Janet Murray

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Janet Murray is a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, where she is the director of graduate studies in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture. Before coming to Georgia Tech in 1999 she was a Senior Research Scientist in the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives at MIT, where she taught humanities and led advanced interactive design projects since 1971. She is well known as an early developer of humanities computing applications, an seminal theorist of digital media, and an advocate of new educational programs in digital media.

Murray's major book is Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, which asks whether the computer can provide the basis for an expressive narrative form, just as print technology supported the development of the novel and film technology supported the development of movies. She provides an optimistic answer. Murray’s analysis rests on an understanding of the computer as a medium of representation with a distinct set of properties. She argues that the computer is procedural, participatory, encyclopedic, and spatial, and that it affords three characteristic (but not unique) pleasures: immersion, agency, and transformation. She defines interactivity as the combination of the procedural and the participatory property which together afford the pleasure of agency. She connects research work on artificial intelligence with cultural forms such as games, movies, literature, and television. Murray’s main point is that the new computer formats expand the possibilities of expression available for storytelling.

Murray’s work has been referenced by game designers, interactive television producers, filmmakers, and journalists. It has been criticized from opposing directions, by writer Sven Birkerts as a threat to print culture (in HotWired Magazine and in a televised debate) and by ludologists as an inappropriately literary approach to games (see Game Studies vol 1 number 1). For other views of videogames, see Lev Manovich who argues in The Language of New Media that the notion that video games are interactive (and thus that the player has agency in them) is a myth, comparing it to Althusser's concept of interpellation.

See also

Video game theory, Digital Media

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