Text as an Interaction Protocol


Text as an Interaction Protocol

Team member names

Mikael Brygger & Pekko Koskinen

Short summary of your improvement idea

Text as an Interaction Protocol explores the possibilities of cultural design as protocol design. The practices we conduct around text (such as the varied conventions of reading and writing), define how a text contributes to culture. These practices are not set in stone of reality – indeed, as we can observe from platforms within digital networks, this space of practices is highly designable: Each platform unavoidably creates it’s own conventions around their textual content, which lead to significant cultural impacts).

Our improvement idea is about developing text as a collective medium, emphasizing the design of its collective forms, rather than units of individual contributions (individual messages as traditional “works” of text).

We derive much of our protocol improvement language from games, which are tailored to designing ecosystemic interactions (any game is an ecosystem of interactions, at heart). Games also offer us methods for rapid implementation, variation and testing, which we will utilize to traverse the space of possibilities, to look for textual interactions worthy of further implementation.

What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance?

In short, our target is: text as an interaction protocol. This area is admittedly vast, but retaining larger reflection is vital, as we want to explore protocol design as a tool for cultural development. Nevertheless, a key part of our strategy is to frame our focus to a sensibly-scaled starting point.

For this framing, we’ll employ X/Twitter as our first case of analysis. As a simplified archetypical format of networking text, intertwining reading and writing as social interactions, X/Twitter forms a point initiation for our protocol analysis and extraction. To augment our starting palette, we will also consider the interactions of two other cases, namely Paragraph and Mirror.

Expressing these textual interactions as social game mechanics – rules of play that can be shared with people in a textual form – will offer us an easily modifiable design basis that can be iteratively playtested over the table, or in any chat platform.

While we initiate with a more focused area, the evaluation is aimed at textual interaction as a cultural question. This evaluation guides our protocol design, along the following core interests:

  • How to utilize the short-form, modular and social nature of text, typical and applicable for digital networks, to grow deeper and more intricate intellectual cultural processes?
  • How to create communal architectures of text, where the collective contributions build cohesively together into collective works?
  • How the socially produced intellectual capital may be collectively shared and owned?
  • How to materialize collective formats of text that function more like gardens: Never finalized (and petrified), but constantly growing and permutating, through a changing palette of readers and writers?

What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?

When we encounter a text, whether in a book or on a screen, a vast array of protocols, entangled in our cultural conventions, comes to guide our actions. They constitute our interaction palette with text.

While the topic is complex, it’s crucial to consider these practices as protocols. This opens the perspective of design towards not only text, but also its cultural affects.

Even with the complexity, we are able to change these designs. Many social platforms construct themselves upon their design of textual interaction, generating social interactions on a textual basis. Reading, writing and other expressions are intertwined, forming an operative presence in the discourse of the world.

How do we move beyond such singular designs to a palette or toolkit for a variety of designs for text and its interactions, in the interest of development of culture through protocol design? Such a palette could form a basis for cultural protocol design, aiming to grow architectures not based on a singular unit (a poem, a paper), but focusing on the forms of assemblage – ever-growing network, and the life within it as an instrument of knowledge.

What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol?

We will conduct a comparative analysis of the interactions and related triggers generated by the X/Twitter, Paragraph, and Mirror platforms. This analysis aims to deconstruct and examine the conventions of user-text interactions on these platforms. We achieve this A) by drawing on extensive background literature that focuses on various ergodic and fragmentary texts. And B) by generating more experiential data through workshops focused on artistic research. This will result in a more playful and playable expression of the data produced by our analysis.

Ergodic literature and cybertexts enable us to consider the text as a form of protocol. As defined by Espen Aarseth in 1997, an ergodic text is a type of literature that demands a higher degree of effort and activity from the reader than non-ergodic texts do. Cybertexts, which fall under the category of ergodic texts, necessitate an interactive relationship between the text or medium and its users. When analysing X/Twitter through the lens of Aarseth’s typology, observations such as the following emerge.

