Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace is deep. No brief book review could do it justice, and for this reason alone I would recommend it as mandatory reading for anyone interested in the future of narrative writing now that the computer and cyberspace exist. As author Janet Murray states, “the computer is . . . . the most powerful representational medium yet invented . . .” (284).
Murray gives a thought-provoking analysis of the history, present and future of cyberdrama. By her own admission, the present and future are difficult to describe or predict given the rapid pace of change in the computer/cyber world. It is true enough that much of her book, penned in 1996 and updated in 2000, seems already quite out of date. The history she provides, however, will always make this an important reference for new media writers, historians and theorists.
For me, what is missing in Murray’s analysis is a look at the future of nonfiction cyber (new media, multimedia, interactive media, electronic literature) writing. Hamlet on the Holodeck itself, being a stationary, word-only, book-based piece of writing, misses the opportunity to stay current, to evolve, that a cyberbook would have. Murray also avoids analysis of the world of writing and reading that the computer opens to the nonfiction world, remaining focused only on the world of fiction, narrative storytelling.
One point of contention for me in Murray’s theories is her focus on the subject of immersion. For Murray, coming from a gaming background at MIT where she teaches and researches, immersive experiences appear to be the positive and mandatory goal of cyber narrative. She is not alone in this thinking. Most of the books written on the subject of new media narrative that I encounter today focus on writing for gaming. As I personally am an advocate of postmodern forms of writing that engage a reader/participant in the act of reading/viewing by reminding them of their present reality, of the constructions of the author, and through avoidance of totally immersive experiences, it was often difficult for me to “buy into” many of Murray’s theories or projected goals of cyber narrative. Continue reading New Media Literature as demonstrated by Janet Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck