.

Robert C. Allen: Audience Oriented Criticism

The focus in this section is on the readers (watchers) of television, and how they create meaning. Viewers are generally more addressed in television than they are in other narrative forms. With studio audiences, commercials, and several formats (especially the news), the speakers directly address the viewer. In order to accommodate this sort of focus on the viewer, Allen proposes the use of audience oriented criticism, that places the viewer at the center of the study.

Television is analyzed phenomenologically as a performance. It is concretized when watched (as text is brought to life when read). The novel and the written word are occupied with gap filling, but there are fewer gaps in television. The gap filling is occupied by the way in which the reader constructs the world of the text, supplying missing details and constructing causal relationships where the gaps exist.

However, in the case of television, the gaps do exist, but their location and function has been changed. Gaps exist between the serial occurrences of the shows. Between episodes, as was the case in serial novels (for instance, Dickens), the readers and viewers are left to contemplate what has happened, what is going to happen, and share and reflect in a community about their beliefs and opinions. Dorothy Hobson found that the value of television is not in the watching experience itself, but in the social life apart from the television. This is now commonly understood as the watercooler discussions, where people gather around the watercooler at their workplace to talk about what happened on television. This has been found as useful (I don’t know the sources, but I heard Henry Jenkins talk about it) as a means for discussing ethical beliefs and values through projection of those beliefs onto the characters.

There are watercooler games, or, at least, there are games that intend to capture the dimension of social discussion, but these are primarily news games. These miss the periodic and mystery elements found in the gaps used by serial novels and television. To get the watercooler phenomenon, games must have consecutive gaps.

Reading Info:
Author/EditorAllen, Robert
TitleChannels of Discourse, Reassembled: Television and Contemporary Criticism
Tagsmedia traditions, media theory, specials
LookupGoogle Scholar, Google Books, Amazon

Mark Wolf and Bernard Perron: The Video Game Theory Reader

[Readings] (02.04.09, 8:30 pm)

Originally published in 2003, the Video Game Theory Reader chiefly aims to examine games as a medium. The chapters each contain the work of scholars examining games in the light of criticism, looking at what games have the potential to do, and how they can be understood as artistic works. The book opens with Warren Robinett describing his role in the creation of Atari’s game Adventure. To set the tone for the rest of the reader, Robinett compares the practice of creating games to other artistic practices, and goes on to describe the difficulty with which he managed to write his name in the game. Though it is not a major feature of his introduction, the idea of authorship is central to the understanding of games as artifacts. In the Atari days, games were consumer products, and the actual creators of the games were not given credit as a matter of policy. Their names were not in the credits, on the box, in the manual, anywhere. One of Robinett’s proud achievements was the sneaking of his signature into a secret room in the game.

There have been many turning points in the development of games, but this marks one of the early ones, where the game is considered an authored work. This is a long way off from being an artistic work, but it is the first of many steps to that direction. I do not want to stress the role of authorship as the end-all of artistry. The idea of the single hand of the artist shaping a work is markedly false, especially as pertains to film, television, and games, which are the result of so much creation and collaborative energy. However, in considering authorship, whether it is in a decision regarding a whole work or a small piece of it, the hand of any author implies intention, which is the first step in artistic expression of any kind.

Walter Holland, Henry Jenkins, and Kurt Squire: Theory by Design

The opening questions in this chapter are: What is theory for video games? What should it do? Who conducts theory? Theory and practice feed into one another and form a braid whereby each is improved by the other’s influence. The authors explain that theory is inescapable regarding any given practice, that no matter what activity is practiced, theory can be built around it. An argument to this effect necessarily demands some questions of what theory is and what it does. The authors borrow from Thomas McLaughlin and explain that theory is a sense of the premises and ideals that go into any given practice.

To examine the ideals and premises of games, the authors apply their discussion to the “Games-to-Teach Project” at MIT. This is pedagogically oriented and is intended to occur at an intersection of games, education, as well as the subjects being taught, namely math, science, and engineering. The role of games in education is well supported. Students learn by manipulating things with rules: playing, rather than being explicitly instructed. The process of designing these games is explained as a way of looking at and approaching theory. Design considers conceptual questions but addresses them through concrete solutions. The process of design is thus an approach that exists in between theory and practice.