  • Discussions and interactions lead to the generation of novel content, transcending reuse or rearrangement of what already exists.
  • Users engage with content that possesses the capacity to evolve over time.
  • Users typically lack the ability to control the pace at which content is presented, highlighting the significance of text-driven temporality in this medium.
  • Perspective may shift according to the user’s roles and choices within the narrative structure.
  • Access is characterised by a dichotomy of being open yet regulated.
  • Linking is permitted, with links becoming accessible post-creation.
  • Users undertake a role as active interpreters and creators of content.

In what form will you prototype your improvement idea?

The protocol will be expressed as rules of a social game: Utilizing techniques of protocolized expression from board and roleplaying games, we “translate” the simple rules of X/Twitter into a game form, with modular rules. These rules will be augmented with designing modular versions of the socio-textual interactions from our other cases (Paragraph and Mirror).

This forms the basis for our development. Upon it, we will introduce a palette of modular interactions we’ve already designed. These interactions will test a variety of new interactions, which can be used in different combinations:

  • The treatment of any text as material that can be extended and modified, collectively (not treating it as finalized, which is a tradition most platforms still retain).
  • Different collective outcomes that a group of texts could develop towards (as goals for the game).
  • Publication proposals (output frames) upon text and its collectives.
  • Economic proposals upon text and its collectives.

The resulting design is publicly offered as a game, where rules can be selected or modified for varied forms of play. We expect that our designs will change and expand through field testing.

How will you field-test your improvement idea?

The public offering of a game that anyone can play allows us to conduct our own, organized testing sessions, but also enables play beyond us. As the play can take place in chats, we should gain material from plays beyond our sessions.

For our testing, the key interests that we’ll map through questionnaires are:

  • Motivation to play – a fundamental question for the success of any protocol.
  • Social atmosphere and relations: How does the sense of others in play develop through the play? How does it form relations between players, and between players and text?
  • The form and usage of the assemblage: Does the collective expression offer more than the sum of its parts? How is it usable, beyond the players? What kinds of intellectual processes it opens?

Our basis offers rapid prototyping, so the process can be highly iterative. Iteration will also be public, by publishing updated versions of the game.

This iteration will allow us to rapidly explore the vast space of possibilities of textual interactions, while offering us forms that can function as blueprints for codable and platformizable implementations.

Who will be able to judge the quality of your output? Ideally name a few suitable judges.

Espen Aarseth – Norwegian scholar who pioneered ergodic literature studies, exploring interactive digital and cybertexts in Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Espen Aarseth - Wikipedia

Christian Bök – Canadian poet known for Eunoia, a univocalic lipogram, and for creating The Xenotext, which embeds poetry in bacterium DNA to interact with and produce proteins. ​​https://www.umlautmachine.net/

Chris Dixon (author of Read. Write. Own. Building the next era of the internet; partner at A16Z), understands protocol organizations and is thinking about collaborative storytelling as one of the most interesting “What’s next?”-things. https://cdixon.org/

Jakob Horne (Co-founder, Zora Labs) understands the potential of tokens as a new interaction and networking medium. https://jacob.energy/

Scott Rettberg – American academic and Electronic Literature Organization co-founder, influential in advancing the academic field of electronic literature.

Simon de la Rouviere, is himself also a writer, who is very interested in and has himself been experimenting with text and tokens as a collaboration medium. About — simondlr.com

What is the success vision for your idea?

A Protocol that opens texts into networks, discourses, with new architectures, organization, economy and ownership forms. A protocol that succeeds in creating new social processes of text, with novel forms of its cognition and creation. A protocol that opens the direction of creating new protocols in the textual domain – architectures that grow new textual cultures [domain: arts and culture]

How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea?

In conjunction with the release, we will launch a game tour, a series of moving events, both physically and online. We hope this will lead to a variety of collective outcomes, such as continuously evolving texts, publishing proposals and economic proposals.