Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Ceremony of Innocence: A Case Study of the Emergent Poetics of Interactive Narrative
Jim Bizzocchi
2nd Author
3rd Author
S.M. (Master of Science)
Number of Pages
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Thesis Supervisor
Dr. Peter S. Donaldson
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Dr. Henry Jenkins (MIT); Dr. Tom Carey (University of Waterloo)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Comparative Media Studies
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
interactive narrative; aesthetics; expressionism; close reading; poetics of new media; epistolary novel; Bantock; Ceremony of Innocence; CD-ROM; Griffin and Sabine; cursor; embedded narrative;
Abstract: 200-500 words
Interactive narrative is an emergent form that is in the process of refining its own voice. This thesis examines one work in order to reveal and specify useful poetics for interactive storytelling. It involves the close reading and analysis of the interactive CD-ROM Ceremony of Innocence. Ceremony of Innocence is based on the Griffin and Sabine trilogy, a unique combination of the epistolary novel and the pop-up book. The books consist of a collection of highly visual cards and letters exchanged between two lovers who happen to be graphic artists. The interactive work incorporates the characters, the plot, and all the cards, letters, text and graphics from the original print trilogy. In the CD-ROM, the picture side of the postcards and envelopes become interactive puzzles. When a puzzle is solved, the interactive work forwards to the next card or letter, and triggers a voice-over reading of the new text. The thesis is based on several close readings of different segments of Ceremony of Innocence. Some of the close readings involve an exhaustive look at a single puzzle-card, others examine the flow across several adjacent puzzle-cards, and still others look for reflections of broad themes that run through the entire work. Each methodology isolates the evidence of narrative concerns (plot, character, emotion, theme) as instantiated in the interactive design of the work. The thesis questions whether there is a necessary inconsistency between the narrative and interactive domains, and whether and how Ceremony of Innocence bridges any such inconsistency. The thesis forwards two conclusions. First, a broad narrative texture is distributed widely throughout all aspects of the multi-media experience: graphics, sound, cinematics, font, and performance. The second discovery is that the interactive design itself reflects the narrative themes that are central to the work. Ceremony of Innocence incorporates the use of interactive micronarrative at a fine degree of granularity, building micro-arcs that embed narrative processes at the level of the individual mouse-click. The work also subverts the familiar role of the cursor and the standard graphical user interface, and in the process causes the user to directly experience fundamental aspects of character and story. One of the reasons Ceremony of Innocence succeeds as a narrative is that it incorporates story themes at every level of the work, including the interactive design itself. This is a lesson for all designers of interactive narrative.