Inanimate Alice Animates

Both Inanimate Alice and Flight Plans use a collection of short  narratives infused with nonaxial hypertext technology to create a story (a method referred to as “network fiction”).  In Inanimate Alice, it is evident that each episode relates to a specific location and time period within her life- as the episodes proceed, they become longer, more intricate, and more interactive as Alice herself matures and begins to wholly comprehend her environment.  In the first, the images are blurred, pixelated, and the music is often jarring, signifying her own naivete and mental disarray of youth.  As she (and the story) matures, however,  the images presented are  clearer, the music more melodious, and the details of her life and traveling tendencies (as well as conflicts) become evident.

One thing I found noteworthy was the manipulation of the reader’s sense of interactivity and, specifically, animacy.  The piece is called Inanimate Alice for a reason: Alice is a budding game designer, so she creates and instructs characters of her own.  However, she is “inanimate,” for we, the participant, control her actions (to a greater degree as the episodes progress) and act as interpreters for the events she witnesses.  As well, her favorite creation, Brad, often times consoles her during dire situations and guides her to a solution- most significantly, Brad literally points her (i.e. us)  in the correct direction.  So, the role of game designer and created character is evidently reversed and he becomes the controller of Alice.  The amplifying interactivity may serve as a statement on the impressionable nature of growing up; Alice becomes more and more influenced by her peers when they dare her to climb to the top of a large building, as well as more influenced by the viewer and Brad, who take an active role in her safe return.  The episodic structure promotes this nicely, allowing for assumed personal growth between each segment and “time” to develop her own gaming creations.

Somewhat conversely, Flight Plans strings together a series of episodes involving one man’s desperate attempt to escape his current conditions.  On the way, he encounters a fairly well-to-do mother in England…by falling on her car.  While the ending is purposefully and frustratingly ambiguous (Did he somehow survive the fall from thousands of feet? Did he die and this woman is merely hallucinating his presence?  Did they both die?), the serial structure serves a different purpose: not as the intellectual and social development of one girl, but rather stunted snapshots of two seemingly unrelated lives.  The extremely short lengths of the episodes furthers the chaos of the circumstances – Yacub suddenly gets a job, Yacub suddenly sneaks on a plan, Yacub suddenly falls onto a car in a supermarket parking lot, contrasted to Harriet’s uninterrupted stream of monotony. Each snippet seems to raise more questions than it answers, so I do hope they continue the story in some way!

-Victoria Lang


~ by victoriafrolics on February 8, 2011.

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