The fourth wall in software

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a cinema analogy

I've been thinking about this appelation of the 4th wall, the performance convention of the imagined separator, and the notable points where stories and actors break the narrative to acknowledge the audience.

This note will try and understand if this appelation would work for other sectors than actor performance. Does this work on computers? Applied to software interfac[e/ing] this highlightings the narratives inside software.

There are many ways in which this could be viewed, interface being a mediant between system and user, it gives way to conversations of sorts, not spoken conversations, but scripted ones, ones that do construct and come together to give access to more complexity. An other interesting perspective to look at interface as a narrative is that it displays story telling. It includes the go along attitude that a story might have. I don't really understand why I'm being show this now, how it relates to anything, but I can go along with this, probably the story goes on. In a story, we're more easily brought to fictions.

Previously, I have spent time researching how scrolling —a very basic but important interfacing— is similar to a camera movement, and it also being a more or less used method of narrative. It is notable that the few identified narrative supporting methods of interface do not really work well together. They get combined, placed side by side, but they don't really mix. Scrolling constructs narrative in simple manors like message boards, letting you go backwards or forwards in histories. It can also be constructed when a website is designed for you to see portions of a told story in 'chapters', a practice synonimous with long form webpages or single page sites. Clicking along different items in software menus also construct narratives, albeit more conversationnal. Rarely do we see combinations of narrative scrolling and menu items placed along toolbars. They aim to tell different stories.

Regardless of these methods, be they fully narrative without user input or conversational like menu items, submenus and their access, the user or the viewer is addressed in different ways. They all talk in different modes. It is these modes of address that I am interested in, the times at which the actor acknowleges the audience, times at which the narrative is slightly broken and opens a path for something outside the usual methods of stories.

I'm trying to make vocabulary for the things I'm going to be looking for in this project. I'm going to look at how one mode of address can give more or less access to the context and culture that it interfaces on the system side. I want to display that properly made interface is not necessarely one that is efficient, properly made interface is one that gives good lines of sight into the mechanics of the system. It should give knowledge of how it actually works, and teach broader contextual knowledge rather than just the one of making the sub tool function for the task at hand.

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