Digital Incunabula ➶

Matt Margini, writing about Janet H. Murray’s book Hamlet on the Holodeck, twenty years later (2017):

In other words, Murray became devoted to creating “incunabula,” a term meaning “swaddling clothes” that is used by book historians to describe awkward experiments produced just after the invention of the printing press. Digital incunabula are the main subject of “Hamlet on the Holodeck.” When Murray analyzes a video game, or a piece of hypertext fiction, or a primitive A.I. character, she seldom praises it as a complete or refined narrative experience. What she celebrates is potential. She compares Myst, for instance, a seminal first-person adventure game from 1993, to the juvenilia of the Brontë sisters, who told stories to one another about tense dungeon-crawls in a “regressive, violent, overheated emotional universe.” Fans of Myst and fans of the Brontë sisters seem equally likely to resent this comparison. But Murray’s point is that the juvenilia became “Jane Eyre,” and that rough-hewn digital stories are best understood as the evolutionary predecessors of forms that are yet to come.

No one knows where we are headed, but I hope there is a Holodeck and a good restaurant there.

✶ Sunday, 3 May 2020

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