Mark J. P. Wolf: Abstraction in the Video Game

This chapter explores the role of games between the conflict of abstraction and representation. Abstraction is the opposite of representation. The goal of abstraction is to simplify rather than reproduce. Traditional artistic media (for instance, painting and photography) aim to reproduce in detail their subjects, representing them. Early games have tended to do the opposite, simplifying instead of reproducing. The early games generally described come from the Atari era, where abstraction was a necessity and a constraint of the medium. Later games, bolstered by technology, have worked toward reproduction more and more, gradually moving in the direction of photorealism. This movement is sometimes justified as necessary to build credence of games as artistic artifacts, because they are capable of producing aesthetic images.

Wolf’s essay focuses on the visual elements in games, but abstraction has heavy value within the space of interaction, especially in simulation. Abstraction focues on action and enables interaction, providing clear means for grappling with the material. A player’s engagement with a game is abstracted, necessarily, but the channels and limitations of whatever device is used (joystick, controller, mouse and keyboard, etc), which restrict the range of the player’s interactive choices. This is a severe form of abstraction, as compared to normal human engagement with objects, where we can make use of many senses, all embodied. Abstraction and representation are key words to consider in terms of simulations, because a simulation can be intended to be highly representative and numerically accurate (such as in scientific simulations) where thousands of variables are under consideration, or it can be a severe abstraction where only a few variables are considered.

History has shown that neither photorealism nor a complex simulation make a game better on their own (though realistic games do often, but not invariably, enjoy financial success). Instead, a reasonable takeaway from this is that abstraction and representation are tools to be used to create meaning in the development of games.

Gonzalo Frasca: Simulation versus Narrative: an Introduction to Ludology

In this provocatively titled essay, Gonzalo Frasca aims to compare two ways of looking at games. The first way is the “traditional” approach, which is the usual straw man, is embodied in Brenda Laurel and Janet Murray, who are said to consider games as extensions of drama and narrative. The alternative is the ludological perspective, which is a formalist approach to looking at games, focusing on the structure and elements of games, specifically their rules. Often, this approach comes across as combative, primarily oriented towards dethroning the narrativist occupation of game studies, but Frasca considers this to be missing the point.

Simulation is posed as an alternative to representation (which is embodied by film and narrative). Frasca gives a definition for simulation from Videogames of the Oppressed: “to simulate is to model a (source) system through a different system which maintains (for somebody) some of the behaviors of the original system.” (p. 223) The emphasis of this definition is meant to be on behavior, but I find myself focusing on the parenthetical “for somebody”, which asserts that the simulation means something to someone. Frasca argues that traditional media is representational, which depicts and reproduces something. The example he gives is “A photograph of a plane will tell us information about its shape and color, but it will not fly or crash when manipulated.” (p. 223) I find this to be problematic. This suggests that representations dwell only on surface information, such as color, maybe sound or movement (on film), but nothing more. However, the process of interpretation involves much more in terms of the reader understanding cause and effect, and reading patterns, motivations, and many other configurative elements. An image may be static, but narratives necessarily convey worlds as systems, beyond depictions. Frasca’s examples of the affordances of simulation dwell on manipulation and interactivity, which is a feature obviously missing from traditional media. However, there is nothing in Frasca’s definition that suggests that a simulation must be interactive. Indeed, scientific simulations are usually noninteractive. Simulations may be configured, by giving them initial conditions which affects their outcomes, but this markedly weakens the argument that Frasca is making.

I do not mean to claim that games and narrative are the same things, of course, but I want to emphasize that both games and traditional media are are not distinguished by clear cut differences along the lines of simulation and representation. Games may be highly representative and have very little simulation, or the simulated elements of a game may have little to do with the represented elements. Texts (usually of the modern variety) may be labyrinthine, unconventionally posed and, while static, the meaning derived from them will be different depending on the point at which the reader entered the text. What all of these share is a systemic dimension, where the artifact abides by certain rules, and the audience/reader/player has certain codes for understanding the way in which those rules are used. Systemic does not imply simulation, but neither does the word game.

