Allington, D. (2012) ‘The field of interactive fiction and the production of belief in the value of digital works’. Paper presented at the Poetics and Linguistics Association (PALA) Annual Conference, University of Malta, 17 July.
The medium variously known as ‘interactive fiction’ and ‘text adventure games’ has existed since the mid-1970s (see Montfort 2005 ). Throughout most of its history, it has been produced and consumed within a community of enthusiasts that I have argued to be constituted in a similar manner to what Pierre Bourdieu terms the ‘field of restricted production’ (see eg. Bourdieu 1993a ), in that producers work for no reward but one another’s esteem, with important consequences both for the formal structure of works and for the local production of belief in their value (Bourdieu 1993b ).
This paper reports on an extensive multimethodological analysis of the Interactive Fiction Database (IFDb). This interactive website bears superficial similarities with the much larger Internet Movie Database (IMDb), which has usefully been employed in the study of the popular reception of commercial entertainment (Dodds 2006). However, the IFDb can be contrasted with the IMDb in that the latter primarily collates reviews by consumers of products of what Bourdieu terms the ‘field of large scale production’ (Bourdieu 1993a ), while the former serves as one of the principal fora for interaction within the community of interactive fiction producer-consumers.
In the study reported here, a snapshot of the IFDb was downloaded for investigation through several forms of exploratory quantitative analysis, including social network analysis, automated and manual content analysis, and some highly innovative forms of corpus linguistic analysis. The aim has been to map the production of value within the field of interactive fiction, both in order to provide points of comparison and contrast with the fields of art and literature and in order to contribute to understanding of interactive fiction as a cultural phenomenon in its own right.
Bourdieu, P., (1993a ). ‘The field of cultural production, or: the economic world reversed’. In: The field of cultural production: essays on art and literature. Polity Press, pp. 29-73.
Bourdieu, P., (1993b ). ‘The production of belief: contribution to an economy of symbolic goods’. In: The field of cultural production: essays on art and literature. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 261-293.
Dodds, K., (2006). ‘Popular geopolitics and audience dispositions: James Bond and the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 31(2), pp.116-130.
Montfort, N., (2005). Twisty little passages: an approach to interactive fiction. Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press.