Designing the Story

Yesterday I spent an interesting two hours at a seminar given by Daniel Fällman on the Design Research Group at the Umeå Institute of Design. It may seem somewhat unusual that myself, someone researching electronic literature is interested in design but for me it is becoming more and more obvious as I progress.
Fällman’s seminar was an outline of the activities of the Umeå Institute of Design and the Design Research Group. The core of which is 11 people involved in design production, teaching and research. Several of the group’s projects were discussed in the seminar and HCI was central to many of them. The model of design implementation for the group differs somewhat from the traditional user centred approach which has been so popular. Instead the model does not only proceed from a problem or a need but it could be a theory, an observation or an aesthetic concern. Fällman drew a diagram of a triangle with The Possible at the apex and The Real and The True at the two base points. Within the triangle was Explorative Design (The Possible), Design Practice (reflecting ‘The Real’) and Design Studies (reflecting ‘The True’). Between each of these points there are cycles of movement and overlap depending on relevant influences and concerns.
By studying design in relation to electronic literature I try to find ways of connecting the physical properties of the works I study with the communicative and narrative outcomes they provoke. The design of a digital artefact determines how the communication it embodies will be realised. Behind this design is a complex series of relationships between what could be termed The Possible, The Real and The True (these are difficult to define in themselves of course but they can be read as criteria for choices made in the authoring and consuming processes). When I move through a work of electronic fiction I am also acknowledging or rejecting criteria of possibility, reality and truth. One clear indicator of such is genre, such as how designing to genre in a computer game delivers to the player a base reality from which any story generated in play can be grounded. As well genre gives a way of positioning the work in the judgement of the public, in a way predicting their taste.