The challenge posed by simulation to narrative (in the traditional sense), is volatility. In writing, fate and outcome must be fixed. Simulation threatens the authorial role of fate. Introducing elements of simulation into a work increases the freedom of the player or audience, while limiting the range of control of the author. The author still has the final say, but must necessarily give up some control. The example given is Emile Zola’s Germinal, which is about striking workers in Northern France. This work is about the conditions of labor, and is meant to communicate something about social justice, among other things. The narrative rhetoric relies on using the ending to help convey the message of the work. In writing, though, Zola was faced with two options. The workers must either win or lose. In trying to convey the delicate balance at stake, an author could write several different stories which play out differently and contain different endings. Frasca’s alternative is to develop a simulation where the ending is dependent on the player’s actions. This can be contested on the grounds that maybe the ending is not supposed to be different, but this option is still supported by Frasca’s idea. A simulation could allow the player a variety of choices, but the ultimate conclusion despite those choices may be the same. Such a game would still be powerful and meaningful, indicative of social problems and suggesting that the only way to change the outcome would be to change the rules, a powerful and perfectly worthwhile rhetorical message.

Frasca compares Aristotelian drama with Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. Simulation takes away the narrative power of causality. Frasca claims that narrative authors must train their stories so that they will “perform in an almost predictable way”. Whereas simulations follow rules and may operate flexibly outside of the rigid path to which narrative is constrained. I find this argument difficult, because of two reasons: interpretations are unpredictable (though they are outside of the domain of the author, like other forms of interaction), but also because games and some simulations may be totally predictable. This does not challenge explicitly Frasca’s argument, but reveals that authorship of a simulation is a skill and meaning does not come for free.

Finally, Frasca gives four levels for thinking about the ideology of games and simulation. These derive from the way that rules are used and what kind of play is enabled. The types of play are given as Paidia and Ludus (from Callois), where the former represents unstructured play, and the latter represents play with explicit goals. The four levels are useful for considering the way of thinking about the meaning and values of simulation.

  1. Representation. This is given as a kind of concession, because games and simulations must necessarily represent something, referencing something in order for the the simulated world to be meaningful in its context.
  2. Manipulation. This is how the player affects and manipulates the simulation, which may express what the kinds of possibilities there are in the simulation, or the shape of its state space.
  3. Goals. This is particular to games, and not simulations. Goals are a means for the author to explicitly embed an objective for the player, who may manipulate and play so much as he or she chooses, but will not “win” until the goals are met. It is important to remember that the author of a simulation may encode different, contradictory goals, ironic goals, or simply no goals whatsoever.
  4. Meta-rules. This is the means by which the simulation can be extended or modified. This encodes not only what is possible to do within the game, but allows users to modify the rules of the game or simulation itself, such as by publishing source code or APIs. This is bound by rules in the sense that only certain parts may be “opened up”, while others would remain closed.

This last list of elements is extremely helpful for thinking about authorial values within simulations.

Reading Info:
Author/EditorWolf, Mark and Perron, Bernard
TitleGame Theory Reader
Tagssimulation, games, narrative, specials
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Rick Altman: Film/Genre

[Readings] (02.03.09, 3:29 pm)

What’s at stake in the history of literary genre theory?

This book is about film and genre, but early on, Altman focuses on genre as a literary and phenomenon, looking at how it has been understood historically. He starts with the classic treatment of genre. The purpose of genre is to classify literary types. In terms of classical theorists, Altman compares Aristotle and Horace. Aristotle’s Poetics is arguably one of the most influential and most well known studies of literay types. Altman closely examines Aristotle’s introduction of poetry, and finds that the Poetics relies on many “unspoken and apparently incontrovertible assumptions.” The chief of these is that Aristotle aims his study of poetry as a solid and well defined object, without considering it as a culturally variable thing. These assumptions lead naturally to his conclusions and ultimate judgments.

In an interesting comparison, Aristotle judges poetry as imitating life, whereas Horace treats poetry as imitating other poetry. To Horace, poetics are a matter of how works fit into a tradition of models and techniques, and works should be judged based on the adherence to those models, rather than to life.

