Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace

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Murray, Janet. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York City: Free Press-Simon & Schuster, 1997. Hamlet on the Holodeck, Updated Edition The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017.[1] We have physically examined the first edition.

First edition includes Notes, a substantial Bibliography, and detailed Index.

From the MIT on-line description of their updated edition, as of May 2023 at link above:

Janet Murray's Hamlet on the Holodeck was instantly influential and controversial when it was first published in 1997. Ahead of its time, it accurately predicted the rise of new genres of storytelling from the convergence of traditional media forms and computing. Taking the long view of artistic innovation over decades and even centuries, it remains forward-looking in its description of the development of new artistic traditions of practice, the growth of participatory audiences, and the realization of still-emerging technologies as consumer products. This updated edition [...] offers a new introduction by Murray and chapter-by-chapter commentary relating Murray's predictions and enduring design insights to the most significant storytelling innovations of the past twenty years, from long-form television to artificial intelligence [AI] to virtual reality [VR].

Murray identifies the powerful new set of expressive affordances that computing offers for the ancient human activity of storytelling and considers what would be necessary for interactive narrative to become a mature and compelling art form. Her argument met with some resistance from print loyalists and postmodern hypertext enthusiasts, and it provoked a foundational debate in the emerging field of game studies on the relationship between narrative and videogames. But since Hamlet on the Holodeck's publication, a practice that was largely speculative has been validated by academia, artistic practice, and the marketplace. In this substantially updated edition, Murray provides fresh examples of expressive digital storytelling and identifies new directions for narrative innovation.

For a more disinterested summary and brief discussion of the book's reception, see the Wikipedia entry, as of May 2023, here.[2] Wikipedia notes that Murray "examines the use of the holodeck as it first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the holonovel Janeway Lambda One," seeing in the holodeck a foreshadowing of "the future of storytelling and [...] 'an optimistic technology for exploring inner life.'" The Wikipedia entry notes also Murray's interest in "works that have multiple stories within a single story described as a multiform story" and Murray's identification of "four essential properties of digital media: procedural, participatory, spatial, and encyclopedic."

From the dustjacket of the first edition (1997): Just as the introduction into the West of the moveable-type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg[3]

made possible the stories that ushered in the Modern Era, so is the computer having a profound effect on the stories of the late 20th century. Today we are confronting the limits of books themselves — anticipating the end of storytelling as we know it — even as we witness the advent of a brave new world of cyberdramas. Computer technology of the late twentieth century is astonishing, thrilling, and strange, and no one is better qualified than Janet Murray to offer a breathtaking tour of how it is reshaping the stories we live by.

Can we imagine a world in which Homer's lyre and Gutenberg's press have given way to virtual reality environments like the Star Trek holodeck? Murray sees the harbingers of such a world in the fiction of Borges and Calvino, movies like Groundhog Day[4], and the videogames and websites of the 1990s. [...] What will it be like to step into our own stories for the first time, to change our vantage point at will, to construct our own worlds or change the outcome of a compelling adventure [...]? Taking up where Marshall McLuhan left off, Murray offers profound and provocative answers to these and other questions.

[...] She analyzes he state of "immersion" of participating in a text to such an extent that you literally get lost in a story and obliterate the outside world from your awareness. She dissects the titillating effect of cybernarratives in which stories never climax and never end because everything is morphable, and there are always infinite possibilities for the next scene.

— Plus all the possibilities of "automated characters" and "role-playing interactors."

Cf. the sagas at the start of A. C. Clarke's The City and the Stars.

Note references in the first edition to cyberpunk and cybernetics and such works of interest to users of the Wiki — with "works" in a broad sense — as Babylon 5, BACK TO THE FUTURE, Brave New World, The Diamond Age, ELIZA, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, Fahrenheit 451, THE LAWNMOWER MAN, The Lathe of Heaven, Neuromancer, ROBOCOP (1987), and the various Star Trek series.

(Maly, 27/06/02), RDE, finishing 29May23