Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Reading Again for the First Time: Rereading for Closure in Interactive Stories
Alex Mitchell
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
National University of Singapore
Thesis Supervisor
Kevin McGee
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
interactive storytelling, rereading, hypertext fiction, reader response, empirical studies
Abstract: 200-500 words
There are very particular reasons why people want to go back to reexperience stories, reasons which are not necessarily applicable to stories that change as the result of reader choice. This raises the question: what is known about re-reading – especially rereading in the context of interactive stories? Although there have been some discussions of rereading in non-interactive stories, and some implementations of interactive stories which are intended to be reexperienced, there has been very little work which directly addresses the nature of rereading in the context of interactive stories. Work on rereading in interactive stories tends to argue that people reread either to experience variation or to look for closure. Implementation efforts generally follow the former perspective. Previous work has not, however, investigated how rereading actually changes in the context of interactive stories. To address this issue, implementations of prototype hypertext stories were created, empirical studies were carried out on these stories, and critical analyses of existing theories and creative works were conducted. Based on an analysis of existing stories, a classification of motivations for rereading and a categorization of techniques for encouraging and rewarding rereading in interactive stories were developed. This was followed by two empirical studies of rereading of procedural hypertext fiction. The first study showed that, when rereading, readers are looking for some form of closure. The second study showed that readers have difficulty deciding whether or not what they are doing as they go back over an interactive story can be called “rereading”. From the insights gained in these studies, a new model of rereading in interactive stories is proposed. The model focuses on what the reader is doing when rereading. In this model, readers who are rereading to find closure are rereading to complete a “first” reading. It is only when readers achieve this closure that they can potentially shift to either rereading to reexperience the story, or rereading reflectively or analytically. This involves a change from doing the same thing each time the story is read, to doing something different. This shift highlights the paradoxical nature of rereading. Rereading, rather than involving reading something again, actually involves reading anew. This paradox is foregrounded in interactive stories, where what is being “reread” may literally be different on each rereading. This thesis contributes to the literature on interactive storytelling by a) expanding the research field to include study of the phenomenon of rereading, b) providing a model by which to both analyze and design interactive stories which are intended to be reread, and c) suggesting new ways to approach interactive stories in general. In addition, this thesis contributes to the literature on rereading by a) extending the concept of rereading to interactive stories, and b) suggesting new ways of thinking about rereading in all forms of stories, whether static or interactive. Finally, the thesis contributes to methodology, by introducing an approach to studying interactive stories using a modified Piagetian “clinical interview” combined with the creation of stories specifically designed to investigate reader behaviour.