Altman reviews the historical approaches to genre studies, but comes to no clear conclusion regarding what genre is or what are the basic principles accepted by theorists. The reason for this is that there are no common agreed-upon principles shared by theorists. However, Altman does find that they tend to rely on several common assumptions, and gives a listing of these: (p. 11-12)

  1. It is generally taken for granted that genres actually exist, that they have distinct borders, and that they can be firmly identified. Indeed, these facts have seemed so obvious to theoreticians that they have rarely seemed worthy of discussion, let alone questioning.
  2. Because genres are taken to be ‘out there’, existing independently of observers, genre theorists have generally sought to describe and define what they believe to be already existing genres rather than create their own interpretive categories, however applicable or useful.
  3. Most genre theory has attended either to the process of creating generic texts in imitation of a sanctioned predefined original, or to internal structure attributed to those texts, in part because the internal functioning of genre texts is considered entirely observable and objectively describable.
  4. Genre theorists have typically assumed that texts with similar characteristics systematically generate similar readings, similar meanings, and similar uses.
  5. In the language of theoreticians, proper genre production is regularly allied with decorum, nature, science, and other standards produced and defended by the sponsoring society. Few genre theorists have shown interest in analysing this relationship.
  6. It is regularly assumed that producers, readers, and critics all share the same interests in genre, and that genres serve those interests equally.
  7. Reader expectation and audience reaction have thus received little independent attention. The uses of generic texts have also largely been neglected.
  8. Genre history holds a shifting and uncertain place in relation to genre theory. Most often simply disregarded by its synchronically oriented partner, genre history nevertheless cries out for increased attention by virtue of its ability to scramble generic codes, to blur established genre tableaux and to muddy accepted generic ideas. At times, genre history has been used creatively in the support of specific institutional goals, for example by creating a new canon of works supportive of a revised genre theory.
  9. Most genre theorists prefer to style themselves as somehow radically separate from the objects of their study, thus justifying their use of meliorative terms like ‘objective’, ‘scientific’, or ‘theoretical’, to describe their activity, yet the application of scientific assumptions to generic questions usually obscures as many problems as it solves.
  10. Genre theoreticians and other practitioners are generally loath to recognize (and build into their theories) the institutional character of their own generic practice. Though regularly touting ‘proper’ approaches to genre, theorists rarely analyze the cultural stakes involved in identifying certain approaches as ‘improper’. Yet genres are never entirely neutral categories. They — and their critics and theorists — always participate in and further the work of various institutions.

This list of bullets is wholly cited from Altman. The listing is very useful because it lays out exactly the foundations of the current study of genres, and what Altman considers to be wrong with it. Each of these bullets is representative of a critique that Altman gives later on, and will often provide his own solutions. In the next chapter, Altman explores some of these assumptions as they pertain to genre in film specifically. It is also worth comparing these principles in the study of the genres of games. The lamentably rigid genre system of mainstream games is supported by the institutional power hinted at in Altman’s points.

Where do genres come from?

This chapter discusses the process by which film genres are formed. Altman develops and hypothesiszes another set of bullets, behind how genres are formed and emerge. This is coupled with an exploration of how films have been marketed historically. Early film was diverse, and genres were gradually imposed. Again, this resembles the emergence of game genres. In the early history of both games and film, the types of artifacts that were made were strongly constrained to the affordances of the media. In this discussion, it is useful to think about genres as systems of patterns and models, which interact with both the affordances of the medium, and the content of the work itself.

  1. Films often gain generic identity from similar defects and failures rather than from shared qualities and triumphs. (p. 33)
  2. The early history of film genres is characterized, it would seem, not by purposeful borrowing from a single pre-existing non-film parent genre, but by apparently incidental borrowing from several unrelated genres. (p. 34)
  3. Even when a genre already exists in other media, the film genre of the same name cannot simply be borrowed from non-film sources, it must be recreated. (p. 35)
  4. Before they are fully constituted through the junction of persistent material and consistent use of that material, nascent genres traverse a period when their only unity derives from shared surface characteristics deployed within generic contexts perceived as dominant. (p. 36)
  5. Films are always available for redefinition — and thus genres for realignment — because the very process of staying in the black involves reconfiguring films. (p. 43)
  6. Genres begin as reading positions established by studio personnel acting as critics, and expressed through film-making conceived as an act of applied criticism. (p. 44)
  7. The first step in genre production is the creation of a reading position through critical dissection, and the second is reinforcement of that position through film production, the required third step is broad industry acceptance of the proposed reading position and genre. (p. 46)
  8. The generic terminology we have inherited is primarily retrospective in nature; though it may provide tools corresponding to our needs, it fails to capture the variety of needs evinced by previous producers, exhibitors, spectators and other generic users. (p. 48)

As pertains to adaptation, the most important of these is (3), which suggests that in order for an adaptation to be made in the first place, the genre must be adapted and recreated, or borrowed from similar adaptations. This is doubly important in the space of game adaptations, where the issue of mechanics and content is so variable.

Are genres stable?

Genres are frequently understood in adjective-noun pairs, for example “musical comedy”, or “western romance”. These evolve in cycles and blend and fold back in on themselves. The adjective-noun pairs can also be thought of in terms of content and mechanics. Genre explains what sort of content is present and according to what sorts of rules they operate. These may also be seen as intersections of models, where the resulting artifact is constrained by both sets of expectations.

Where are genres located?

The goal defined by the question of this chapter is to find where genres are located. In the traditional sense of genre studies, they are located detached from both the audience and the work, as external and objective categories. Altman reformulates the matter of finding location as discerning how one genre is different from or resembles its neighbors. This echoes Wittgenstein’s assertion that games are alike in the sense of family resemblances. A genre is a complex situation, rather than a structure. There are ways of looking at genres, all different, from the perspective of the authors, readers, or the text itself.

To clarify the genre location issue, Altman asks: where is the location of America? Is it in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights? Is it in geographic landmass, in the flag, shared values, or in the hearts and minds of Americans? This question is really purely epistemological, but reveals fundamental ambiguities in how something so supposedly straightforward is unclear.

These problems are similar to the problem of finding models, especially as pertains to fictional works. Ultimately, models and genres are interpreted, but the process of interpreting is an authoratative act. Whoever interprets and then conveys their own take on a model is exerting authority over the artifact in question.

Genres often emerge because of the constraints imposed by institutions (such as the half-hour television block), which usually come from economic or technical concerns. Gradually, as these constraints are turned from limitations into affordances, they become institutionalized themselves.

A final example compares genre classifications to ways of looking. Borrowing from Wittgenstein, who exhorts the reader to, in discussing similarities, look rather than think, Altman does an experiment looking at, not thinking about, nuts. He first looks in the supermarket, where nuts are grouped together along with other things, such as mixes, chocolate morsels, and oils. The products are near each other based on surface qualities. At home, nearness relates to function, not form. This comparison is useful in consideration of genres, classifications, as well as literature and games.

What communication model is appropriate for genres?

The traditional communications model relies on a sender, receiver, and some sort of medium that exists in between them. In the case of literature or film, the thing in the middle is both the medium and the text itself. Altman explains that in mass culture, such as film, the films are dispersed to many recipients, but those recipients in turn interact with each other, and finally change their impression of the actual artifact and the medium themselves. The codes of interpretation and understanding are written by the audience. Thus, borrowing from Eric Rothenbuhlerr, Altman argues that film is twice written: “To count as generic communication, however, something must be read as if it were twice written, first by the original authors and then again by the constellated community that ‘rewrites’ the genre.” (p. 172)

Borrowing from Jameson, I might make a few observations: This approach also can be used to consider a text as existing in time, not just having meaning to one audience, but to many. Texts have lives of their own, and are invigorated by translations, adaptations, and reinterpretations. These change the original, going so far as to tear it up and reincorporate it in new products where the form of the original has little resemblance with the final product. While living, a text is also a shell of the ideas of the original author. The original model gone, and now it relies on its readership to have meaning made from it. In this context, genre is like a surface which attempts to meld between the artifact and the audience, but, the genre is pliable and, like the audience, will change over time.

Reading Info:
Author/EditorAltman, Rick
Tagsmedia traditions, film, specials
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Project: A Short Guide to Writing About Games

[General,Projects] (02.02.09, 10:19 pm)

I met with one of LCC’s faculty the other day, the extremely wise and knowledgeable Karen Head, who is an expert on all things Jane Austen. She was kind enough to lend me a book, Timothy Corrigan’s A Short Guide to Writing About Film, which is useful in analyzing film adaptation and thinking about the language of film reviewing and criticism. I spent some time reading through it, and suddenly realized, we need one of these for GAMES. Think about it: a guide to thinking about and writing about games critically, aimed at a general audience. To my knowledge there are no sources about this addressed to general audiences.

There are game reviews, which discuss the space of playing games, but there are few general reviews that discuss games that might lead toward their conception as aesthetic artifacts. I know there are discussions and essays to this effect, but, as everyone in game studies is quick to tell you, we are in want of a language for talking about these things. We have works which aim to discuss design with a critical vocabulary, and these efforts are to be commended, but few to think about them from the perspective of the consumers. Game reviews have yet to reach the maturity of film reviews, but I think that this could still be achieved. What is missing is a guide to writing about games that focuses on them as works, as artifacts which convey messages and meaning. Such an approach would examine mechanics and gameplay as compositional elements.

I want to write this, but it will take a bit of time.

Jay Bolter: Writing Space

[Readings] (02.01.09, 2:36 pm)

An early issue is the history of print. Bolter gives the example of Victor Hugo’s story Notre-Dame de Paris, where a priest laments that the printed book will destroy the cathedral. This has not exactly been the case, cathederals arguably remain both standing and well appreciated and attended. Nonetheless, the printed word has changed the relationship between people and text, and thus their textual engagement with the cathederal. How people look toward the cathederal, and indeed anything else, was fundamentally altered after the development of the printing press. Bolter suggests that we are living in the “late age of print”, in the sense that what print is has been changed. With digital media and the internet, the nature of print and its meaning are changing. The printed form has lost primacy as a medium, and the reader and author distance has been contracted.

Cultural evolution has gradually moved text in a more participatory dimension. Medieval texts were paragons of authority and their virtues were aesthetics and precision. Printing gave texts fixity and permanence. In the modern era, they created a form of mass distribution so that texts could be bought by anyone and distributed everywhere. The digital treats texts as fluid and multiple. The roles of readership and authorship have become blended and fuzzy. These changes affect the voice of the text to its readers.

Writing Space looks at writing using a spatial metaphor. “Each writing space is a material and visual field, whose properties are determined by a writing technology and the uses to which that technology is put by a culture of readers and writers. A writing space is generated by the interaction of material properties and cultural choices and practices.” (p. 12) Writing is thus a fusion of both texts and culture. Space is given as the environment in which the text and its conjugates reside. This is a very different space than the fictional world. It nonetheless has similar qualities, and one could argue that both are environments for performance.

Bolter’s aim in this text is to explore how digital texts, and hypertext especially, are remediations of print. These remediations have in turn affected how print is used and approached, from levels both technical and compositional.

Early writing, while not mechanical, was still technology– techne, in that considerable skill was needed to create a parchment and make it a written surface which could be read. Even oral poetry requires techne, in the sense of speech, memory, and composition. In the world of the digital, in terms of hypertext (and simulation as well), the role of techne once again comes to prevalence. Both art and skill are required to create writing. Writing requires mastery over whole new technologies in order to make use of these digital forms.

Since the early history of writing, there has been  a conflict between oral and written communication. Reading is linear, following a path according to textual codes. Oral dialogues are more participatory. Both are bound by codes and expectations. Plato’s dialogues were nostalgiacally backwards-looking toward oral culture. His writing occured in a time where writing was gradually subsuming the Greek oral culture. Dialogic interaction has a resurgence in the form of hypertext and web pages.

In interactive fiction, the spatial metaphor becomes more prevalent. Bolter examines this in the context of Michael Joyce’s Afternoon, where the spatial metaphor is especially apt. “Reading afternoon several times is like exploring a vast house or castle. Although the reader may proceed often down the same corridors and through familiar rooms, she may also come upon a new hallway not previously explored or find a previously locked door suddenly giving way to the touch.” (p. 126) The analogy to exploration refers back to the spaces of textual dungeons and games. The interesting thing about these is that these spaces are textual, they are spaces of writing, not worlds. Sterne, Joyce, and Borges are all predecessors to hypertext, and are arguably hypertext authors themselves. Their texts present fragmented and exploratory spaces, not meant to be understood as ordinary linear narratives.

The conflict between text as a space versus a world is a subtle and important difference. The spatial metaphor applies to the lexia of the text, where what is being explored is the events, scenes, and descriptions. The act of reading a space is a matter of assembling a coherent picture out of these figments. This exploration operates on the discourse layer of the text. The world metaphor applies to the content of the world, the story instead of the discourse (in the Chatman sense). A reader exploring a world is interested not just in what happens in the context of the narrative, but what might happen beyond and outside of the narrative. The world operates on the diegetic level, and exploring it can seek out the space of what could happen, rather than what does happen.

Reading Info:
Author/EditorBolter, J. David
TitleWriting Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing
Tagsmedia traditions, narrative, cybertext, specials
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